Greaves and Johnson take it to the wire @ Sunday’s Bark River TORC PRO 4 final
Johnson and Greaves collide on the last turn of the last lap – Greaves can’t finish; Kincaid wins PRO 2, Hubinette PRO Light
This just in … Ricky Johnson fined two points by USAC/TORC for rough driving
By Pat Schutte
The thrilling rivalry between Johnny Greaves (Monster Energy/Toyota/Maxxis) and Ricky Johnson (Red Bull/KMC Wheels/Mopar/Ram) came to yet another crescendo this past weekend at Bark River Raceway. In front of another record crowd at the northern Michigan track, round eight of the 2011 Traxxas TORC Series, presented by AMSOIL, two of the world’s best short course off-road racers took it to the last turn of the last lap of the PRO 4 final where Johnson made hard-hitting pass on the then-leading Greaves, sending the PRO 4 points leader into a concrete barrier while Johnson raced to the checkers for the (unofficial) victory and Greaves was done.
At the victor’s podium Johnson received a rousing chorus of boos from the homeboy Greaves-friendly crowd in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“I honestly didn’t think I took him (Greaves) out. I thought he was going to be right there with me at the finish line,” said Johnson. The 500-plus fans that packed around TORC podium let Johnson have it even more. The consummate pro, Johnson gathered himself and said: “You know, I like the fact that you hate me right now. That shows me you have passion for this sport. Well so do I … and nothing pleases me more than seeing your passion right now.”
The fans fell silent. “Again, I’m sorry to Johnny that I took you out – but I’m damn glad I beat you.” That passion also (again) came to a flashpoint between the camps as Johnson’s team and Greaves’ guys exchanged pleasantries in the spotter’s area just off the track.
And when asked of the nature of Johnson’s pass on Greaves, Rob MacCachren (Traxxas/Mopar/AMSOIL/BFG Ram) put it this way: “You have to ask yourself, ‘is it OK to do that on any lap, in any place, at any time, on any corner and in any class?’
Aside from another Johnson/Greaves classic TORC ending there was more great racing going on between the green and checkers – enough of which to bring the record crowd to its feet on numerous occasions. Scott Douglas (AMSOIL/BFG/MasterCraft Safety) jumped out to an early lead past Steve Barlow (Maxxis/Ebay Motors/Metal Mulisha). Greaves then moved into 2nd place and he and Douglas separated themselves from the rest of the pack. One lap later Greaves caught and passed Douglas on the BOSS Snowplows hill, straight off the Red Bull finish line jump.
With Johnson struggling early, Greaves and Douglas would put eight seconds on the next-closest racer (Johnson). At the Competition Yellow Douglas noticed he had a rear tire that was down on air, so he pulled into the hot pits. This would set up Johnson on Greaves during the Comp Yellow restart – to which Johnson foreshadowed things to come by bumping Greaves from behind (at a very slow rate of speed) right before the green flag flew for the second time.
With Douglas a lap back Traxxas’ Jenkins Brothers – Mark and Mike – put the chase on what looked to be the third and final podium spot … only to both land on the podium when Greaves left the race.
Late-breaking news on Monday night from Indianapolis … In the PRO 4×4 class, the number 48 team entry was penalized 2 points pursuant to the TORC Series General Class Rules, section 8.F.4 (Black Flag/Rough Driving Rules) for a last lap rough driving penalty near the conclusion of Sunday’s PRO 4×4 round 8 event. This penalty was assessed under the General Class Rules, Section 11.C.2a.
1st – Ricky Johnson
2nd – Mark Jenkins
3rd – Mike Jenkins
4th – Scott Douglas
5th – Johnny Greaves
6th – Milan Mazanec
7th – Steve Barlow
In one of the stranger PRO 2 races in the history of TORC Series racing hometown hero Chad Hord (BOSS Snowplows/AMSOIL/Nissan) – out front after a great pass on
Marty Hart (Monster Energy/Toyota/Maxxis) – lost his steering and struck the backstretch wall after losing his steering, then collected Hart and 3rd place Bryce Menzies (Red Bull/KMC Wheels/Mopar/Ram). So in a matter of second the entire podium was wiped out and, after a red flag delay, restarted with four trucks: Jeff Kincaid (Ford/BFG), Keith Steele (subbing for injured Rob MacCachren in Traxxas/Mopar/AMSOIL/BFG Ram truck, Mike Oberg (AMSOIL/BFG/King Shocks) and Mike Vanden Heuvel (Maxxis/ATD Trans/Boatec).
On the restart Kincaid and Steele shot out front, then Oberg got into it with Vanden Heuvel – to the point where the black flag came out for Oberg! Said Oberg: “It was real dusty out there. We were running tire-to-tire and Mike (Vanden Heuvel) took a stab at an outside line and we came together. Not sure if that warranted a black flag. (I) think they were a little ‘flag happy’ with that one.”
With Vanden Heuvel’s truck trashed, Oberg – after pitting for a mandatory stop – moved into 3rd place and the field stayed put through the next two laps through the checkers: 1st went to Kincaid and 2nd – with highly valuable points – went to Steele/MacCachren.
“I’m happy for this team and happy I could help out,” said Steele – which drew a “Who are you kidding – he’s (pointing at MacCachren) out of a job” response from Kincaid on the podium. Steele continued: “We just tried to be safe and get a finish.”
The win for Kincaid was his first of the year and second podium at Bark River this weekend. He also blasted big with the race’s fastest lap, garnering the Oakley Bomb Award. “We didn’t get a very good start and it was hard to see what was happening out there. I just barely got by that wreck that gathered the first three guys – and here we are in 1st place.”
1st – Jeff Kincaid
2nd – Keith Steele
3rd – Mike Oberg
4th – Mike Vanden Heuvel
5th – Bryce Menzies
6th – Chad Hord
7th – Marty Hart
8th – Scott Taylor
Two-time 2011 Traxxas TORC Series PRO Light winner Samuel Hubinette (Traxxas/Mopar/AMSOIL/BFG) put his Ram pickup back on top of the podium on Sunday at Bark River, topping Lights points leader Andrew Caddell (Traxxas/Mopar/AMSOIL/BFG) in a thrilling bumper-to-bumper, beginning-to-end clean-fought battle.
“I got behind Sam and he didn’t make any mistakes. Hat’s off to him,” said Caddell, who put up the Traxxas Maxx Lap (fastest lap) in PRO Lights.
Added Hubinette: “This is my favorite TORC track so far. This win puts us right back in the championship battle.”
Third place would come the hard way for CJ Greaves (Traxxas/Monster Energy/Maxxis) who stalled his Toyota on the parade lap – re-fired – and joined the rest of the pack in time for the green flag. Greaves would battle hard with RJ Anderson (Walker Evans Ent./Polaris/South Point) and Shawn Morris (Maxxis/Chevy), who rounded out the top five in 4th and 5th, respectively.
Also, defending TORC Series PRO Light champ Casey Currie (Monster Energy/General Tire/Nissan) suffered some awful luck when his truck pulled to the side of the track with a mechanical issue. And Saturday podium placer Luke Johnson (Red Bull/KMC Wheels/Mopar/Ram) suffered a flat tire right before the Competition Yellow and was able to make the hot pits and get his tire fixed – apparently on the lead lap. But race officials decided that Johnson took the incorrect route to enter the pits and docked him a lap, which put him in last place.
1st – Samuel Hubinette
2nd – Andrew Caddell
3rd – CJ Greaves
4th – RJ Anderson
5th – Shawn Morris
6th – Keegan Kincaid
7th – Brad Lovell
8th – Randy Eller
9th – Eric Ruppel
10th – Mitch Dorr
11th – Luke Johnson
12th – Todd Cunningham
13th – Andy Zipperer
14th – Michael Baker
15th – Jason Janusz
Words by Pat Schutte
Photos by Jeff Nemecek