Wild West Motorsports Park just hosted Round 6 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) and it was another thrilling short course race for the Reno fan base. For the young Pro Buggy off road racing phenom, Darren “HotSauce” Hardesty Jr. who has scored four consecutive 1st place finishes, it is one to call a lesson learned and that you cannot win them all.
The weekend in Reno started off really well for HotSauce who was consistently fastest during two of the three practice sessions. The third session saw Eliott Watson, eventual Round 6 race winner, slip under the wire on the very last lap. HotSauce was second fastest in the last session and super dialed laying down all practice laps in the 55 second margin in his #99 Bilstein / Alumi Craft Pro Buggy.
On Saturday morning before qualifying, the LOORRS Track Crew expecting dry and hot July temperatures, soaked the race track making it extra slick. HotSauce is well versed in the slop and managed through. After running at the front of the pack for nearly all of qualifying, the lap times came in and clocked “HotSauce” 4th fastest by a few hundredths of a second.
After Pro Buggy qualifying, mother nature saw a furious summer storm drench the race track and venue. The lightning and rain showers threatened to cancel racing but ultimately caused a delay and a re-shuffling in the schedule.
Hardesty recently proved he has the skills to race competitively in the muddy conditions. Darren was coming off back to back wins in rounds 4 & 5 in Missouri, which were also plagued by a wet and sloppy track. “I was very excited as I knew I could perform well in the muddy conditions and feel we had the perfect setup for the track”, described Hardesty.
When the Pro Buggies got the green flag the #99 Bilstein Pro Buggy was able to get a jump up into the 3rd position and hold it. The race was going very well until Lap 3 when HotSauce over rotated in the mud, clipped a cement k-rail and broke an arm. HotSauce limped into the hot pits, where the team analyzed the situation.
“The team gave me the option to get back out for a finish or quit,” stated Darren. “At this point it really was not a hard decision. My whole crew works so hard to be on top, so together we decided to finished it.” After leaving the hot pit with the right front suspension rigged back into place, the #99 was back out on the track. Unfortunately, the power steering failed right about then. “I knew it was over and I was stranded on the track,” Hardesty shrugged. “We had no power steering, half of a lower suspension arm on the right side of the race car and a flat tire.
Darren Hardesty Jr. will gladly take Round 6 starting points and add it to the stack. HotSauce is currently leading the 2018 Pro Buggy Championship with four race wins and hopes to secure a third straight Lucas Oil National Championship.
“We couldn’t do this without a great team and all our sponsors; Bilstein, Off Road Warehouse, Mickey Thompson Tires, STEEL-IT, Impact, Lucas Oil Products, Bink Designs, Alumi Craft Race Cars, Black Rhino Performance, RacerX, and USA Wheels.” Next stop for "HotSauce" and the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is under the lights in Tooele Utah on August 24th & 25th at Utah Motorsports Campus.
Photography by Bink Designs
About Darren "HotSauce" Hardesty Jr.
Darren “Hot Sauce” Hardesty Jr. is a third generation racer who is making his own mark in racing. Working his way up the ladder from JR1 Kart, where he was named “Rookie of the Year” in 2011, he graduated to the fastest kart class in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series,. Racing a Pro Buggy In 2015, Hot Sauce earned the Rookie of the Year title and the points championship in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Regional Series. He gave the pro level series a try and did extremely well; so well that he also ran the Pro series for the rest of the season. He became the youngest driver to win a race in the Pro series and went on the take the Rookie of the Year title; earning his second Rookie of the Year title during the same season. In 2016, he has continued to accrue wins and podiums at the professional level. During his trip to the World Championships at the Big House in Crandon, Wisconsin, he earned a victory and second place podium finish racing against the Crandon regulars. At only 16 years of age, Darren Jr. became the youngest driver to win a pro series championship when he dominated the final race of the series. He vaulted from third place in the standings to a tie for first. Having more wins than his top competitor broke the tie, earning HotSauce the title. Darren’s strong performance in 2016 attracted a huge fan following and a rising star nomination from the Off Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame. He backed up his strong run in 2016 with a second straight championship in 2017. He is going for his third championship in a row this season. Anytime he is in the driver’s seat, it’s guaranteed he will spice things up as his nickname “HotSauce” suggests.