September 15, 2017
With Three Rounds To Go, Many Drivers Are Still in the Hunt for Season Championships
Ten rounds of TORC: The Off-Road Championship Series are in the books. All year, TORC’s season-long competitors have had their eye on becoming 2017 Class Champions, a feat that takes a perfect combination of consistency and excellence. Some racers have been able to use the ten rounds to establish distinct points advantages over the rest of the field, but other classes have gone an entire season without a clear favorite to win it all.
One stop remains, and it’s a doozy. Earlier in the year, inclement weather caused Round 4 to be rescheduled to a later date. Officials added the round to The Kenda Final Rounds, making TORC’s season finale a three-round slugfest at ERX Motor Park. With 25 points awarded for a victory plus a possible bonus point for leading halfway through a race, racers could earn up to a massive 78 points at the series’ final stop. As a result of this and season-long parity, every PRO Class championship is still up for grabs.
Only one class has the potential to be won by 2016’s defending champion. In the premier PRO 4 class, the season has come down to a familiar nail-biter between the father-son duo of Johnny and CJ Greaves. CJ is looking to reign as PRO 4 champion for the third consecutive year, having narrowly edged out his father in his first two years in the class. 2017’s contest is the closest yet: Johnny and CJ have been in a deadlock all season, even emerging from three separate weekends exactly tied in points. Now, CJ is clinging to a two-point lead heading into the final round.
PRO 4 rookie Keegan Kincaid has been impressively consistent all season, scoring eight podiums, one win, and several fastest-lap awards in a brand-new truck. At 12 points back, he’s right in the thick of things, and could very possibly steal the title with an exceptional weekend. Johnny and Keegan have their work cut out for them, though: CJ Greaves has yet to lose a race at ERX Motor Park, in any class.
The revamped PRO 2 class has seen an influx of new talent and a wave of first-time winners in 2017. It took several rounds for a favorite to be established, but young gun Luke Johnson has overcome a roller-coaster start to the season to build a 39-point lead over the field with three rounds to go. If he continues his streak of consistent finishes, the title is his. Luke is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father Ricky Johnson, who won the PRO 2 class championship seven years ago. The accolade has been a lifelong dream of Luke’s, and if he pulls it off, the emotional celebration will be one to remember.
Class veteran Brad Lovell has been a top competitor all season, and has six podiums to his name. Unfortunately, a double-DNF nightmare weekend in Bark River has held him back in the championship race. Super truck alumni Mark Peterson, Mitch Dorr, and Eric Ruppel are mathematically in the hunt after putting together excellent rookie seasons in the class.
After Kyle Kleiman nearly won the 2016 PRO Light championship despite missing two rounds of racing, many had pegged him the favorite to win it all in 2017. It’s a bet that has looked better and better with each passing round. The ever-calm beanie-donning racing phenom from Wilson, MI has dominated the class this year, winning seven out of ten races en route to a 25-point lead. With a couple solid performances at ERX, the Ponsse-sponsored driver will win the PRO Light championship in his first full season of competition.
For all other PRO Light drivers, the 2017 season has been a wild and inconsistent rollercoaster. Cam Reimers seems to have put it together of late with three straight second-place finishes. He sits second in points followed closely by Cody Kleiman, Andrew Carlson, and Shawn Morris. No matter what happens, the TORC Series will see its 9th different PRO Light champion in nine years of existence.
PRO MOD UTV
The PRO Modified UTV division has not disappointed in its first season on the full TORC circuit: the stage is set for a dramatic conclusion to a season-long dogfight between Kyle Chaney and Rodney Van Eperen. Yamaha driver Rodney Van Eperen has been dominant at times, winning six out of ten races this year. But a 16th place finish in Round 2 due to a mechanical failure has had him chasing Can-Am rival Kyle Chaney all season long. Chaney finished in 2nd place the first five outings this year before finally posting a win. He’s been remarkably consistent, finishing off the podium only once. Chaney’s lead is eight points heading into The Kenda Final Rounds.
As if the close battle wasn’t engaging enough, both drivers have been thrown curveballs heading into the finale. Kyle Chaney has a Round 12 scheduling conflict with another racing series, and will make a race-day decision regarding potentially turning over TORC driving duties to backup driver Larry Pegram. Rodney Van Eperen is facing a different challenge: he was involved in a moto crash recently and it’s unclear if his injuries will be a factor come ERX. Whatever happens, the PRO Mod UTV race is surely headed for a very intriguing conclusion.
PRO Stock UTV
The series’ biggest points lead belongs to CJ Greaves, who has absolutely dominated the PRO Stock UTV class all season long. CJ is a perfect 10 for 10 in the production vehicle class, extending a win streak that predates the season itself. It hasn’t been easy, though, as tough competitors like Dillon Pointon, Jake Lunderby, and Kenny Masch have given him all he could handle at times. But Greaves has turned the entire season into a clinic of seizing opportunities as they were presented. His championship lead currently stands at a whopping 47 points, and he appears destined to cruise to a historic championship.
However, CJ is not in the clear just yet. Open-wheel racing can be treacherous, and everything can go wrong in the blink of an eye. The field is very even, and one small mistake could mean a DNF or loss of many positions. With UTV fields expected to reach a full count of 20 vehicles as they have all season long, there is always the potential to receive just one point (the result of finishing 13th or higher) if something goes wrong. Combine this with three rounds of action, and one driver remains mathematically in the hunt for the Stock class championship. Zach Martin, who has been blazing fast and ultra-consistent all year, is a long shot 47 points back, but his strong season is enough to keep CJ honest heading into the finale.
The Kenda Final Rounds at ERX Motor Park are sure to throw a wrench in the established order, as drivers put it all on the line one final time in 2017. Who will emerge victorious in the hotly-contested PRO 4 and PRO Mod UTV divisions, where one mistake could mean the difference between a championship and a season to live in infamy? Can Luke Johnson, Kyle Kleiman, and CJ Greaves stay cool and protect their established points leads, or will a rival with nothing to lose steal the day? Trucks and UTVs will scream, dirt will fly, emotions will run high, and champions will be crowned in TORC PRO divisions along with six sportsman classes. Don’t miss the tripleheader tidal-wave of action concluding with 2017’s emotional championship celebrations. It’s sure to be a perfect end of a season to remember. Get your tickets now!
Programing Start time – 2:30pm CT each day.
9/22 TORC 2017: Elk River, MN: R4: Live
9/23 TORC 2017: Elk River, MN: R12: Live
9/24 TORC 2017: Elk River, MN: R13: Live