Close friends Heger, Watson have winning combinations during season-opening weekend at Wild Horse Pass

Close friends Heger, Watson have winning combinations during season-opening weekend at Wild Horse Pass

Corona, California (May 1, 2017) – Brock Heger wasn't brimming with confidence when he headed for Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the opening rounds of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series since "I never have the best of luck there."

A few days later, as he reflected on a weekend that included his two wins in the Pro Lite class, two top fives in the Production 1000 UTV races and two Pro Buggy class wins by close friend and neighbor Eliott Watson, the 17-year-old from El Centro, California, said his luck had "turned around pretty good. I don't think it could have gotten any better."

Well, truthfully it could have been a little better, because his Friday practice was a mess that forced he and his teammates at Jeremy McGrath Motorsports to put in some overtime hours.

"The first two practices we couldn't get the truck figured out. We were awful," Heger said. "The third practice we got it figured out and then we got taken out by another truck" in an incident that left his Icon/Maxxis Toyota standing on its rear bumper in a pirouette that made a great photo opportunity but didn't help the truck.

"We spent all night trying to fix it and get everything back straight. The damage was not so much performance wise, it was just a lot of cosmetic work, aluminum work, you name it."

In round one on April 22 Heger wired the 17-truck field, qualifying first, starting first and leading all 16 laps to finish 0.640 seconds ahead of Jerett Brooks. But round two was much different. Heger qualified fourth and started fourth and said "I was kind of points racing, in a way, just running a consistent top 5 or top 4 pace. Then I got a flat and came out (of the hot pit) dead last and then it was nothing but charging to the front."

Heger's charge was complicated by a half-dozen full-course caution flags but by the time the final yellow waved on lap 15 he was third behind Brooks and Hailie Deegan. Heger said he tried to build as much speed as he could exiting Turns 1 and 2, and when Brooks bobbled in Turn 3 Heger beat Deegan to the inside line and took the lead and the win, by 0.320 seconds.

Close friends Heger, Watson have winning combinations during season-opening weekend at Wild Horse Pass

Watson, meanwhile, was sweeping the Pro Buggy competition in similar fashion.

The 17-year-old set the pace in both qualifying sessions in his Fox Shox/BFGoodrich Tires/Baja Designs AlumiCraft single-seater, took a clear lead early in both 16-lap main events and drove to two victories over reigning champion Darren Hardesty, the first by 0.738 seconds and the second by a 0.849-second margin. Kyle Aarup took third in round one and Bud Ward occupied the final podium spot after round two.

Watson's wins gave him an 8-point lead over Hardesty and he thinks they will be "super close" throughout the 13-race season. Heger also has an 8-point lead over Brooks in Pro Lite and is 13 points behind double winner Brandon Arthur in Production 1000 UTV.

There were a couple of external factors at work for Heger during the weekend.

One was having had a year to build a working relationship with team owner and spotter McGrath and the crew. The other was racing in both the Pro Lite and the Production 1000 UTV class, where he finished fifth and third and learned a lot that helped him in Pro Lite.

"The good thing about doing two classes," Heger said, "is that I get in the Yamaha (1000) to go out and race and they don't have as much power (as Pro Lite) so I'm always moving around trying to find fast lines. Then there's only one race between them (his two classes), so when I get in the Pro Lite it feels like I just got off the track and I know where the track is and where the traction is and that helps me a lot.

"Last year it was a lot of me getting used to the team and all the new guys and so on," said Heger, who finished fourth in the Pro Lite point standings as a rookie. "It was a huge learning curve, for me and the team, of just how everything goes. I think we've gotten that all figured out. I think this year is going to be a real good year."

Watson was experiencing the same factors as he used the knowledge acquired during his season and a half in the Pro Buggy class, where he finished 10th despite running only half a season in 2015 and sixth last year, when he got his first win in the opening round and his first (and he hopes only) disqualification in round three.

"I was pretty happy with last season," he said. "If I didn't get that disqualification I would have only been a few points out of the lead.

"It was a new car. The first time I drove it was for round one last year. Then we started getting a few little bugs. Last year we learned a lot each round. The main thing we learned was how often (there was a need) to prep certain things on the car and what can go bad and does go bad. It was some suspension, some motor, some transmission, a little bit of everything. Now we have a set-up that's comfortable for each track.

"Mentally I got a lot stronger (as a driver)," Watson said. "At round one last year when I was leading all I could think of was 'no mistake, no mistake, you can't mess this up.' I feel like towards the middle of last year I started to feel impatient. I beat myself up if I wasn't on the box (podium). I had to sit back and realize this is all for fun; then I started doing better. This year I have a lot more confidence."

Television Schedule

All times are Eastern. Subject to change.
Sunday, January 21
2:00 PM
- Chandler, AZ
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Sunday, February 4
2:00 PM
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