After just a three-week hiatus, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, is back in action, and this time, we’re at an all-new venue. The Wild West Motorsports Park, just minutes outside the Reno suburb of Sparks, NV, has come to life thanks in no small part to the extreme hard work and dedication of series head Tony Vanillo, and it only takes one quick visual survey of the grounds to see what a monumental task it was to make this dream into a reality. Cut into a rough, rocky, mountainous bowl, this track and its adjoining pit area is truly set amidst the surrounding terrain, and the desolate landscape provides a stark yet fitting background to this wholly-different new track. Furthering the overall experience is the track itself. At 1.2 miles, the track is now the longest in the series, and the fantastic dirt which has been brought in to make the track has elevated the standard of track surfaces to a whole new level. The track is superbly smooth, and shows very little sign of wear after even the most frantic Pro 4 Unlimited track sessions. Add to that the extremely long straights, the very fast corners, and the unparalleled elevation change, and this track is something different altogether, a place that must be seen to be believed. While there is still much work to be done in the future, this weekend we are here to race, as this new venue hosts Rounds 11 and 12 of the 2012 championship, and this afternoon, the important stuff got kicked off with qualifying for Round 11.
In a little change of pace here in Round 11, it was the locally-based Super Lites who were first out on track for qualifying. Today’s qualifying was run from the front by points leader Sheldon Creed and his #74 A.M. Ortega/BFGoodrich Tires truck, with Creed setting the early benchmark at 1:00.492. No other drivers were getting within reach of Creed, but that didn’t stop him from improving his time in the closing laps of the session. On lap five, Creed put in a 1:00.497, and on the next and final lap, another small improvement brought the pole-winning time down to 1:00.462. Best of the rest was Cody Rahders, who turned a 1:01.304 in his #16 Toyo Tires/Superchips machine, ahead of Brent Fouch in the #21 Fouch Racing entry, whose best lap was a 1:02.180. In fourth it was Drew Britt; his #7 Mickey Thompson/Universal Technical Institute truck had a best lap of 1:02.314. Rounding out the top five was young Bryan Osborn, who returns to action this weekend after missing several rounds this year. Osborn’s best time was a 1:02.468 in the #54 Black Rhino/Kal-Gard Super Lubricants machine.
Next up was Limited Buggy, and in this class, the battle for the pole was much more heated. Bradley Morris set the early standard at a 1:05.438 in his #304 Lucas Oil/K&N Penhall, but that time was quickly bested by Jordan Poole in the #310 Riot Racing/Yokohama Fraley, who turned a 1:04.486. Poole then lowered the top time slightly on the next lap, dropping down to a 1:04.473, before Morris re-took the top spot with a 1:04.294 on the lap after that. On the next and final lap, Poole gained the top spot once again, as he was the only driver to drop into the 1:03 range; his 1:03.966 gave Poole the pole. Morris’ time from the previous lap was still good enough for second, while third went to Kevin McCullough in the #389 Broken Cartel/General Tire Geiser, with a personal best of 1:04.397. McCullough’s teammate Dillon Ayers was fourth quick with a 1:04.497 in the #398 BFGoodrich/Gear One Lothringer, and points leader John Fitzgerald finished fifth in his #314 BFGoodrich/Livestrong buggy; Fitzgerald’s best lap was a 1:04.894.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Like their smaller open wheeled brethren, the drivers in Pro Buggy Unlimited made it a good battle for pole position. Geoffrey Cooley came out firing with a 1:00.131 on the opening lap in his #22 Competitive Metals/BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft, and he quickly bettered his time by nearly a second on the next lap, dropping down to 59.176. Steven Greinke then picked up one tenth of a second on Cooley’s time, dropping to 59.076 in his #23 SC Fuels/Redline Performance Racer, before Cooley came right back with a 58.468. On the final lap, it was Cooley’s teammate, Dave Mason, who took the surprise pole, as he turned a 58.395 in his #65 Competitive Metals/SR Performance Alumi Craft. Cooley’s earlier time meant that the teammates would finish one-two, with Greinke improving his time to 58.505 to secure third. Fourth went to points leader Doug Fortin in the #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./Fox Racing Shox Racer (59.037), and fifth to Jerry Whelchel in the #5 Camburg/General Tire Foddrill (59.205).
Pro Lite Unlimited
With Pro Lite Unlimited still enjoying a sizeable field, qualifying was again split into two groups. In Group 1, it was all about Brian Deegan, who dominated the field from start to finish. Deegan opened with a 58.940 in his #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford (no other driver cracked the 59 second barrier in this group), and improved twice, down to 58.707, and then to 58.694. Behind Deegan, Bradley Morris was the next quickest with a personal best of 59.010 in his #24 GoldStar Asphalt!/Lucas Oil Ford, while points leader RJ Anderson was third quick; a 59.033 was the best lap from the #37 Monster Energy/Walker Evans Racing Dodge.
In Group 2, Chad George had the quickest time early on, as he opened with a 1:00.624 in his #42 Discount Tire/Traxxas Ford. Matt Cook briefly grabbed the top spot away with a 59.473 in his #55 Supercross.com/Loctite Toyota, but George quickly moved back in front with a 59.060. George then became the only other driver besides Deegan to dip into the 58s in this class, as he dropped to a 58.750. George improved again on the final lap, dropping down to 58.714 to end the session at the top of the heap in Group 2. Cook’s earlier time was good enough for second, and Ryan Hagy was a very impressive third in his #27 Valli Construction/Makita Ford, with a best time of 59.648.
Once the two Groups’ times were combined it was Deegan who came out on top, followed by George, Morris, Anderson, and Noah Fouch (59.066, fourth quick in Group 1) in the #52 Fouch Racing/BFGoodrich Ford.
Pro 4 Unlimited
After some tough luck and a substantial raising of the bar in terms of competition, points leader Kyle LeDuc was back to his dominant ways here in Round 11 qualifying. LeDuc opened with a 54.340 to top the time sheets early in his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, before improving his time every lap for the next four laps. As LeDuc clicked off the laps, the session-leading time dropped to 53.780, 53.650, 53.530, and ultimately to 53.307, which stood as the top time through session’s end. Behind LeDuc, a surprising Greg Adler was second fastest with a 53.724 in his #10 4 Wheel Parts/BFGoodrich Ford, with Carl Renezeder rounding out the top three in his #1 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan with a 53.850. Fourth went to Todd LeDuc in the #7 Rockstar/Makita Ford (53.955), and after an impressive run of three straight wins coming into this weekend, Eric Barron could only manage fifth this afternoon in his #32 Rancho Performance Transaxles/California Metals Toyota (54.582).
Pro 2 Unlimited
The final qualifying session of the afternoon was Pro 2 Unlimited, and it was points leader Rob MacCachren who got to the top of the time sheets on the opening lap. MacCachren and his #21 Rockstar/Makita Ford opened with a 55.844, but that time was bested two laps later by Carl Renezeder, who turned a 55.436 in his #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan. Marty Hart then briefly stole that top spot away with a 55.338 on lap four in his #15 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/GearUp2Go.com Ford, before Renezeder returned fire with the pole-winning time of 55.039. Renezeder ended the session on top, a good start for the weekend as he continues to hunt down short course career wins number 99 and 100. Second went to Hart, while MacCachren improved to a 55.360 to hold third. Brian Deegan was fourth quick with a 55.370 in his #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and rounding out the top five was Greg Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Magnaflow Ford; Adler’s best time was a 55.508. This class was especially tight at the sharp end, with less than one second covering the top seven drivers, less than half a second from first to fifth, and less than two tenths between Hart in second and Adler in fifth!
That wraps up qualifying from here in Sparks, but in terms of racing action, things are just getting started. Gates open to the public at 9:00 AM here tomorrow, while racing will get underway with Junior 2 Kart at 1:00 PM. Opening Ceremonies will go down at 3:00 PM, followed by the Pro classes (starting with Pro 4 Unlimited) taking to the track at 3:30 PM. Get out and experience this all-new track for yourself; you won’t be disappointed!
About the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series:
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is the evolution of the long standing support of short course racing by Forrest Lucas and Lucas Oil Products. Steeped in the Midwest tradition of short course off road racing infused with a West Coast influence, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing brings intense four wheel door to door action to challenging, fan friendly tracks. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course. For more information please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com.
Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series