Challenging track awaits LOORRS drivers at Lucas Oil Speedway

Challenging track awaits LOORRS drivers at Lucas Oil Speedway

Corona, California (July 17, 2017) – Ritchie Lewis said he can't wait for all the drivers and teams in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series to get to Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, and see the surprise that awaits them.

It is, Lewis said, a new short-course off-road track that resembles "a Supercross on steroids," and it will serve as the battlefield for the inaugural GEICO Off-Road Shootout presented by General Tire July 21-23.

The Midwest incursion by the series is its first under the Lucas Oil banner (the previous promoters did have a race on a temporary course at Wheatland over a decade ago) and when the race trucks roll onto the track for practice Friday afternoon it will be the culmination of three years of discussions and about 17 months of preparation.

Southern California is home to the series and a large majority of the race teams and several of the preliminary conversations dealt with the possibility that many of the teams might decline to make the long (about 1,700 miles) and expensive trip.

One solution to that potential problem was the creation of the Lucas Oil Off Road to Wheatland Tow Money program. That program will pay $1,500 to each team competing in Pro 2, Pro 4, Pro Lite and Pro Buggy and $1,000 to each team in the Modified Kart and Production 1000 UTV classes, and it is open to teams who race in short-course series in the Midwest and other areas as well as LOORRS teams.

Lewis said establishing the tow money program "was kind of the icing on the cake" baked to alleviate the competitors' financial concerns, but not the tipping point in deciding whether or not to have the event.

"At some point, we just had to make a decision, 'let's go with it and we'll grow it. If it takes us two or three years to get it where it needs to be we'll take that,'" he said. "But we worked really hard to make sure that we're going to have a decent car count.

"There was a lot of concern about it because it is a long way. But we've raced southern California a lot. It's great racing in southern California. But for us to be a national series and really get our sponsors exposure in other sections of the country we had to do something. So we said if we're going to go to the Midwest then let's go to our house" and not have to deal with civic or political issues that might affect attempts to build a track elsewhere.

Dan Robinson, the speedway general manager since 2009, said Wheatland was the logical destination "because Forrest (Lucas) had the facility that he owned and had a lot of land and really wanted to bring the West Coast style of racing to the Midwest and grow the fan base here in the Midwest.

"I think that was the biggest thing of it. Having the facility and the expertise and the equipment here to make it happen close to his ranch and with his other motorsports facilities here on site, it was just a natural fit to build a permanent structure."

The expertise Robinson referred to included off-road track builder Gary Hubert and his crew who, through their work building most of the LOORRS tracks, "were very experienced in what the off-road community was and what the racers needed to make good racing. So they took all those things they'd learned and a blank sheet of paper … and they started going to it."

Robinson calls the result a challenging track for even the most experienced drivers and Lewis agrees.

"It's a whole new design," Lewis said. "To me it's kind of three tracks in one. It has a lot of really cool high-banked, high-speed stuff in it and then it also has a lot of real technical rhythm sections and things of that nature, with switchbacks, and it also has a lot of real high, long jump stuff in it as well. It's kind of got the best of all three worlds, a Supercross on steroids kind of things going on. It's a big track (1.3 miles) but it has a lot of short-track stuff to it as well."

The track's composition wasn't all formed by Mother Nature, either.

"It's got different kinds of dirt in it for the application that we built," Lewis said. "We were a little more dirt specific, so where we need something to get real hard we got some real good bonding clay and in the areas that we wanted to get slick and slow them down it's kind of powdery and silty and then there's some kind of blended material that works really well in some other sections of the race track. So, it's not capped with just one type of material. It has multiple colors to it. It's got a lot of different characteristics with the dirt."

The result is a track with 7 left-hand and 2 right-hand turns and an over-under section that Lewis said will take the drivers a little while to learn.

"They're going to work really hard on their setups," he said. "There's probably going to be areas they're really good in and areas where they'll probably have to give up a little to be better in other areas. It's kind of like the old Pocono (Speedway tri-oval) adage, you give up a little bit here to be real good down there, and I think you'll see a little bit of that here, which is by design.

"We're pretty proud of her and we're looking forward to everyone getting here."

No one yet has an exact count on how many visitors to expect because many of the midwestern racers couldn't make a commitment until their weekend events were over. It's safe to say, however, that the community in the pits at Lucas Oil Speedway will dwarf the population of Wheatland, which Robinson said is a very small farming town of around 377 people about an hour north of Springfield, Missouri, with "a lot of soy beans and a lot of hay fields and a lot of beef cattle."

This weekend there'll be a lot of horsepower too.

"It's good for the community. It will bring a lot of tourism dollars and lot of exposure," Robinson said of the Off-Road Shootout, which will be fine-tuned in coming years.

"We'll see how the first one goes and go from there," he said.

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