Chandler, AZ (October 20, 2018) – Well, it's finally here: the final round of the 2018 championship in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO. Amazingly, the championships in all nine of our classes were still, technically, undecided coming into this weekend, so there would be an extra element of drama in every race today. It was a beautiful day to be here in the Arizona desert, with the warm sun shining and a pleasant breeze blowing over Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park here in Chandler, and those in attendance certainly seemed happy to be there. On the track, those drivers who were in championship contention did what they needed to do, be that going as hard as possible, or simply laying back and playing things safe, and those who earned a championship this year certainly put together some amazing seasons of racing here in 2018. For a closer look at how nine drivers were crowned as champions here in our series today, read on.
In the first race of the day, Karaston Hernandez was your early leader in the #483 RH Framing/MTRV8 kart, ahead of Ethan Ebert in the #477 Ebert Racing/Hoosier Tires machine, Jake Bollman in the #471 JB Racing/Kar Tek Off Road entry, points leader Connor Barry in the #428 K&N Filters/CBR Performance Products truck, and Holden Heitritter in the #412 Justice Brothers/Dynamic Fitness kart. Barry got past Bollman between turns one and two to move up to third on lap two, and then closed right in on second-placed Ebert at the end of lap four. As Barry then looked for a way past Ebert, Bollman closed right in on these two to make it an exciting three-way battle for second, but that battle was a brief one, as Barry then got by Ebert just before the start/finish line at the end of lap five to take over that spot, just ahead of the Competition Yellow. Barry then got a great restart, but was unable to turn that into a pass on Hernandez at turn one, and so they and the rest of the top five drivers held their positions on the restart lap. Hernandez then continued to keep Barry at bay, and despite Barry's getting halfway alongside Hernandez at the end of laps eight and nine, he just couldn't get by down into turn one. On the final lap, Barry swung dramatically wide before that corner, trying hard to make an outside-inside run on Hernandez, but she hugged the inside line to keep Barry behind, and when both did the same moves in the next turn, the result was also the same. Barry got back alongside of Hernandez before the checkered flag, but only halfway, and so it was Hernandez who took the win, her first in Junior 2 Kart- congratulations Karaston! Second went to Barry, who more than convincingly sealed this year's Junior 2 Kart championship in the process- congratulations Connor! Ebert dropped to fifth on the final lap, so it was Bollman who finished third and Heitritter who took fourth.
Next up were the Junior 1 Karts, and it was point leader Jake Bollman who led the way at the end of lap one in the #271 JB Racing/Hoosier Tires machine, ahead of his main points rival Ayden Ford in the #207 Walker Evans Racing/Off Road Warehouse kart, Kaylee Federwisch in the #247 C&R Trucking/Blots Racing entry, Bergen McGrath in the #202 Traxxas/Villager truck, and Lake Adler in the #299 4 Wheel Parts/Fiberwerx kart. Bollman quickly opened up a noticeable lead over the rest of the pack by the middle of lap two, while the rest of the pack continued to maintain fairly even gaps from one kart to the next. Lap four then saw Ford get loose out of turn one, which allowed those behind to move right in. Into the next corner, Federwisch then tried to get by, only to have Ford hit her and cause her to spin out, which put Federwisch back to fifth. Bollman continued to lead, with Ford still in second, but now it was McGrath in third, Adler in fourth, and Federwisch in fifth, and these five held these positions until the Competition Yellow, as well as over the next couple of laps after the restart. On laps eight, nine, and ten, Ford and McGrath moved right in to run nose-to-tail behind Bollman, creating an exciting three-way race for the lead. These three held their positions, though, as no one driver was able to make any real inroads on either of the other two, and at the finish line, it was Bollman who took the win, as well as the championship- congratulations Jake! Second went to Ford, third to McGrath, fourth to Federwisch, and fifth to Adler.
In the closest championship battle of the year (coming into this weekend, anyway), only seven points separated points leader Mason Prater from second-placed Brody Eggleston coming into this morning's qualifying session. Prater took the pole there, with Eggleston finishing second, which bumped Prater's advantage to eight for the race itself, and at the end of lap one, Prater led the field, ahead of Eggleston, Bronsen Chiaramonte, Luke Knupp, and Trey Eggleston. On lap two, horrible luck hit Prater, as he jumped wide right off of the last jump before turn two, and at high speed, ran the right side of his kart against the outside k rail. It looked to be only a glancing blow, and Prater didn't crash, or even change direction, but his kart then rolled to a stop after the impact, and Prater was towed off to the Hot Pits under a full course caution. Brody Eggleston inherited the lead, and ran with his brother Trey in second, Chiaramonte in third, Mia Chapman in fourth, and Knupp in fifth after the restart lap. Up front, Brody had a solid lead by the end of lap three, while behind him, his brother was slow out of turn three on lap four, which allowed both Chiaramonte and Chapman to get by for second and third. Behind all this, John Holtger had now moved by Knupp for fifth, but Holtger then spun in turn three on the next lap, which allowed Braden Chiaramonte to move up to fifth, just before the Competition Yellow, which fell at the end of the lap. On the restart lap, Braden then biked in turn two, and got into Chapman, who then rolled. This, followed by a second, two-kart incident down in turn three, forced another full course yellow, and it was now Brody, Bronsen, Trey, Knupp, and Brook Jensen in the top five for the restart. Holtger got by Jensen for fifth early on the restart lap (lap seven), and on lap eight, Knupp got by Trey for third at turn two. In the final few laps, Prater re-emerged, and was running amongst the frontrunners, but was many laps down, and actually made contact with Holtger on the final lap, who himself was racing for a top five finish. Up front, Brody Eggleston scored both the win and the championship in the #514 Above All Construction Inc./Mod Kids USA machine- congratulations Brody! Second went to Bronsen Chiaramonte in the #574 RTL Traffic Control & Equipment Rentals/Kar Tek kart, third to Knupp in the #554 Ultra Xtreme Race Wheels/Super Clean truck, fourth to Trey Eggleston in the #590 Above All Construction Inc./CSD Racing Products entry, and fifth to Holtger in the #544 Holtger Bros., Inc./Renard's Cheese & Deli kart.
Corry Weller and Paul O'Brien were the only two drivers left with a shot at this year's inaugural Turbo Production UTV championship as the series entered its final round here in Arizona, but with a 25-point lead even before qualifying (she added two more there this morning), Weller had a pretty solid chance at taking home the crown- only a field of 15 or more UTVs could save O'Brien now, unless Weller was unable to make the start, or was disqualified after the race. Well, there weren't 15 drivers in the race today, and Weller was able to make the start, so she already had the title essentially wrapped up as she led the pack past the start/finish line at the end of lap one, ahead of O'Brien, Myles Cheek, Robert Van Beekum, and Eliott Watson. O'Brien was really putting the pressure on Weller on lap three, but she then got some respite when a full course caution fell early on lap four after Chelsea Haugen came to a stop atop the ski jump out of turn two. After the restart, O'Brien was once again all over Weller on laps five and six, but Weller then opened up a car length or two over O'Brien on the next lap. Just behind, Van Beekum then closed in on Cheek, and got by at turn two on lap eight to move up to third. Cheek then spun at turn three and wound up stuck in the mud on the inside of the corner, which forced a full course yellow on the next lap; track workers were able to quickly tow Cheek free, but when he re-joined, he was one lap down, and he pulled off track, likely knowing his chances for a good finish were through, soon after the restart. Meanwhile, it was now Weller in the #748 DragonFire Racing/Team Full Throttle Battery Can-Am, O'Brien in the #711 Weller Racing/Rugged Radios Can-Am, Van Beekum, Watson, and Andy Ives in the top five, but on lap 11, Van Beekum then suddenly pulled off before turn three, race over. Watson, Ives, and Chance Haugen moved up to positions three, four, and five as a result, and over the final lap, no further passes were made within the top five. Weller brought home the win, as well as the championship- congratulations Corry! Second was O'Brien, third was Watson in the #713 Tom Watson Incorporated/Axis Metal Design Can-Am, fourth was Ives in the #714 California Trailers/Franzia Polaris, and fifth was Haugen in the #718 Pinnacle Off-Road Motorsports/SuperATV.com Polaris.
Following Opening Ceremonies, racing action resumed with Pro 2, and a deep field of 15 trucks were on hand for this one. Jerett Brooks got out to the early lead in the #77 Rigid Industries LED Lighting/Bilstein Shock Absorbers Ford, ahead of points leader Rob MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Industrial Power Tools Ford, RJ Anderson, Rodrigo Ampudia, and Brian Deegan. Anderson, the only driver who could challenge MacCachren for the championship, was all over the veteran over lap two and into lap three, and when MacCachren was a bit slow out of turn three, he tried to jump across to the outside into turn four to block Anderson, who simply dropped down to the inside for an easy pass. Further back, Ampudia had fallen to seventh, which put Deegan and Bradley Morris up to fourth and fifth, while up front, Anderson then made a beautiful inside pass at turn one on lap seven to take the lead from Brooks. Anderson held the lead through the halfway point in his #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck, ahead of Brooks, MacCachren, Deegan, and Morris. These five continued to hold station through much of the second half, but on laps 12 and 13, it was starting to look like MacCachren's truck might be losing a little pace. On lap 14, both Deegan and Morris then shot past MacCachren into turn two to take over third and fourth places, with Ampudia then moving up and past MacCachren for fifth between turns three and four on the next lap. Just ahead, Morris then passed Deegan for third just at the start/finish line, and on the final lap, Ampudia also passed Deegan, before the pair then moved right in on Morris to make it an exciting three-way race for the final podium spot. Up front, Anderson took the win, ahead of Brooks in second, and Morris held off Ampudia and Deegan to finish third in the #24 K&N Filters/Kicker Performance Audio Ford. Fourth went to Ampudia in the #36 Lucas Oil/Papas & Beer Ford, and Deegan finished fifth in the #38 Monster Energy/Odyssey Battery Toyota. MacCachren may have only finished sixth today, but it was still more than enough to wrap up this year's Pro 2 championship- congratulations Rob!
Jason Weller led the way after the opening lap in Production 1000 UTV, ahead of points leader and defending champion Brock Heger, Jeremy Houle, Myles Cheek, and Robert Stout. Heger got past Weller for first at turn one on lap two, with Houle then passing Weller for second into turn three on the same lap. Two laps later, Weller then biked in turn three, which allowed Cheek to get most of the way by on the inside. However, Weller tried to stay with Cheek, and when the pair went over the three jumps between turns three and four, Weller got into Cheek and turned him sideways. Unfortunately, Weller then seemed to keep his foot in it a little too long, as he continued to push Cheek over, and Cheek's machine wound up pretty badly bent, and was obviously unable to continue in the race. Cheek was okay, but obviously livid, as this put him out of the running for the championship, and he walked to the edge of the track to make his feelings known to Weller as the field circled by under the ensuing full course caution. With Cheek out and Weller much further back in the running order, it would now be Heger, Houle, Stout, Mickey Thomas, and Nathan Barry in the top five for the restart. These five continued to hold their positions after the restart, and gradually opened up a good gap back to the rest of the pack, as those first five held close and even gaps between one another. On lap ten, Houle then got by Heger on the inside at turn three to take the lead in the #54 Speedwerx/Textron Off Road Arctic Cat, and on the next lap, a bike in that same corner by Heger allowed Stout by on the inside for second in the #915 Magic Dry Multi Purpose Absorbent/Yampower Suspension Yamaha. From there, the top five held their positions over the final lap, with Houle taking a big first win in the series- congratulations Jeremy! Stout finished a close second, and Heger was third in the #1 Maxxis Tires/Method Race Wheels Yamaha, which put him on top of the championship standings for the second year in a row- congratulations Brock! Fourth went to Thomas in the #944 HANS ADA Racing/Crash Addict Yamaha, and fifth was Barry in the #928 CBR Performance Products/DASA Yamaha.
Another close championship race that would be decided today was that between Darren Hardesty Jr. and Eliott Watson in Pro Buggy. Just 13 points separated two-time defending champion and points leader Hardesty Jr. from Watson as they rolled out on track for qualifying this morning, where Watson took second and Hardesty Jr. third. That gave Watson four points to Hardesty Jr.'s three, closing the gap to 12 for the race itself, and after lap one, it was Watson leading the way in the #3 Tom Watson Inc./BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft, ahead of Hardesty Jr. in the #99 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Steel-It Alumi Craft, Chris Nunes in the #2 Kicker Performance Audio/BFGoodrich Tires Racer, Trey Gibbs, and Matthew Brister. Nunes then dropped well back early on lap two, which put Gibbs, Brister, and Bud Ward, the only other championship challenger (though at 40 points back, those chances were slim) up to third, fourth, and fifth. A few laps later, Ward then got past Brister for fourth, and a few laps after that, it was time for the Competition Yellow, at which time it was now Watson, Hardesty Jr., Gibbs in the #15 Self Made Training Facility Las Vegas/KB Engineering Alumi Craft, Ward in the #17 Horsepower Ranch/Ramona Tire Funco, and Brister in the top five. On the restart lap, Ward slid hard into Gibbs side to side in turn one, but both got away cleanly, with Ward moving ahead and up to third soon afterwards. Further back, Nunes moved up to fifth on the same lap, and while Brister briefly got back past early on the next lap, it was Nunes who got back by for good at turn three on that same lap. From there, the top five held their positions on track, with Watson and Hardesty Jr. running close to one another, but also opening up a gap back to third-placed Ward, who in turn ran at the head of a close, three-car train that also included Gibbs and Nunes, in that order. Watson, who picked up another point on Hardesty Jr. for leading at the halfway point, as well as two more for finishing one spot ahead of Hardesty Jr. in the race, closed the gap to just nine points overall, but it was still Hardesty Jr. who came out on top in the championship for the third year in a row- congratulations Darren!
In the penultimate race of the afternoon, points leader Ryan Beat led the way after lap one in the #51 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/KMC Wheels Chevrolet, ahead of Brock Heger in the #12 Maxxis Tires/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Ford, Mickey Thomas in the #44 Maxxis Tires/Walker Evans Racing Chevrolet, Kyle LeDuc (filling in for the injured Brandon Arthur this weekend), and Christopher Polvoorde. Beat only had 13 points in hand over Arthur in the championship battle as they came into this weekend, but Beat padded that lead by a further two points in qualifying this morning (Beat was third, Arthur was fifth), so things were looking promising for Beat, who had his championship lead cut dramatically one round ago. A full course caution fell early on lap two after Cory Winner lost his entire right front tire and wheel and came to a stop just before the start/finish line on lap one, and when the field returned to green flag racing, the top five drivers were still in their same positions. Hailie Deegan moved up to fourth on the restart lap, which put LeDuc back to fifth, and LeDuc was then passed again, this time by Ronnie Anderson, for fifth early on lap three. On lap four, Deegan then had to check up to avoid smashing into Thomas out of turn three, and that let Anderson get by into turn four, which put Anderson up to fourth in the #52 Rockstar Energy Drink/South Point Chevrolet. Three laps later, Polvoorde then got by Deegan for fifth, while up front, Heger flew up alongside Beat into turn two after sailing over the long, flat jump that leads into that corner, and after the two ran side by side through turns two and three, Heger pulled ahead and into the lead into turn four. The Competition Yellow fell at the end of that lap, with Heger, Beat, Thomas, Anderson, and Polvoorde now making up the top five; LeDuc was now out of the race after an earlier run-in with Trevor Leighton, which ended Arthur's shot at the championship. On the restart lap, both Thomas and Anderson got by Beat, with Polvoorde then following suit early on the next lap, while Deegan did the same soon after, which put Beat out of the top five; it was quickly becoming apparent that Beat's truck wasn't quite right anymore. Late in the race, Polvoorde then came down partially atop Anderson's truck upon landing off of the big ski jump out of turn two. Polvoorde's left front tire hooked over Anderson's right bedside, but the two separated somewhat awkwardly, though cleanly, before turn three, and neither driver lost any positions. In fact, no further passes were made within the top five before the checkered flag, and it was Heger who took the big win, ahead of Thomas, Anderson, Polvoorde in the #94 Steel-It/TIS Wheels Nissan, and Deegan in the #38 Monster Energy/Mickey Thompson Toyota. Beat would finish a lowly eighth, but that was still plenty to help him take home his first-ever Pro Lite championship- congratulations Ryan!
Closing out the action for the championship season would be Pro 4, and here, we had another potential nail biter going into this morning's qualifying session, as points leader RJ Anderson had only an 11-point lead over second-placed Doug Mittag. Anderson was fourth in qualifying, while Mittag was fifth, which gave Anderson an additional point as they headed to the start line this afternoon, meaning Mittag would need to finish at least six places ahead of Anderson in the race in order to steal the title away; by contrast, Anderson merely needed to finish sixth or better in order to put the final nail in the championship coffin, and as there were only seven trucks in today's field, that didn't look like such a tall order. Perhaps just to play things safe, Anderson started in the back, and at the end of lap one, it was Mittag leading the way after starting clear back on row three, ahead of Adrian Cenni, four-time defending champion Kyle LeDuc, Randy Minnier, and Scott Douglas. Cenni rolled in turn three on lap two, but came up on all fours and was able to continue, though he now ran down in last place. LeDuc, Minnier, Douglas, and Greg Adler moved up to spots two through five, and the top five then held station until a full course caution fell on lap four. On the restart, Adler got by a slow Douglas into turn one, but Douglas slammed his way back by in turn two to re-take fourth. In the next corner, the leader Mittag then biked and ran nose-first into the outside k rail, and as he struggled to get his truck into reverse, another full course yellow dropped. Mittag got moving soon afterwards, and quickly hit the Hot Pits, as did Adler, while the field circulated under yellow. Both emerged on the lead lap before the restart, while the top five was now LeDuc in the #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, Minnier, Douglas, Cenni, and Anderson in the #37 Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR truck.
Mittag quickly moved up to fourth on the restart lap, and on the next lap, lap six, both Douglas and Mittag then got by Minnier out of turn two to move up to second and third. Minnier then spun in the next corner and dropped back to last place, and early on the next lap, Adler then moved up to fourth after passing Cenni. Just ahead, Douglas and Mittag then made repeated hard contact, and at turn one on the next lap, Douglas almost appeared to run purposely wide in turn one, as if to allow Mittag by just to end the scrap between them. Meanwhile, Anderson had now moved up to fifth after Cenni had dropped into the Hot Pits, and on lap 10, moved up another spot when Adler rolled in turn three. Like Cenni earlier, Adler landed on his wheels and continued, but a major body panel that was left behind at the scene of Adler's rollover forced a full course yellow on the next lap. On the restart lap, Mittag then suddenly slowed in turn one, as an apparent major mechanical issue cut his pace down dramatically. Mittag's truck, beaten and battered, then lost a body hanger upon landing just after the start/finish line at the beginning of lap 12, which caused another full course yellow, and after racing had resumed, it would be LeDuc, Adler in the #10 Odyssey Battery/Magnaflow Performance Exhaust Ford, Douglas in the #27 AMSOIL/Rusty's Off Road Products Ford, Anderson, and Mittag in the top five at the end of lap 12. Cenni was now back out on track as well, but was a lap down, and running between Adler and Douglas on the track. Cenni physically passed Adler on lap 15, and was actually closing down LeDuc on the final lap, though LeDuc may have been playing things safe on what had become an extremely rough and rutted track in the dry, windy conditions. LeDuc brought home the win, ahead of Adler, Anderson, Douglas, and, one lap down, Cenni in the #11 pHit Alkaline Drink Mixer/Maxxis Tires truck (Mittag had pulled off of the track). Anderson had played it safe, but still finished up on the podium, and that was more than enough to secure his first Pro 4 championship- congratulations RJ!
That wraps up our 2018 championship season here in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO; congratulations to all of our 2018 class champions! Up next, we've got the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races to close out the racing year, with big money and bigger bragging rights on the line, and all the afternoon's action will be capped by the infamous and ever-popular Pro 2 versus Pro 4 race. The Pro 4s have traditionally owned this race by and large, but the Pro 2s have made their mark as well, including a huge win for Arizona driver Rob Naughton several years ago. Pro 2 has some heavy hitters this year, including newly re-crowned champion Rob MacCachren, three-time champ Brian Deegan, last year's champ Jeremy McGrath, and young guns Jerett Brooks and Rodrigo Ampudia. However, Pro 4 has their big names too, including four-time champ Kyle LeDuc, and rising star Doug Mittag, and of course, there's the wild card, RJ Anderson, who could choose either of his two trucks… be here tomorrow to find out who will take home one of the most coveted trophies in all of short course off-road. Gates open to the pubic at 8:00 am, ahead of the morning's first qualifying session, which will start at 8:30 am. Racing begins at 11:30 am, while Opening Ceremonies will kick the biggest action off at 2:00 pm, just ahead of the Pro Lite race.
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