This is it. This weekend is the final race weekend of the 2012 season for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO. The series returns to Firebird International Raceway here at the south end of Phoenix, the track that has become the traditional season closer. With only today’s qualifying session and tomorrow’s final regular season race left, these are the last opportunities for drivers to make their impressions on the 2012 championship. Though two of the 2012 titles have already been decided, several others are not only up for grabs, but will be closely-contested, as close points gaps mean that there is everything left to fight for. The 2012 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup will follow tomorrow’s regular season finale, but right now, the championship is the main focus for many of the series’ top drivers. With every point holding a precious value to those still in the title fight, this afternoon’s qualifying was even more important than usual, and with starting position also being exceptionally important tomorrow, those in the championship chase were really pushing hard this afternoon…
Pro 4 Unlimited
This afternoon’s Pro 4 Unlimited qualifying session was all about the #1 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan of Carl Renezeder. Renezeder opened with a 44.289 on lap one, which topped the time sheets in the early going, and followed that up with a pair of chart-topping laps of 43.477 and 43.409. Todd LeDuc then briefly moved to the top of the leader board with a 43.106 in his #7 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford on lap four, but Renezeder quickly responded. A 42.888 on lap five put him back on top, and his 42.635 on the following lap was the quickest of the day, as he grabbed the pole for the final regular season round of 2012. LeDuc improved to a 42.770 on the same lap, which kept him in second spot, while Eric Barron finished just behind in third with a 42.838 in his #32 RC10.com/K&N Toyota. Greg Adler was next, taking fourth in his #10 4 Wheel Parts/Affliction Ford with a personal best of 43.471, and rounding out the top five was points leader Kyle LeDuc, whose best lap was a 43.486 in his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford.
Pro 2 Unlimited
Next up were the Pro 2 Unlimiteds, and following his success in Pro 4 Unlimited, Carl Renezeder was again up front early here in his #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan. Renezeder opened with a 45.249 to top the first lap time sheets, but it was then Brian Deegan who moved ahead with a 44.923 in his #38 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford on lap two. The next three laps were then affected by yellow flag conditions, but when green flag running resumed, Rob MacCachren was immediately off like a rocket, dropping down to a 43.888 to move to the top of the time sheets. MacCachren’s next lap, a 43.639, was the fastest of the session, and gave the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford driver the pole; MacCachren was also the only driver in the 43-second zone in this class. Renezeder improved to a 44.031 on lap seven to hold second spot, and Marty Hart was third with a 44.312 in his #15 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/GearUp2Go.com Ford. Points leader Deegan finished fourth, just five thousandths off of Hart’s time, with a 44.317, and fifth was Robby Woods in the #99 Lucas Slick Mist/General Tire Chevrolet, whose best lap was lap eleven, when he ran a 44.769.
Pro Lite Unlimited
The Pro Lite Unlimited qualifying session didn’t require many laps to determine the pole-sitter. Chris Brandt came out fastest on lap one with a 47.540 in his #82 BFGoodrich Tires/National Concrete Cutting Toyota, but was then trumped by Casey Currie in the #2 Monster Energy/Hawk Performance Nissan on lap two. Currie’s 46.605 on lap two ended up being the fastest lap of the afternoon in this class, while Brandt improved to a 46.657 to remain second. 2012 class champion RJ Anderson wound up third in his #37 Monster Energy/Goodyear Dodge, having turned a personal best of 46.660, just three thousandths behind Brandt. Brian Deegan was fourth quick in the #38 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford after running a 46.814, and Noah Fouch finished in fifth with a 4.886 in his #52 BFGoodrich Tires/Fiberwerx Ford. This class should be very competitive tomorrow, as the top eight drivers were covered by just 0.492 seconds!
Super Lite ought to be another competitive class here this weekend, as no fewer than four different drivers had the top time in the session this afternoon. Cody Rahders was the early leader in his #16 Superchips/Polaris truck, having run a 49.575 on the opening lap. Lap two saw points leader Sheldon Creed move to the head of the pack with a 49.467 in his #74 A.M. Ortega General Engineering Contractor Inc./BFGoodrich Tires machine, and he remained out front until lap four. Drew Britt then moved to the head of the pack with a 49.019 in his #7 Mickey Thompson/Universal Technical Institute entry, but two laps later, and it was Jessie Johnson who was the first (and only) driver in the class to drop into the 48s, as he turned a 48.729 in his newly-liveried #15 LoanMart/Goodyear truck. Johnson followed that up with another lap in the 48s, and grabbed the pole for tomorrow’s regular season finale. Britt’s earlier time held up for second spot, while Rahders improved to 49.183 to take third. Creed also improved, dropping to 49.322 to finish fourth, and rounding out the top five was Ryan Hagy in the #27 General Tire/Valli Construction entry; Hagy’s best lap was a 49.394.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
The first of the open-wheeled classes was Pro Buggy Unlimited, and it was veteran Jerry Whelchel in the #5 ProAm/Camburg Foddrill who had the quickest opening lap, a 46.709. On lap two, young Geoffrey Cooley moved to the head of the pack with a 46.518 in his #22 Romney/Ryan 2012/Jackson Motorsports Group AlumiCraft, and followed that time up with a 45.970 on the next lap to remain up front. Yellow flag conditions slowed the runners on lap four, but on the next lap, green flag running resumed, with Doug Fortin getting back up to speed with a 45.935 to move to the top of the time sheets in his #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./BFGoodrich Tires Racer. Dave Mason then grabbed the top time with a 45.801 in his #65 Romney/Ryan 2012/B&R Buggies AlumiCraft on the next lap, and solidified pole position with a 45.590 on the next lap. Mason’s teammate Cooley improved to a 45.681 on the final lap to finish second, with Fortin equaling his earlier time (to the thousandth of a second!) on the final lap to take third. Whelchel improved to a 46.065 on lap six to finish fourth, and points leader Steven Greinke took fifth in the #23 SC Fuels/Concourse Racer with a 46.246 on the final lap.
The final full-size class to run qualifying this afternoon was Limited Buggy, and it was Jordan Poole in the #310 No Fear Energy/Yokohama Fraley who was quickest on lap one. Poole’s 49.358 was the fastest opening lap, and his time held up through lap three, when a 48.783 by 2012 class champion John Fitzgerald moved him to the top of the time sheets. Fitzgerald improved on his own top time with a 48.722 on lap six, a time which netted the #314 BFGoodrich Tires/Simpson buggy driver the pole. Poole’s early time turned out to be his best, and was good enough to give him second place, just ahead of the 49.374 by Kevin McCullough in the #389 Gear One/General Tire Geiser, who finished third. Bradley Morris wound up fourth in the #304 Lucas Oil/K&N Penhall after running a personal best of 49.689, and rounding out the top five was Dillon Ayers, whose best lap was a 49.932 in the #398 BFGoodrich Tires/Gear One Lothringer.
With qualifying now complete, it’s all down to tomorrow’s Round 15, the final regular season race, to determine our 2012 class champions. RJ Anderson and John Fitzgerald have already been crowned the champions in Pro Lite Unlimited and Limited Buggy, respectively, but in the other classes, many of the title races are still very close. Kyle LeDuc leads his brother Todd by just 16 points in Pro 4 Unlimited, which means that Todd will need to beat his brother by nine positions to take the title tomorrow. Brian Deegan leads the Pro 2 Unlimited class, with Marty Hart trailing by 13, and Rob MacCachren down by 20. Sheldon Creed is at the top of the Super Lite heap, with Drew Britt, his only serious challenger, sitting 20 points back; Ryan Hagy is also in as a long shot at 49 points back. Steven Greinke and Doug Fortin are the only runners left alive in the Pro Buggy Unlimited fight, with Greinke leading Fortin by 26. The closest championship chase is in Modified Kart, where five drivers are still mathematically in the hunt. Myles Cheek leads the way by five over Brock Heger, twelve over Cole Mamer, 36 over Bradley Morris, and 41 over Sheldon Creed. Another great title fight is going on in Junior 2 Kart, where Dylan Winbury leads the way by a mere five points over Travis PeCoy, while Shelby Anderson, who is also mathematically alive at 34 points adrift, must sit this weekend out with an unfortunate neck injury. Finally, in yet another close race, Conner McMullen leads Broc Dickerson in the fight for the Junior 1 Kart by just six points. All of these races should be good ones tomorrow, so make sure to get yourself out here to Firebird- you won’t want to miss this weekend! Gates open to the public at 9:00am, with racing kicking off with Junior 2 Kart at 10:00am, and Pro classes starting at 1:00am.
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