Here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, kicked off Round 13 with qualifying this afternoon. There were a lot of new things shaking up the drivers lineups, most notably the absence of defending Pro 4 Unlimited Champion Rick Huseman, who passed away along with his brother Jeff and their friend Danny Hicks less than three weeks ago. While we are all still reeling at this tragic loss, there have also been some bright moments this weekend, including the addition of eight new drivers to the Lucas Oil Off Road ranks, all of whom are racing this series for the first time this season. Seven of these eight are series rookies, racing the series for the first time ever, and we wish to say welcome to all of them, including our own lead television commentator, the one and only Mr. Ken Stout, who will be driving in Pro Buggy Unlimited this weekend. Also, there are four drivers, all of them highly notable (Justin “Bean” Smith, Chad George, Patrick Clark, and Kyle Lucas), who are moving up into new and faster ranks of vehicles this weekend. All except Lucas will continue to compete in their previous classes as well, and we wish these drivers success in their new endeavors. With all that in mind, here’s how qualifying shook out this afternoon.
The first class out on track for this afternoon’s qualifying session was Super Lite, and a big field of 17 trucks made their bid for pole position. At the head of the field, it was pretty much a two horse race for top honors, and the one point that goes with it, as RJ Anderson and Patrick Clark traded fastest lap with one another. Clark went fastest on the opening lap, turning a 1:17.568. Anderson then moved ahead with a 1:17.478 on lap two, but a 1:17.112 on lap three and a personal best of 1:16.984 on lap four meant Clark was back in front with just one lap to go. On the final lap, Anderson just managed to edge ahead again, taking pole position with a 1:16.853. Clark finished a close second, with Chad George third at 1:17.544, Brent Fouch fourth at 1:17.562, and Sheldon Creed fifth with a 1:18.454.
Pro 4 Unlimited
Next up was Pro 4 Unlimited, and following the recent tragic passing of reigning champion Rick Huseman, the field certainly felt a little empty this afternoon. Nonetheless, the drivers did the best thing they could in Huseman’s honor, as they suited up again and headed out on track. Kyle LeDuc picked up right where he left off after Round 12, and carried his two-race-win momentum into a dominating performance here this afternoon. LeDuc topped the field after an opening lap of 1:08.246 in his #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and improved his session-leading time to 1:06.833. No other driver was able to go quicker than LeDuc, who improved his time again on the final lap, taking the pole in a time of 1:06.805. Second place went to Carl Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire, with a best lap of 1:07.059. Josh Merrell had a great run to take third with a 1:07.673 in his #22 Hart and Huntington/MavTV Ford, while Kyle LeDuc’s brother Todd was just eight thousandths slower at 1:07.681 in his #4 Rockstar/Makita Ford. Rounding out the top five was Greg Adler in the #5 ProComp/Team Associated Ford; Adler’s best lap was a 1:08.243.
Pro Lite Unlimited
The biggest field this afternoon, surprising as it may seem, was Pro Lite Unlimited, which saw 18 trucks take to the track. Fastest on the opening lap was Austin Kimbrell in the #88 Kimbrell Racing Ford, who turned a 1:16.970. Kimbrell continued to lead after improving to a 1:16.586 on lap two, and that lap held up through the end of lap three. However, it was then Brian Deegan who moved into the session’s lead with a 1:16.452 on lap four in his #38 Lucas Oil/Metal Mulisha Ford. Deegan’s lap was good enough to score him the pole, as well as the one point that goes with it, moving him within just two points of championship leader Chris Brandt, who was unable to finish a single lap in this afternoon’s session. Lap four must have been the lucky lap for several drivers, because as Deegan moved into the session lead, both Kyle LeDuc and RJ Anderson also moved past Kimbrell on the same lap, taking over second and third for the remainder of the session. LeDuc ended up second with a 1:16.504 in his #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford, while Anderson was third with a 1:16.547 in his #37 Walker Evans Racing/Goodyear truck. Kimbrell’s earlier time was good enough for fourth, and meant that the top four drivers were covered by just 0.136 seconds this afternoon! Rounding out the top five was the #43 Traxxas/AMSOil truck of Andrew Caddell; Caddell’s best lap was a 1:17.198.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Reaching the halfway mark in this afternoon’s run of qualifying sessions, it was now time for Pro Buggy Unlimited. Jerry Whelchel came out firing, grabbing the early lead with a 1:14.270 in his #5 Select Glass/BFGoodrich Tires Foddrill, but on the next lap, it was Justin “Bean” Smith who turned the fastest lap of the session, a 1:13.454 in his #19 Metal Mulisha/Competitive Metals AlumiCraft. Smith took the pole, with Cody Freeman also eventually going quicker than Whelchel, and his 1:14.189 in the #2 Race Fuel Energy Drink/Freeman’s Carpet Service Racer was good enough for second place. Third went to Whelchel, fourth to John Holmes in the #3 Prolong Super Lubricants/DWT Racer (1:14.830), and fifth to Steven Greinke in the #23 SC Fuels/Concourse Racer (1:14.988).
Pro 2 Unlimited
Next up was Pro 2 Unlimited, and after the first lap, it was Rodrigo Ampudia who was on top in the #36 Papas & Beer/Lucas Oil Ford after turning a 1:10.791. On lap two, however, Robby Woods took over the top spot with a 1:10.766 in his #99 Lucas Slick Mist/General Tire Chevrolet. Woods then cemented his position with a 1:10.395 on the final lap, as he took his first career pole position- way to go Robby! Second place went to Ampudia, while third went to Greg Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Magnaflow Ford, whose best lap was a 1:10.838. Rob MacCachren finished fourth with a 1:11.037 in his #1 Rockstar/MasterCraft Safety Ford, and Brian Deegan rounded out the top five with a 1:11.538 in his #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford.
In Limited Buggy, the championship chase is closer than in any other class, which means that every point on offer is a big deal for the championship contenders, and that the one point for pole position this afternoon was one that many drivers were after. Bradley Morris was the session leader after lap one in his #304 K&N/Lucas Oil AlumiCraft. Morris’ time of 1:18.040 held up for nearly the entire session, but on the final lap, three other drivers managed to go quicker, and it was Quentin Tucker in the #377 General Tire/Sara Lee buggy who was fastest of all. Tucker’s 1:17.418 garnered him the pole (the first of his Lucas Oil Off Road career- congratulations Quentin!), and moved him up by one point in the standings, leaving him just two points behind championship leader Curt Geer, and one point behind second placed Dave Mason. That’s right, the top three drivers are now just two points apart! Geer finished second with a 1:17.746 in his #385 Green Army/Bowden Development, Inc. Lothringer, with John Fitzgerald (also in the championship hunt, just 23 points behind Geer) third at a 1:17.880 in his #314 Aero Motorsports/Simpson buggy. Morris’ time held up for fourth, and Geoffrey Cooley took fifth with a 1:18.225 in his #322 Competitive Metals/USA Wheel AlumiCraft; Mason finished sixth.
The final qualifying session of the afternoon was that of the UTVs, and today, it was all about Ryan Beat in the #851 Hart and Huntington/Black Rhino Kawasaki. Beat moved his SR1 to the top of the time sheets from the outset, turning a series of laps of 1:16.145, 1:15.712, and 1:14.269 on laps one, two, and four to eventually take the SR1 and overall poles; nobody was able to top him today. Second in SR1 and overall was Doug Mittag, whose #848 Monster Energy/Oakley Kawasaki did a 1:15.210 on lap four. Chad George topped the Unlimited UTVs and took third overall in his #1 Monster Energy/Funco Kawasaki after a best lap of 1:15.894, while Robert Vanbeekum finished second in Unlimited UTV, fourth overall with a 1:16.533 in the #664 Monster Energy/Muzzys Kawasaki. Rounding out the SR1 podium was Code Rahders, who was also fifth overall after a 1:17.199 in his #816 SuperChips/Black Rhino Yamaha. RJ Anderson filled out the Unlimited UTV top three in his #637 Walker Evans Racing/Holz Racing Products Polaris; his best lap of 1:17.492 gave him seventh overall.
Lucas officials seemed to have timed this afternoon’s qualifying proceedings to near perfections, as only moments after the UTVs cleared the track, the skies opened up with a heavy downpour of rain. Rain continued on into the evening, but the forecast for tomorrow looks good, as it is expected to be sunny and cool with a light breeze. Bring a sweater and head on out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway; gates open to the public at 9:00am, with racing kicking off at 11:30am, and Opening Ceremonies happening at 2:00pm. There are just three rounds left in the 2011 season, so the action will be frantic as our championship chases wind down- don’t miss out!
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