Racers dazzle Utah fans in Round 7
Just three short weeks ago, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, was tearing up the track down in southern California. This weekend, the series now brings the action some 700 miles north, and into the beautiful grounds of the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT, just outside Salt Lake City, for Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2015 championship. Often a team favorite for many drivers, who are afforded the opportunity to spend the long evenings with their families and crews after the afternoon races, this track also poses a formidable challenge for those wishing to find success. Unusually tight and technical, the track often becomes extremely rough, and drivers must constantly be on their game to avoid spinning on the slick blue groove or catching one of the many deep ruts and ending up on their lids. Experience usually pays off here, but sometimes, youthful exuberance perseveres as well, and here today, the highly enthusiastic Utah fans were treated to some great racing, for which they cheered wildly all afternoon.
Kicking things off this afternoon were the Modified Karts, which were running on the full-length track for the first time at this venue, and front row starters Christopher Polvoorde and Daely Pentico ran one-two at the end of the opening lap, followed by Trey Gibbs, Travis PeCoy, and Broc Dickerson. Points leader PeCoy got by Gibbs on the inside going into turn three on lap two, and that put him up to third spot, but Gibbs slid back by on the inside at the next corner to re-take the position. Up front, Polvoorde was already developing a gap over the rest of the field, while behind him, PeCoy ran well wide at turn four and dropped back to fifth on lap three. PeCoy then had to defend his position from a charging Hailie Deegan, while just ahead, Gibbs made a beautiful inside pass on Pentico at turn four to take over second on lap five. Dickerson then got by Pentico in the next corner, and with PeCoy and Deegan also making the pass on Pentico in the turn one/two complex on the next lap, it was quickly becoming apparent that Pentico had an issue. That issue then became more apparent at the end of the lap, as Pentico pulled into the Hot Pits with a broken left front suspension, a real shame of an end to what had been a very promising run for the young driver.
As Pentico pulled off, the Competition Yellow came out, and it was still Polvoorde out front, with a lead of 4.33 seconds over Gibbs, who ran second. Dickerson, PeCoy, and Deegan filled out the top five, and after a botched first attempt at the restart, these drivers still held those same spots for the second try. On that second try, Deegan got by PeCoy at turn one to move into fourth, but then got caught out by a tangle with Gibbs and Dickerson at turn five. Fortunately, Deegan actually benefitted from the incident, as she was quicker than the boys to get away, and she moved up to second behind Polvoorde, with PeCoy, Jimmy Weitzel, and Dickerson trailing in third, fourth, and fifth. The next lap saw a full course caution come out after Nathan Barry came to a stop in turn five, and after he was towed off, racing resumed on lap 12. The yellow came right back out at the end of that lap, though, as Bryce McDaniel and Hayden Cling got collected in turn three. Racing resumed again on lap 14, and on that lap, Dickerson drove past Weitzel into turn four, moving himself up to fourth as a result. A very good race for third then developed between PeCoy, Dickerson, and Weitzel, but it was quickly interrupted by another full course yellow, which came out this time after Chris Nunes came to a stop in the rhythm section between turns four and five.
With only two of the scheduled 12 racing laps left to run, the field was really struggling to get in some clean laps, and they continued to do so on the restart on lap 18, as Ryan Carey had come to a stop just shy of the start/finish line, not quite able to make the true restart. Ronnie Anderson then came to a stop as the field circled under another yellow, but after both drivers had been dealt with, racing picked up again on lap 20, only to see Cole Keatts get into Cling going into turn one. Cling’s kart was upset and already on the limit of adhesion, and his kart was instantly sent into a violent rollover, forcing yet another yellow flag. Cling was okay, though he had to be towed off, before the green flag came out again on lap 22, with race officials shortening the race distance by one lap, and making this a green/white-checkers, one-lap dash to the finish. On the final lap, PeCoy got by Deegan on the inside at turn three to grab second spot, but then got into the back of Polvoorde coming into the next corner, causing himself to have a half spin and stall out. PeCoy dropped back badly as a result, just the break that race leader and second place points runner Polvoorde needed. Polvoorde didn’t have it all his own way, though, as Deegan was suddenly alongside him coming out of the final corner, and Polvoorde had to dig for every last bit of traction as he tried to hold her off. Polvoorde just managed to do so, edging Deegan by a nose (just 0.048 seconds, to be precise) at the line to take his fourth win of the season in the #594 Sunrun/Racer X Motorsports kart. Deegan was a very close second in the #538 4 Wheel Parts/Lucas Oil truck, with Dickerson third in the #523 X-15/Black Rhino machine, Weitzel fourth in the #555 Fox Racing Shox/Weitzel Motorsports entry, and Trevor Briska fifth in the #559 JH Sims Trucking Co., Inc./K&N kart.
After a zero-position inversion of this morning’s qualifying results, pole sitter Kyle LeDuc shot straight into the lead in his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, ahead of Rob MacCachren, Eric Barron, Bryce Menzies, and Brian Deegan. Incidents for both Adrian Cenni and Doug Fortin on the opening lap forced a full course caution on lap two, but with both drivers able to recover and continue on their own, racing resumed on lap three. Menzies got by Barron on the inside at the turn one/two complex to move into third spot on the restart lap, while up front, LeDuc was quickly taking command of the race. Second-placed MacCachren was holding a pretty close and consistent gap to the leader LeDuc, but it seemed apparent that LeDuc wasn’t using all of the pace that he had at his disposal, and he looked instead to have chosen to simply set a pace that nobody else could better. Lap seven then saw another full course caution, as Cenni came to a stop in turn four. Cenni’s truck was quickly cleared by track crews, and racing picked up again on lap eight, with Barron then spinning going into turn four on the restart lap. Barron dropped back to eighth as a result, and as the field came back around, it was now LeDuc, MacCachren, Menzies, Deegan, and Doug Fortin in the top five. Three laps later, MacCachren mysteriously ran wide and stalled up in turn three, and with an obvious mechanical issue, MacCachren pulled off as the track went full course yellow. Racing picked up again on lap 13, with LeDuc now leading Menzies, Deegan, Fortin, and Jerry Daugherty in the top five. On the restart, Daugherty was slow going into turn one, and after some contact, both Barron and Greg Adler got by him. Two laps later, Fortin then spun at turn five and dropped a spot to fifth, before bicycling at turn four on the next lap and dropping another spot to sixth. Barron and Adler had both gotten past Fortin thanks to his two mistakes, but Adler then rolled at turn three on the final lap, handing a top five finish back to Fortin. At the checkered flag, it was LeDuc who ran essentially unchallenged en route to his sixth straight win, ahead of Menzies in the #7 Red Bull/Discount Tire Ford, Deegan in the #38 Rockstar Energy/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford, Barron in the #32 Tonka/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota, and Fortin in the #96 General Tire/Maxima Racing Oils Toyota.
Next up were the Pro Lite Unlimiteds, and after a fierce battle over the entire opening lap, Brandon Arthur led the way in his #6 Competitive Metals/Toyo Tires Chevrolet, just ahead of Ryan Beat in the #51 Rockstar Energy/Lunarpages Dodge. Jerett Brooks ran third in the #77 General Tire/Synergy Electric Nissan, with Sheldon Creed fourth in the #1 Traxxas/Maxxis Dodge and points leader Brad DeBerti fifth in the #70 Mickey Thompson/Action Sports Canopies Ford. DeBerti ran wide at turn four and gave up his fifth spot to RJ Anderson on lap two, and on the next lap, defending champion Creed picked up a right rear flat, which quickly dropped him out of the top five. By the end of lap four, it was now Arthur, Beat, Brooks, Anderson, and DeBerti in the top five, with Arthur gradually picking up a little bit of a gap at the head of the field over the next couple of laps. Behind Arthur, Beat and Brooks were having a great battle for second, and just a bit further back, another good race was on for fifth between DeBerti and Brock Heger. Heger briefly got by DeBerti near the end of lap seven, but DeBerti got back past at turn four on the next lap. Gaps were opening up within the top five, as Beat and Brooks led Anderson by a pretty fair margin, and Anderson in turn had a good gap back to DeBerti and Heger. Brooks then pulled off an extended pass on Beat four second, as he battled alongside from turn four to the start/finish line on lap nine, before finally making the pass stick going into turn one on lap 10.
On the next lap, Joe Gibb came to a stop just out of turn five, and that forced a full course caution. Racing got back underway on lap 14, and on the restart lap, Brooks suddenly got past Arthur to take the lead coming out of turn four. DeBerti passed Anderson just at the start/finish line to move up to fourth at the end of the same lap, and while there was a full course yellow awaiting the field at the end of that lap thanks to a rollover by Cole Mamer, the field was allowed to race back to the yellow, and thus, Brooks’ and DeBerti’s passes stood. The green flag flew again on lap 17, and over the two remaining laps, Brooks took command of the field, as he sped home to his second win of the season. Arthur picked up a strong second, with Beat taking third, DeBerti fourth, and Anderson fifth in the #37 Loan Mart/BFGoodrich Tires Nissan.
Points leader Garret George led the way at the end of lap one in his #71 King Off-Road Racing Shocks/Anenberg Funco, ahead of Darren Hardesty Jr., Chad George, Kevin McCullough, and Dave Mason Jr. in the Pro Buggy Unlimited fracas. The leading George quickly started to edge away from the pack in the early laps, but on lap four, he suddenly slowed with some kind of drivetrain issue just out of turn five. The entire field streaked past before George could get moving again, and that put the young teenager Hardesty Jr. into the lead, ahead of Chad George, McCullough, Mason Jr., and Mike Valentine. The top three drivers were running very close on laps five and six, while just down the order, Sterling Cling was battling to try and get past Valentine for fifth spot. Valentine spun and stalled at turn four on lap eight, forcing a full course yellow, with Valentine then re-firing and continuing just afterwards, though he now ran down in ninth. Racing resumed on lap nine, but the full course yellow came right back out at the end of the lap after Mason Jr. had a similar incident to Valentine’s, as he braked too hard while trying to avoid a collision with McCullough at turn four. Racing picked back up on lap 11, and it was now Hardesty Jr. in the #99 Competitive Metals/Off Road Warehouse Alumi Craft, Chad George in the #42 Baja Designs/FK Rod Ends Funco, McCullough in the #62 Stapleton Roofing/Redline Performance Foddrill, Cling in the #77 Cling’s Manufacturing/Q Stickers Alumi Craft, and Valentine in the #78 Mickey Thompson/R2C Alumi Craft running in the top five. On the restart lap, George dove deep into turn three, before sliding in hard while trying to pass Hardesty Jr. on the inside. George bicycled, allowing those behind to close right up, and with another issue in the next corner, George dropped back several positions and out of the top five. McCullough, Valentine, Cling, and Dale Dondel moved up to second, third, fourth, and fifth, with Dondel and George then passing Cling, who had suddenly developed a serious issue, for fourth and fifth spots on the next lap. From there on in, the top five drivers held their positions, with Hardesty Jr. even managing to pull out a little bit of a lead on McCullough by race’s end. At the checkered flag, Hardesty Jr. picked up a fantastic first career win in Pro Buggy Unlimited- congratulations Darren! Second was McCullough, third was Valentine, fourth was Dondel in the #33 Roberts Racing/SAS, and fifth was Chad George.
In the final race of the afternoon, front row starters RJ Anderson and Rob MacCachren ran one-two after the opening lap; Jeremy McGrath ran third, with Patrick Clark in fourth and Bryce Menzies fifth. McGrath and Clark battled hard for third spot over lap two, with Clark finally getting past McGrath at turn one on lap three to move up to third. McGrath got back past Clark in the rhythm section between turns four and five on that same lap, though, with Menzies nearly getting by Clark as well as the trio roared into turn five. Two laps later, Clark struggled to get straightened out coming off of turn five, and Menzies got by him just at the start/finish line, with Brian Deegan then passing Clark in the turn one/two complex on the next lap as Clark was still making corrections. Eric Fitch then came to a stop in turn two, forcing a full course caution at the end of the lap, with racing picking up again on lap nine. Anderson still led the way in his #37 Polaris RZR/South Point Ford, ahead of MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford, McGrath in the #2 Loctite/Fuel Off-Road Wheels Nissan, Menzies in the #7 Red Bull/GoPro Ford, and Deegan in the #38 Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford. On the restart lap, McGrath got into MacCachren just a bit at turn two, and he had to back out of it to avoid taking MacCachren out. This dropped McGrath back to fourth, as he got out of shape a bit after the contact, and as he did, the field forced Deegan well wide and back to sixth. Deegan recovered to get back up to fifth by lap’s end, though, and at the end of the next lap, another full course yellow came out after an incident involving Rodrigo Ampudia and Carl Renezeder ended up catching out Clark and Todd LeDuc. Clark took the worst of it, getting smashed hard by LeDuc, who had nowhere to go, and Clark’s race was run.
Under yellow, MacCachren pulled into the Hot Pits to change a flat tire, and as the field picked up racing again on lap 13, quick work by MacCachren’s crew meant that he was able to re-join the action while still on the lead lap, albeit at the back of the pack. On the restart lap, McGrath was suddenly a bit slow coming out of turn three, and just after the end of the lap, he pulled off, the victim of some sort of mechanical gremlin. Anderson was still leading, but it was now Menzies in second, Deegan third, Sheldon Creed fourth in the #74 Traxxas/Method Race Wheels Ford, and Ampudia fifth in the #36 Monster Energy/Papas & Beer Ford. Lap 14 saw another full course yellow come out after Myan Spaccarelli came to a stop just after turn five, and while he was able to re-fire and continue, he did so just after the yellow flag had been thrown. Racing resumed on lap 16, with Menzies now really making life tough for Anderson in the lead. Anderson may have really been feeling the pressure, and on lap 17, he over-rotated at turn two and dropped out of the top five by the end of the lap. Deegan also dropped back on that lap, and as the field crossed the stripe to begin lap 18, Menzies now led the way, ahead of Creed, Ampudia, Renezeder, and MacCachren.
Just behind MacCachren was Robby Woods, who slammed hard into MacCachren door to door coming into turn three, causing them both to over-rotate and nose into the inside barrier. The field streaked past, and Woods earned himself a black flag for his actions, which he served even before reaching the end of the lap; all this put Anderson back up to fifth. On the next lap, Ampudia got a little sideways over the big tabletop between turns two and three, allowing Renezeder to go by into turn three. Ampudia then over-rotated at turn two on the next lap, and slid back another spot as Anderson got by him for fourth. Lap 21 then saw a full course yellow for on-track debris, and on the restart lap, both Ampudia and MacCachren got past Anderson in short order. MacCachren then passed Ampudia for fourth at turn three, while in the next corner, Renezeder got by Creed for second. Creed passed Renezeder back in turn three on the final lap, but Renezeder got back past before the lap was over. A terrible melee is quite possibly the best description of the final eight laps, but out of all of it, Menzies came out on top to grab his fourth win of the season. Renezeder was second in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Ford, with Creed third, MacCachren fourth, and Anderson fifth at the line by just over an eighth of a second over Ampudia.
Just like that, our first of two days of racing here in Utah is done and dusted. Tomorrow, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, comes right back with Round 8 of the 2015 championship, and with a full month between tomorrow and our next event at Glen Helen, you can be sure that the drivers will be taking their gloves off to close out this weekend. Gates open at 8:00 am, with qualifying starting at 9:00 am, the first race of the day at 1:00 pm, and Opening Ceremonies at 2:00 pm. Get out here and enjoy this beautiful facility and some great racing- you’ll be glad you did!
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