Corona, CA (May 18, 2018) – With this weekend's Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2018 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, fast approaching, we thought we'd take a few minutes and look back at how some of the past races shook out down at Estero Beach. Introduced to the series in 2015 thanks in part to tremendous efforts on the part of team owner and off-road super fan Rodrigo Ampudia Sr., this unique track quickly became a big hit with drivers, who enjoy the unique challenge of this flat, fast, and sandy course. While past results don't necessarily predict the future, they can be an indicator of who tends to do better on a given track, and either way, it's fun to look back and see what's happened here before, right?
2016 was the second year that the series had gone down to Estero Beach, and the two races there made up Rounds 7 and 8 of that year's championship. In Round 7, Bryce Menzies scored a huge redemption win on behalf of his team, who'd worked tirelessly to put a new wiring loom in the truck after a Friday practice fire had burned up his first loom. Menzies did have to hold off a late charge from Rob MacCachren, but managed to do so, and Kyle LeDuc got by three guys in one lap late in the race to move up to third from sixth; Doug Fortin and Carl Renezeder rounded out the top five. The next day, Renezeder was doing much better early, leading the pack with LeDuc hounding him from second spot. LeDuc then capitalized on a bike by Renezeder on the restart after the Competition Yellow to take the lead, and both Greg Adler and Doug Fortin managed to take advantage of Renezeder's error as well. Adler then biked in the same corner on the next lap to move Fortin to second, and Renezeder managed to get back by Adler as well later on. LeDuc got the win, ahead of Fortin, Renezeder, Adler, and Menzies.
The next year, Estero Beach made up Rounds 3 and 4 of the series, and in Round 3, Doug Mittag was flying up front in the first half, but a few laps into the back half, a hard landing off of a jump flattened one of Mittag's tires, ending his run for the win. LeDuc moved up to first and held on to take his first win in his new Evvo truck. MacCachren over-rotated while trying to avoid hitting an over-rotating Adler on the last lap, causing MacCachren to nose into a tire barrier. Adler got away to take second, with Eric Barron third, Adrian Cenni fourth, and Bradley Morris fifth. In Round 4, LeDuc again got the win, this time avoiding chaos behind. Amidst that chaos, Menzies quickly moved up to third, and may have helped put second-placed Mittag out, gaining the position himself either way. MacCachren and RJ Anderson had a very close drag race out of the final corner for third, with their trackers actually showing them as having tied, but the position went to MacCachren; fifth was Barron.
In 2016, Saturday's race saw Jeremy McGrath moved up to the lead early after both Patrick Clark and Doug Mittag had hit trouble. Rob MacCachren closed in hard on McGrath, but McGrath then started to hold his own up front as the race progressed. Local favorite Rodrigo Ampudia then closed in on these two, but not quite enough to challenge them, and despite some desperate driving on the final lap, MacCachren just couldn't get up and out of the rutted track to get by McGrath, who took the win. MacCachren was second, Ampudia third, Eric Fitch fourth, and Carl Renezeder fifth. On Sunday, Bryce Menzies moved from fifth to second on an early restart, then got by Mittag for the lead when Mittag lost control in turn seven. A serious mechanical took Renezeder out from third on lap nine, and in the closing laps, a good battle developed between Anderson, MacCachren, and McGrath for that new third spot. An error dropped McGrath back at the end, moving Ampudia to fifth, while up front, it was Menzies who easily took the win, ahead of Mittag, Anderson, and MacCachren.
Last year, McGrath led early in Round 3, was passed by Brian Deegan mid-race, but got the lead back when a late-race flat sent Deegan to the Hot Pits. These two had been enjoying some good, close racing until Deegan's flat, and behind these two, another great race was on for third (later for second, after Deegan's flat) between Anderson, MacCachren, Menzies, and Ampudia. A mid-race over-rotation dropped Anderson from third to sixth, but Anderson did get two of those spots back. McGrath got the win, ahead of MacCachren, Menzies, Anderson, and Ampudia. The next day, Menzies had an unbelievable run of passes on a track which is notoriously difficult to pass on, passing MacCachren, Deegan, and then Jerett Brooks to go from fourth to first by the restart lap after the Competition Yellow. MacCachren dropped out with a broken steering rack, and Anderson spun Ampudia on the final lap, earning himself a black flag as a result. Menzies went on to win, ahead of Deegan, Bradley Morris, Ampudia, and McGrath.
Saturday's Pro Lite race was a quiet one in 2016, with Ryan Beat leading the way wire to wire to pick up the win. There was minimal passing among the top five drivers, and so it was Jerett Brooks taking second, Brandon Arthur third, Brock Heger fourth, and Jeremy Stenberg fifth. The next day, it was another wire to wire leader who got the win, but this time it was Jeff Hoffman who did so, grabbing his first-ever Pro Lite win in the process. Beat, who'd won the day before, rolled out of this contest, and Arthur charged back up the order to third after dropping to tenth on lap two. Behind Hoffman, it was Brooks in second, Arthur third, and Heger in fourth, just as it had been on Saturday, and Gavin Harlien closed out the top five.
In 2017, Brock Heger came into the weekend having won both of the first two rounds in Arizona, and made it a hat trick here, taking the win after leading from start to finish. Behind Heger, Hailie Deegan's truck survived a race-long beating, as well as late-race steam pouring from her radiator, to grab second, with Brooks, Ronnie Anderson, and Ray Griffith filling out the rest of the top five. In Round 4, Beat and Brooks had a fantastic race over the second half, with each driver being strong in a different part of the track. Brooks drove Beat very clean, despite multiple opportunities to take Beat out, and so it was Beat who got the win over Brooks, with Heger taking third, Deegan fourth, and Anderson fifth.
Two years ago, Eliott Watson led the field through the halfway mark in Round 7, but picked up a flat soon after. As Kevin McCullough moved alongside to pass Watson, he broke an axle, ending his run. Garret George then moved up and did manage to pass Watson, as did Darren Hardesty Jr., but Watson did manage to use some skillful driving to keep Bud Ward at bay over the final lap. George got the win and was ecstatic, with Hardesty Jr. taking second, Watson third, Ward fourth, and Mike Valentine fifth. The following day's race was a quiet one, with McCullough leading wire to wire, and holding off a mid-race charge from Watson. These two finished first and second, with Hardesty Jr. taking third, George fourth, and Ward fifth.
McCullough put in a similar performance to his Round 8 win from 2016 during Round 3 in 2017, leading from start to finish to get the win after a rough weekend in Chandler. Behind him, Watson and Hardesty Jr. had a good mid-race battle for second, with Watson coming out ahead in that one. Trevor Briska bounced back from an early incident to move up to fourth, and Matthew Brister rounded out the top five. On Sunday, all the race's action was between Sterling Cling, McCullough, and Watson in the second half, as they battled hard for third place. McCullough and Watson both passed Cling on the final lap, with Watson then winning a surprising drag race with McCullough out of the final corner. Ahead, it was Hardesty Jr. who got the win, with Bud Ward in second, followed by Watson, McCullough, and Cling.
Production 1000 UTV joined the series last year, and also joined the shorter list of classes that heads south of the border to Estero Beach. In Round 3, early leader Brandon Arthur was passed by Myles Cheek on lap two, but two laps after the restart following the Competition Yellow, Cheek bicycled badly and struggled to get his car gathered up. This allowed Arthur, Brock Heger, and Ronnie Anderson to all get by. Cheek then had to deal with tires that were going away badly, but did manage to hold on to his fourth place. Arthur got the win to make it three in a row after having swept the weekend in Arizona, with Heger taking second, Anderson third, Cheek fourth, and Dustin Nelson fifth. On Sunday, Cheek again stole the lead away from a different early leader, this time Anderson, but managed to hold the lead this time, all the way to the checkered flag. This ended Arthur's streak, who himself went out with steering issues. Heger moved up from fourth to second over the course of the race, and generally, the top five separated themselves from the rest of the field, as they were the only five who could consistently double in the rhythm section between turns three and four. Cheek got the win, ahead of Heger, Anderson, Mickey Thomas, and Paul O'Brien.
About the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series:
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. Our events can be seen on CBS, CBS Sports Network, MAVTV, and Live all season long on LucasOilRacing.TV. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course! For more information, please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter in our Newsletter Signup section of the home page.
Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series