Chandler, AZ (October 22, 2017) – With the championship season now over, it was time for the drivers and crews of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, to turn their attention to the big money Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races. Today would be the final day of racing for the 2017 year here in Lucas Oil Off Road, and it would be bragging rights and big payouts up for grabs here at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. The desert was warm here in Chandler, AZ, but still comfortable as the autumn sun circled low and inviting, helping create a near-perfect atmosphere for what would be, at least in one big way, a sad day here in our series. Today would be the final day of racing for a true legend in short-course off road racing: Carl Renezeder. An undisputed icon and titan of this sport, Renezeder has racked up over 120 wins and 9 championships across 19 years of competition in the sport, and although he made the announcement of his impending retirement clear back at the start of this season, it was still hard to see him go off the track for the last time, especially after a very sincere and emotional speech by Renezeder during Opening Ceremonies, as well as a touching tribute to the champion from series staff and drivers alike. With all that being said, there was still racing to do here today, and the drivers took 2017 out in style.
The final race of the year was the highly-anticipated Pro 2 Unlimited versus Pro 4 Unlimited Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, and for the first time ever, this year’s race would see both fields take a standing start, with the 2-wheel-drives getting nearly a full lap’s head start. Rob MacCachren, Patrick Clark, Jerett Brooks, Rodrigo Ampudia, and Brian Deegan were in the top five spots amongst the 2wds after lap one, while Bradley Morris, RJ Anderson, Kyle LeDuc, Doug Mittag, and Adrian Cenni had the first five spots in the 4wds. Lap two saw Doug Fortin move up to fifth amongst the 4wd runners, and lap three saw LeDuc jump past Anderson over the ski jump out of turn two to move into the second spot in the 4wd ranks. LeDuc then ran straight ahead at turn one on the next lap, having lost control, and dropped back to seventh in class, putting Anderson, Mittag, Fortin, and Carl Renezeder up to spots two through five in the 4wds. Near the end of the next lap, Rodrigo Ampudia had to stop up against the outside wall exiting turn four, as onboard smoke put an abrupt end to his race. This brought out a full course yellow, and unfortunately for the 2wd runners, that erased all of the starting gap they’d been given over the 4wds. On the restart lap, Morris, first in the 4wds, moved up to sixth overall by turn two, and by lap’s end, it was now MacCachren, Clark, Deegan, Jerett Brooks, and Doug Mittag (now the first 4wd) in the top five. Deegan ran wide while exiting turn one on lap seven, allowing several drivers to get by, and by lap’s end, Mittag, Anderson, and Renezeder, all 4wds, were in third, fourth, and fifth, with only MacCachren and Clark still ahead of them. A full course yellow fell at the end of the lap when Ronnie Anderson (driving his older cousin RJ’s Pro 2 Unlimited) stopped just inside turn four, and under yellow, things got worse for the 2wds, as Clark stopped between turns one and two with major smoke coming from his truck.
On the restart lap, Mittag made a very clean, respectable pass on MacCachren, driving by around the outside at turn three to move into the lead in the #81 Jhonlin Racing Team/Maxxis Tires Ford. The 4wds were swarming around MacCachren now, and when Anderson got squirrelly coming out of turn three, LeDuc got by Anderson after these two and Renezeder made contact in turn four; LeDuc had also managed to get by MacCachren in the process. Cenni crashed in the whoops before turn four, bringing another full course yellow out at the end of this lap, and under yellow, unfortunately, Renezeder dropped out with mechanical issues, a sad end to his racing career. When racing resumed, Anderson got by MacCachren at turn one to move up to third, and Greg Adler, also in a 4wd, then passed MacCachren for fourth in turn two. Lap 11 saw the action turn to in-fighting between the frontrunners in each class, as LeDuc was all over Mittag in the race for the outright lead, as was Deegan on MacCachren for top honors in the 2wds. MacCachren quickly re-gained control of the 2wd battle, but up front, the race between the two LeDuc-built trucks of Mittag and LeDuc was on like gangbusters. Further back, Adler must’ve been having mechanical trouble, as MacCachren started to reel him back in. Lap 15 then saw Mittag pick up a very unfortunate right rear flat tire, and despite an awesome effort to keep LeDuc at bay, Mittag couldn’t hold off LeDuc for long. LeDuc made a very clean inside pass on Mittag at turn one on the next lap to take the lead in the #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, and further back, MacCachren, Deegan, and Brooks had all gotten back by Adler, before Adler then pulled off. Anderson got by Mittag before the end of the lap, taking over second in the #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck, but after that, no further passes were made within the top five. LeDuc took the win and the $30,000 that came with it, all for the second year in a row, while second went to Anderson, who got $15,000. Third and $7,500 went to Mittag, fourth was MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford (who got a $1,000 bonus for being the top finisher in the class that didn’t take the outright win), and fifth was Deegan in the #38 Monster Energy/Mickey Thompson Ford; Brooks was the only other finisher on the lead lap, and Adam Daffner was the only other truck that was even still running.
Following an emotional Opening Ceremonies, which included an extensive tribute to Carl Renezeder, who is set to retire from competition after today, it was time to get back to racing action with the men and women of Pro Lite Unlimited. Brandon Arthur led the way in the #6 MavTV/Toyo Tires Chevrolet after lap one, ahead of Hailie Deegan, Ronnie Anderson, Christopher Polvoorde, and Jerett Brooks. Brooks got his #1 Rigid Industries L.E.D. Lighting/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Nissan by Polvoorde at turn two to take over fourth on lap two, before then passing Anderson for third at turn one on the next lap. Brock Heger then passed Polvoorde at turn four on the same lap to move up to fifth in the #12 Maxxis Tires/Airaid Toyota, and just ahead, Brooks then closed right in on Deegan late on lap five. Deegan then hit the afterburners and got back a bit of a gap on Brooks early on the next lap, but by lap nine, Brooks had closed in once again. Lap ten then saw Deegan pick up a left rear flat tire, and quickly, Brooks, Anderson, Heger, and Polvoorde passed her by to drop her out of the top five. In that process, Anderson also got by Brooks for second, and at the end of lap twelve, Polvoorde then lost control exiting turn four, and ran off track down the inside into a tricky part of the infield. Polvoorde needed what must’ve seemed like an eternity to get pointed the right way and back on track, and in that time, Polvoorde dropped to 12th, and that allowed Ryan Beat to move up to fifth in the #51 Rockstar Energy Drink/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Chevrolet. On lap 14, Brooks got out of shape in turn two, which allowed Heger to get by for third, and shortly after that, major smoke began to pour from the right rear of Anderson’s truck, making visibility for those behind even tougher. Despite this, Heger then got by Anderson at turn three on the penultimate lap to move into second, and from there, the top five drivers held their positions until the checkered flag. Arthur capped a tough season with a great win today, taking home $10,000 in the process, with Heger taking second and $5,000, and Anderson taking third and $2,500 in the #52 Walker Evans Racing/Polaris RZR Chevrolet; fourth went to Brooks, and fifth was Beat.
In the open wheel ranks, Sterling Cling got into Bud Ward at turn one on the opening lap, with Broc Dickerson then collecting into these two as well. The whole incident brought about a full restart of the race, and on the second go around, Cling was unfortunately able to make the call. Up front, Darren Hardesty Jr. led the way in the #1 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Racer X Motorsports Alumi Craft, ahead of Kevin McCullough in the #62 DA8 Strong/Stapleton Roofing Foddrill, Eliott Watson in the #3 Fox Racing Shox/BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft, Ward, and Trevor Briska. Briska got past Ward for fourth early on lap two, and on lap three, a four-car pile-up in turn one caused a full course caution. Ward, Sammy Ehrenberg, Broc Dickerson, and Matthew Brister were all involved in the incident, and neither Ehrenberg nor Ward came back out on track after heading into the Hot Pits under yellow, despite all four cars being able to re-fire on their own. Ward’s exit moved Briska and Brady Whitlock up to fourth and fifth for the restart, and on lap four, smoke was now coming out the back of Whitlock’s car. Up front, the top four drivers were running very evenly, with a big gap back to fifth-placed Whitlock by lap six. On lap seven, McCullough closed in on Hardesty Jr. to tighten up the race for the lead, while further back, Brister was now all over Whitlock in the battle for fifth. By laps nine and ten, Briska began to drop back from the leading trio, while further back, Brister then got by Whitlock for fifth late on lap 11. Up front, the battle for the lead was still on in earnest between Hardesty Jr. and McCullough. On lap 15, the penultimate lap, Hardesty Jr. biked slightly in turn two, and McCullough dropped down the inside and hit Hardesty Jr.’s left front with his own right rear. Hardesty Jr. came away with broken left front suspension, but the incident didn’t look malicious, and was ruled a no call by race officials, so the race continued uninterrupted. Over the final lap and a half, Hardesty Jr. tried hard to physically hold Watson at bay, but Watson finally muscled by at turn three on the last lap to move into second. Up front, an ecstatic McCullough brought home the win in front of his hometown fans, taking $10,000 as well. Watson scored $5,000 for his second place finish, Hardesty Jr. got $2,500 for third, Briska was fourth in the #59 MTRV8/Prolong Super Lubricants Funco, and Brister was fifth in the #5 Bink Designs/King Off-Road Racing Shocks Funco.
The final race before Opening Ceremonies was Production 1000 UTV, and in this one, Mickey Thomas shot out to the early lead in the #944 Mystik Lubricants/Maxxis Tires Yamaha, ahead of Ronnie Anderson in the #952 Safecraft Safety Equipment/BFGoodrich Tires Polaris, Brock Heger in the #1 Icon Vehicle Dynamics/Ultra Xtreme Race Wheels Yamaha, Brandon Kilgore, and Myles Cheek. Lap three saw Kilgore run too tight down the inside at turn three, forcing him to lose speed, and that allowed both Cheek and Brandon Arthur to get by for fourth and fifth. Late on the same lap, both Heger and Cheek in the #957 CMI Precision Machining/UTVUnderground.com Polaris got by Anderson for second and third, with Arthur in the #906 Steel-It/KMC Wheels Yamaha then passing Anderson at turn three for fourth on the next lap. As those behind him battled, Thomas opened up a sizeable lead, and even once those others got themselves sorted, they could hardly make any inroads on Thomas, despite having several laps to work with. Arthur did manage to get by Cheek before the finish, but Heger, new class champion and first of those chasing Thomas, couldn’t close the gap nearly fast enough to be a factor in the race for the lead. Thomas did lose ground in lapped traffic, but not enough, and he took home a fantastic, well-driven win today, picking up $1,000 for his efforts. Heger finished second and scored $500, third and $300 went to Arthur, fourth was Cheek, and fifth was Anderson.
In the always exciting Modified Karts, Cole Keatts crashed into Luke Knupp in turn one on the opening lap, and that brought about a full restart of the race. On the second go around, Ricky Gutierrez got the early lead, and held it at the end of lap one, ahead of Mason Prater, Knupp, Keatts, and Mia Chapman in the early top five. Keatts blazed past Knupp up to turn two on the second lap to move into third in the #553 Peters & Keatts Equipment Inc./Mod Kids USA machine, and unfortunately for Knupp, both he and Chapman then went off between turns two and three, dropping the pair down to the last two spots in the running order. Further ahead, Keatts and Trey Gibbs then got past Prater, and at the end of the lap, it was Gutierrez, Keatts, Gibbs, Prater, and Brody Eggleston in the top five. Lap four saw Prater run wide out of turn one, which allowed Eggleston to get by for fourth in the #514 ABC Supply Co. Inc./CSD Racing Products kart. On the next lap, Chris Nunes nerfed Prater going into turn three, before getting by out of the corner to move up to fifth in the #502 Kicker Audio/Tekno RC entry. Further forward, Gibbs was now right on Keatts in a close battle for second, but the Competition Yellow flew at the end of lap six, which put a temporary pause on the action between these two, as well as the rest of the field. The top five held their positions on the restart lap, and on lap eight, Keatts got halfway alongside Gutierrez out of turn three and into turn four, but still, no passes were made. On lap nine, Keatts then got a good run out of turn two, and got by Gutierrez into turn three to take the lead. Gutierrez nearly got back by Keatts in turn three on the next lap, but was unable to do so, and Gibbs then forced Gutierrez wide in the next corner, allowing both Gibbs and Eggleston to get by for second and third. Eggleston then passed Gibbs for second going into turn three on lap 11, with Nunes, who’d gotten by Gutierrez, then getting by Gibbs as well early on the next lap. Gutierrez, Eggleston, and Nunes sailed three-wide over the ski jump out of turn two on that twelfth and final lap, before Gutierrez then biked in turn three, lost ground, and then collected into Chapman between turns three and four, ending both of their races just shy of the finish line. At the stripe, Keatts scored a measure of redemption after yesterday’s championship loss, taking the win and $600 in his final kart race. Brody Eggleston was second, which got him $300, with Nunes third ($200), Gibbs fourth in the #515 Temecula Motorsports/Adidas truck, and Trey Eggleston fifth in the #590 Solaris Energy/Rugged Radios machine.
Our 2017 season has now come to its conclusion, as has the career of our friend Carl Renezeder. It’s hard to imagine short course off-road racing without Renezeder, but we wish him all the very best in his future endeavors, as he turns his focus in new and exciting directions. 2018 seems a long ways off, but the new season will be here sooner rather than later, and with the recent revelation of our 2018 calendar, we can now tell you that our first race next year will be a one-round night race at Glen Helen Raceway in southern California on March 17. Keep that date, as well as all of our 2018 dates, on your calendar for next year, and we’ll see you then for another exciting season of short course off-road action. A huge thank you to all of our staff, drivers, crews, sponsors, and especially our fans, all of whom make this crazy circus of a dream keep rolling for us all to enjoy- thank you all for what you do!
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. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course.
Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series