The Kenda Final Rounds at ERX Motor Park Gave Fans a Peek at the TORC Series 2018 as Dominant Drivers Earn Championships and Up-Comers Score First Career Wins
Elk River, Minn. (Sept. 24, 2017) – Winning championships is incredibly hard in TORC: The Off-Road Championship presented by AMSOIL. It requires front of the pack consistency and determined perseverance in every aspect of a racing program. Those attributes were on display and rewarded at ERX Motor Park on Sunday, Sept. 24, as Round 13 of the Kenda Final Rounds wrapped up the 2017 TORC Series season with champagne showers and heavy hardware podium celebrations. Proven veterans and seasoned youngsters earned championships, while first time winners delivered a message on the future…we’re coming.
CJ GREAVES EARNS THIRD PRO 4 CHAMPIONSHIP WITH CONVINCING WIN
Sunday’s PRO 4 race carried with it a level of additional intensity and focus. As one of the few races yet to crown a year-end champion, the pressure of the entire season came down to just 14-laps. But for points leader CJ Greaves, it was just another day at the office. Despite a top-six inverted start, which put CJ on the third row, the youngster raced with a level of poise and confidence well beyond his years to take the win and his third PRO 4 championship of a still very young career.
With Ross Hoek gaining the early jump, Scott Douglas, and Keegan Kincaid followed in tow with Douglas finding the front not long after. Despite nearly every fan in attendance visually focused on the No. 7 truck of Douglas, all thoughts were on CJ Greaves. It wasn’t a question of if, but when CJ would make his move. No one had to wait very long. On the next lap, CJ charged hot up the inside of the horseshoe turn before hitting the split lane, moving from fourth to second. Then just a few hundred yards down the track, CJ was given a gift pass on Douglas, who experienced a mechanical and coasted to a stop atop the finish line jump.
With CJ in the clear, attention turned to Kincaid and his newly wrapped Bass Pro Shops truck in second; and Johnny Greaves who regained his composure after an opening lap tangle. The duo would prove to deliver the best action for the remainder of the race, leaning on each other’s doors, swapping positions, and bringing the fans to their feet on the white flag lap. Eventually, the veteran savvy of Johnny came out on top, as he beat Keegan in a drag race through the split lane and found himself in the cat-bird seat for the final turn and eventual finish line.
While Johnny and Kincaid delivered the race day fireworks, it was CJ who won the war, earning the year-end championship and another victory in PRO 4. “This is one of the toughest seasons we’ve had so far in PRO 4,” said Greaves. “We’re usually known as the guy that’s Mr. Consistency…this year we either won or were off the podium.”
Still, the victory tasted sweet for CJ, and he sent a clear message to his competition to be ready when the 2018 TORC Series kicks-off next summer. “We’re gonna keep working hard this off-season and come back with an even better truck next year.”
LOVELL SURVIVES RACE OF ATTRITION FOR PRO 2 WIN
With the largest field in the pro ranks of the TORC Series, Sunday’s PRO 2 field saw 14 trucks come to the line, but when the chaos and slinging dirt finally subsided, only 10 remained and Brad Lovell led them all through the checkered.
With hometown favorite Andrew Carlson on the pole of his family’s track, and in a class proven to play well into his “go-for-it” driving style, this was his race to win. And it appeared he was ready, bursting out to an early lead and then putting plenty of dirt between himself and the bridesmaid trucks. Even after several full-course caution restarts, Carlson continued to hold the advantage over Brad Lovell and Luke Johnson, but suddenly a freak mechanical forced Carlson off the track, ending his winning bid.
The race was now in Lovell’s hands. However, he had to fend off yesterday’s winner and 2017 PRO 2 Champion Luke Johnson; a consistent Eric Ruppel in third; and the hard-charging Mike Vanden Heuvel, a two-time ERX winner. Vanden Heuvel had already moved up from his deep-pack starting position, and in the closing laps he made one last effort to get on the box, with a two-for-one pass attempt in the horseshoe. He almost pulled it off, but he came through the sand whoops extremely out of shape, somehow saving what looked to be a sure roll-over, but shredding a tire from the rim on the landing. This chain reaction of events gave Johnson and Ruppel their positions back, and returned the final running at the line to Lovell, Johnson, and Ruppel.
While Lovell came up just shy of winning the championship, the race win tasted sweet and helped to build momentum for next season. “We came out here with something to prove,” said an excited Lovell as he exited his truck. “Today, we weren’t worrying about points…it gave me the drive to just lay it all out. I couldn’t be happier.”
CHAD RAYFORD FINDS BEAST MODE FOR HIS FIRST CAREER PRO LIGHT WIN
Inverted starts during final round action proved to be the elixir for incredible action on the last day of racing in 2017. In PRO Light, it was more of the same as the Kleiman brother duo of Cody and Kyle charged from their third-row positions to eventually battle for the lead, but they didn’t count on Chad Rayford having his best race of his TORC Series career.
It was a season of “oh-so-close” for Rayford, who finished second place three times this year. But on Sunday he cashed in on a front row start, banging iron with 2017 PRO Light champion Kyle Kleiman and never backing down to take his first PRO Light win. It was a race Chad led from flag-to-flag, but it wasn’t without plenty of battles for position.
With Andrew Carlson having a mechanical after a strong early run, it was the duo of Kyle and Cody Kleiman looking to ruin Rayford’s run. But despite several inside, door rubbing, attempts by Kyle to gain the lead, Rayford was in absolute beast mode, and held off the 2017 PRO LIGHT champ on the final lap by leaning on his driver’s door all the way up the finish line jump.
“I knew Kyle was a little faster than me,” said Rayford. “I knew I had good lines and I knew he would race me clean. It’s a good day…after yesterday and the crash on Friday…to come back and to do this for this team, this is the highlight of my career.”
ZACH MARTIN SPOILS GREAVES BID FOR PERFECT SEASON
For many fans, after watching CJ Greaves dominate the PRO Stock UTV class for the entire season by winning 12 in a row, the idea of him going undefeated almost seemed like a foregone conclusion. Of course, no one alerted Zach Martin, who grabbed the early lead from CJ and never relinquished it. Throughout the race, Greaves looked to pass Zach on several attempts, but each time Zach made his Yamaha as wide as possible and blocked the line. Finally, in the closing laps, Greaves made a pass stick, but Martin wasn’t going to let victory slip away. He found an incredible drive on the exit of the north sweeper turn and kept it matted. That extra second of going all out was the difference, and gave Zach the advantage to hold off Greaves at the line. “Just drive…don’t make a mistake,” said a very happy Zach Martin as he talked about his focus on the final laps. “It feels amazing…I wanted to win so bad this year and we got it on the last race of the season.”
KYLE CHANEY TAKES CARE OF BUSINESS TO EARN PRO MOD UTV CHAMPIONSHIP
When it came down to battles for a year-end championship, the PRO Mod UTV class delivered the drama as Kyle Chaney held the slimmest of margins over Rodney Van Eperen. To make things even more interesting, Van Eperen handed over driving duties at the start of the weekend to Johnny Greaves due to injury. To throw one more twist into the blender, CJ Greaves was also racing in the PRO Mod UTV class this weekend, and as expected, doing very well. Despite all of this, Rodney’s path to the championship was still simple…beat Johnny and the crown was his. That’s exactly what he did. Jumping out to an early lead and looking exceedingly fast and smooth, Chaney held off Johnny lap after lap, and in the process brought home the championship. “Consistency was the key,” said Chaney from atop the podium. “the Can-Am vehicles were always up here on the box…this was a hard championship to win but I’m so pumped to have it.”
RELIVE THE RACE…RELIVE THE SEASON AT TORCSERIES.COM
The 2017 TORC Series may have come to close, but the action doesn’t have to. You can relive every minute of every race online by visiting torcseries.com or YouTube at /USATORC. Plus, don’t forget to check out the new cinematic documentary series, Young Guns, providing an intimate perspective of the season through the eyes of its rising stars. The series debuted Wed., Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. CT and will air bi-weekly on Wednesday nights. In addition to TORC’s online channels (Facebook,YouTube and torcseries.com), fans can also view the series via Four Wheeler magazine’s Facebook, YouTube and on www.fourwheeler.com.