For the second time this season, the drivers and crews of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, have overcome the difficulties of a short, three-week break between the last race weekend and this one. As usual, these professionals have come through with flying colors, as evidenced by the great performances that the drivers and cars put on here at Wild West Motorsports Park tonight. With the series returning for its second visit of the season to the Reno, NV area, it’s time for Rounds 11 and 12 of the 2014 championship season, with the first of those two rounds rolling out on track tonight, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd and unseasonably cool conditions. Some impressive streaks were on the line tonight, and of course the championship battles are still on in earnest, so there was plenty to be excited about, and the evening’s racing did not disappoint.
First out on track were the Modified Karts, and after drawing a zero inversion after qualifying, pole sitter Cole Mamer would certainly be a difficult young man to catch after starting from pole. Mamer did indeed grab the early lead in his #535 Trophy Kart/Simpson machine, with points leader Brock Heger second in the #511 Spy/Justice Brothers entry, Christopher Polvoorde third in the #594 Horizon Solar Power/The Palms River Resort truck, Darren Hardesty Jr. fourth in the #599 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Off Road Warehouse kart, and Travis PeCoy fifth in the #573 FMF/Oakley truck. Over the entire first half of the race, every driver within the top five drove quickly and cleanly, and at the Competition Yellow, their running order was as yet unchanged. On the restart lap, though, there was finally a change, as PeCoy got by Hardesty Jr. at turn six to move into fourth. Unfortunately for PeCoy, though, a rollover in turn five by Broc Dickerson forced a full course yellow, and under the “last completed lap” rule, PeCoy was forced to concede his position back to Hardesty Jr. before the restart. When racing did resume, PeCoy drove a nice inside line out of turn two and up the hill into turn three, getting himself alongside Hardesty Jr. to try and make the pass for a second time. He held alongside through turn three, then made the pass on the outside in the next corner. Hardesty Jr. passed PeCoy back at turn five, but PeCoy got by again in turn seven, and this time, the move stuck. Out front, the top three drivers were still running closely, while just behind, Hardesty Jr. was determined to get his fourth spot back from PeCoy. On lap 14, Hardesty Jr. threw it hard into turn six, trying to get PeCoy on the inside. However, Hardesty Jr. ended up driving his left rear up the right door of PeCoy’s kart, and while Hardesty Jr. got away and back up to fourth, PeCoy appeared to stall, and that dropped him back several positions. Hardesty Jr. got the black flag as a result, and with both he and PeCoy now out of the top five, it was Isabella Naughton and Eliott Watson who’d taken their places. Out front, Mamer sped to a wire-to-wire win, and he climbed atop the podium for the fourth time this season. Second went to points leader Heger, third to Polvoorde, fourth to Naughton in the #554 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/Maxxis entry, and fifth to Watson in the #503 Fox Racing Shox/Kar Tek Off Road machine.
Next up were the Pro 4 Unlimiteds, and the question was still, as it has been for a while now: could anyone beat Kyle LeDuc? LeDuc and his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford were out front at the end of lap one, but they were followed closely by Rob MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford, Ricky Johnson in the #48 Red Bull/Discount Tire Ford, Doug Fortin in the #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./Toyota of Escondido Toyota, and Carl Renezeder in the #1 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan. Johnson got by MacCachren out of turn one to move into second on lap two, and on the same lap, Renezeder got by Fortin on the long pull up to turn four to move into fourth. On the next lap, Johnson then got alongside LeDuc going up the hill to turn four, and with a very impressive pull, he moved ahead as they reached the top, giving Johnson the lead. Jaws were dropping up and down the stands, as few drivers had managed to pull LeDuc like that so far this season, and it was starting to look like someone might actually be able to get the better of the points leader. On lap four, Renezeder got by MacCachren on the inside at turn one, moving himself up to third, and later in the lap, Greg Adler took over fifth after passing Fortin going into turn four. Two laps later, an impressive Adler now had his #10 ProComp/Lund Ford right on MacCachren’s tail. On lap seven, LeDuc over-rotated and shot to the inside of turn two, which cut off the path that Renezeder had picked. Renezeder tagged the inside barrier as a result, causing him to damage his right front suspension, and in the melee, both MacCachren and Adler got past. At the end of the lap, Fortin got by Renezeder as well, and it was now Johnson, LeDuc, MacCachren, Adler, and Fortin in the top five. On lap nine, Johnson the turned too tight at turn two, and he nosed into the inside barrier. The silly mistake caused no real damage, but both LeDuc and MacCachren got by, leaving Johnson no doubt kicking himself. On the next lap, Johnson somehow made the same mistake a second time, and though he only glanced the barrier this time, both Adler and Fortin got by him, with Fortin getting by Adler in the process. Out front, LeDuc wasn’t quite looking like his dominant self, and on lap 15, he suddenly slowed coming out of turn two, allowing both MacCachren and Fortin to get by and into first and second. LeDuc’s truck suddenly lurched back to life again, but it was now obvious that he didn’t have anything for the leading two drivers. With about a lap and a half to go, Fortin had already been closing somewhat on MacCachren, and up to the final lap, he continued to tighten the gap. However, a cooling issue struck near the end of the penultimate lap, forcing him to back out of it just a little. MacCachren was clear out front as he took the win, ending LeDuc’s hugely-impressive win streak at eight. Fortin took second, his best result yet since joining the class with his all-new truck this season, and third went to Johnson, who got by LeDuc in the closing moments. LeDuc finished fourth, and fifth went to Adler.
With the season already two thirds finished, reigning Pro Lite Unlimited champion Brian Deegan was facing a difficult task if he hoped to close the gap to current points leader Sheldon Creed. Creed’s consistency has been stellar, as he’s stood on the podium in eight of the first ten rounds, and has never finished worse than fifth. Deegan came into tonight’s race 28 points adrift, but driving like the three-time class champion that he is, he went straight into the lead in his #38 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford. Brandon Arthur, the first-time winner from one round ago, ran in second, with a resurgent Casey Currie in third, RJ Anderson fourth, and Kyle Lucas in fifth. On lap two, Currie got up the inside of Arthur going into turn one, and after forcing Arthur wide, both he and Anderson got by, taking over second and third spots in the process. Just behind, Myles Cheek got around Lucas for fifth as they exited turn three, but Lucas was resilient and re-took the position before the lap’s end. The next lap saw a full course caution fly after Ryan Beat rolled in turn two, and when racing resumed on lap seven, Currie was now trying to make a move on Deegan for the lead heading into turn one. However, Deegan took Currie’s line away, and when Currie checked up a little too much to avoid contact, Anderson got by and into second spot. Further back, Creed moved his #74 Traxxas/A.M. Ortega Dodge up to fifth after passing Lucas at turn one, and by lap’s end, he’d also passed Arthur to move into fourth. Lucas then got back inside the top five after making a nice outside pass on Arthur at turn one on the next lap, before a full course caution flew at the end of the lap following Justin Peck’s rollover in turn two.
When racing resumed on lap ten, Anderson made a serious run at Deegan for the entire lap. The two diced heavily, often running door-to-door, neither driver willing to give an inch. However, despite Anderson managing to nose ahead on more than one occasion, Deegan came out ahead once again at the end of the lap. Currie then managed to get back past Anderson for second with a good drive through turns two and three on lap 11, ahead of yet another full course caution, this time for a rollover by Jimmy Fishback in turn two. Racing picked up again on lap 15, with Justin “Bean” Smith now moving up to fifth in his #19 Competitive Metals/BFGoodrich Tires Ford after making a terrific restart. On the very next lap, Anderson then bicycled and rolled in turn one, forcing the race’s fourth full course yellow. Anderson was able to get re-fired, but he was now well back in the pack, and when the green flag waved again on lap 18, it was now Deegan, Currie, Creed, Smith, and Arthur in the top five. Kyle Hart got by Arthur early on the restart lap, but the field was then slowed again, this time by the fifth and final full course yellow, after Myles Cheek rolled down in turn two. On the previous restart lap, Currie had managed to nose ahead of Deegan more than once, despite Deegan’s best efforts to shut the door on Currie at every turn, so this time around, Currie must’ve been feeling like he really had a shot at getting into the lead. However, with just two laps to go to the checkers, Deegan really laid down some solid driving, and managed to pull a few lengths on Currie before the stripe. Deegan picked up a hard-fought win, with Currie taking a solid second in the #2 Monster Energy/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Jeep, and Creed rounding out the podium in third. Fourth went to Smith, and after a mid-pack stack up on the final restart lap caught Hart out, Lucas came through to finish fifth in the #25 Lucas Oil/Loctite Ford.
In Pro Buggy Unlimited, it was Eric Fitch, first-time winner one round ago, who went straight into the lead again here tonight in his #97 Parts On A Shelf/BFGoodrich Tires Racer. Chad George ran second in the #42 Mickey Thompson/Performance Utility Supply Funco, with Garrett George third in the #71 Gray Area Technologies/Anenberg Funco, Dave Mason Jr. fourth in the #65 Loan Mart/B&R Buggies Alumi Craft, and Taylor Atchison fifth in the #30 Skull Canyon Zipline/OMF Performance Products Alumi Craft. On lap two, Kevin McCullough got by Atchison out of turn four to move up to fifth in his #62 ProAm/Redline Performance Foddrill. Then, on lap three, an uncharacteristic mistake from Chad George caused him to run wide at turn two and then, more or less, stall out. Most of the field streaked past and put a sizeable gap on the points leader, putting his streak of ten consecutive podium finishes in serious jeopardy. The race continued, and by lap five, Mason Jr. had closed right in on Garrett George. Mason Jr. was really applying the pressure, but after three laps of doing so, he suddenly saw McCullough go flying past, as McCullough got a great outside line and an even better drive out of turn three. McCullough shot up to third spot as he pulled away up the hill to turn four on lap eight, while just behind, Sterling Cling got around Atchison to move into fifth. The top five drivers were still running pretty close together, and on lap eleven, Mason Jr. got back by McCullough early in the lap, re-taking a provisional podium spot in third. Cling also got by McCullough on that lap, and it was now apparent that McCullough was suffering with a right rear suspension issue. One lap later, another driver hit trouble, as Garrett George broke the shifter clean off inside his cockpit, ending his race in a snap (pardon the pun) just before turn three. This forced a full course yellow, as George’s car was stranded in the middle of the track, and when racing resumed, it was now Fitch, Mason Jr., Cling, Atchison, and McCullough in the top five. When racing resumed, Steve Greinke got a great restart, and by the exit of turn one, he’d gone from sixth to third in his #1 SC Fuels/Fortin Racing, Inc. Racer. Mason Jr. then slowed coming out of turn four, ending his strong run just short of the white flag. With a lap to go, it was now Fitch, Greinke, Cling, Atchison, and Brandon Blyth in the top five, but on the final lap, a big incident coming out of turn three caught out multiple drivers, and among them were both Cling and Blyth. At the stripe, it was Fitch who backed up his maiden win in Round 10 with a second consecutive victory here in Round 11. Greinke finished second, with Atchison scoring his first career podium in third. Fourth went to a wounded McCullough, and fifth was Chad George, who benefitted from the late-race dramas to salvage a solid finish. However, a second major streak did come to an end tonight, as George’s fifth place finish was his first run outside the top three all year.
The final race of the night was Pro 2 Unlimited, and as has been the case so many times this season, Brian Deegan took the early lead in his #38 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford. Right behind Deegan came Bryce Menzies in the #7 Red Bull/KMC Wheels Ford, with Marty Hart third in the #15 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/Maxxis Ford, Rob MacCachren fourth in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford, and Carl Renezeder fifth in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan. The top five held their positions over the opening six laps, though MacCachren had made several moves to try and get by a stubborn Hart. On lap seven, Menzies suddenly got alongside of Deegan coming out of turn four, and by the exit of turn one on the next lap, Menzies had taken over the lead. Deegan did his best to battle back, but Menzies pulled him convincingly up the hill to turn four, solidifying his position out front. Meanwhile, MacCachren was now really applying the pressure to Hart, but still, “The Cowboy” refused to yield. On lap 11, MacCachren finally got a great run through turns two and three, and was positioned correctly to get a better drive out of three for the long pull up the hill to turn four. MacCachren pulled ahead and into third spot, and with Hart then half spinning coming out of turn four and dropping to fifth on the next lap, MacCachren was clear as he and Deegan started closing in on Menzies. A tangle up between Greg Adler and Myan Spaccarelli out of turn two, as well as Patrick Clark’s being stopped in a dangerous spot, forced a full course caution on lap 13, and as the field circulated under yellow, it was determined that Renezeder would be black flagged for contact with Hart earlier in the race. When racing resumed, that meant that Hart was now in fourth, with RJ Anderson just behind in fifth. Deegan got a great restart, moving alongside Menzies by the start/finish line, and into the lead coming out of turn one. Perhaps a bit flustered, Menzies then ran wide at turn two, which allowed MacCachren to slip through. On the next lap, Jeremy McGrath moved up to fifth spot after Anderson had been tagged twice by Robby Woods, but on the final lap, Anderson battled back by to re-take that fifth place. Up front, Deegan got his sixth win of the season, and in the process, dealt a crushing blow to all other points challengers. MacCachren took second, with Menzies third, Hart fourth, and Anderson fifth in the #37 Polaris RZR/Monster Energy Ford.
It’s certainly been a thrilling night of racing here at Wild West Motorsports Park. The best news is: we get to do it all over again tomorrow night! Just as quickly as Round 11 was run, so tomorrow night we will have Round 12 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO. Gates will open to the public at 1:30 pm tomorrow afternoon, with qualifying kicking off right at the same time. Following qualifying, fans will have a chance to tour the pit area and meet their favorite drivers while the crews put the finishing touches on the race vehicles, before the fire breathing beasts take to the track for the evening’s racing. Opening Ceremonies will be at 7:30 pm, with the first race of the night, Modified Kart, immediately following.