Every Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series driver’s path into and through short course off road is different, but perhaps none are quite as unique as 2019 Pro Lite Rookie-of-the-Year Trevor Leighton. A native of Star, Idaho. Leighton grew up in one of the country’s most expansive regions, where wide open spaces are abundant and wilderness calls. During the cold and snowy winters, snowmobiles become a preferred way to explore the vastness of the state, so it was almost natural when Leighton started his racing career on the white powder, rather than dirt.
For a decade, Leighton became one of snocross’ most well-known names. Along the way, he established longstanding partnerships with both Polaris and Walker Evans Racing, which inevitably opened the door for his transition to four wheels. After retiring from Snocross competition due to a string of major injuries, Leighton embarked on the next phase of his racing career in short course off road. With the guidance of RJ Anderson and his legendary father, Randy, an eager Leighton buckled into a Polaris UTV and jumped head first into both the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Series and Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series at the tail end of the 2017 season. In 2018, in just his sixth career start, Leighton took the checkered flag in the first ever Turbo UTV race. He continued to build off that accomplishment to become one of the top guns in that division.
Coming into 2019, Leighton took another big leap by doubling up to compete in both Turbo UTV and Pro Lite. While he remained one of the primary title contenders in Turbo UTV, Leighton was also able to learn the ropes of the tremendously competitive Pro Lite class and continued to improve, finishing off the season with three top fives in the final four races, where he concluded his rookie season seventh in the final standings.
With two full seasons of Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series competition under his belt, the 26-year-old Leighton Motorsports driver’s competitive drive has him looking for big things in 2020, which includes taking another major step in his short course career.
How would you sum up your first season or Pro Lite competition? What were some of the lessons you learned along the way?
I would say it was kind of all over the board, I guess. I made a few mistakes. In Mexico, I wrecked bad, cartwheeled two days in a row, probably like three or four times each time. Then in Reno, I had a couple tip overs and ended up on my roof. Then there’s other days where I felt really good, like I could run up front. There were times I was right there with Ryan Beat and staying with him for two or three laps, and he wasn’t pulling away or anything, and he won the championship. I think seat time was the biggest thing to get more comfortable in the truck. Then, finally about halfway through, we started to make some changes to fit the truck better to my driving style because it was one of RJ’s old trucks and fit his driving style. Obviously, no one drives the same, so we started making changes and it was good to learn that aspect of it, how I like my truck set up.
What’s the biggest difference in racing the UTVs versus the Pro Lite truck? Did any of your UTV experience translate into driving Pro Lite?
The biggest difference would be, which is weird because the UTVs are actually skinnier, is I feel way more comfortable throwing the UTV into the corners. In Pro Lite I always felt like I was on a bike and would go over. The power [is different], obviously, but it’s weird to look at lap times. My lap times were faster in my RZR. They’re really close, speed wise, on the track, but I felt like it was easier to turn in the UTV. Other than that, the whole body of the truck is just a bigger vehicle, so knowing your surroundings was a challenge. I’ll be honest, the first few times I drove the truck I’d come in [to a corner] and hit people in the back because I couldn’t even see my front bumper and didn’t know where they were, exactly. I’d say those are the two big things.
You have quite a unique background coming from snocross. How does someone make the transition from racing snowmobiles to off road vehicles?
It was just talking to RJ. I raced snocross for 10 years, and [RJ’s] dad was one of our sponsors the entire time, Walker Evans Racing. [Randy Anderson] saw all my injuries from snocross and called my dad one day and said to try short course. So then I retired [from snocross] and Polaris got a hold of me and said they still wanted me to race for them in the UTV classes.
What are your plans for the 2020 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series? What are your goals?
The plans to race Turbo UTV again and go for the championship in that. I’ve ended up fourth two years in a row now. Last year I was able to get three wins in that class, but then I had those few mechanicals that put me out of contention for the championship. You look at Ronnie Anderson, he only won two races and came in second, and Corry Weller only won one more than me [four], but her worst finishes were way better than my worst finishes. We just need to be consistent and hopefully not have any issues and I think we’ll be alright. I’m sure it’ll be me, Weller and Ronnie up there again for a good fight. In the truck class, I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this yet, but I am going to Pro 2. I decided to make the change because of what I said earlier about Pro Lite beating me up a little bit. We started talking at the second Glen Helen round this year about either building a new Pro Lite or sending our current Pro Lite down to California to be rebuilt, or just make the move and build a new Pro 2. My goal was to move into Pro 2 in 2021 anyways, so we just decided that would be better. We’ll take this year as a learning year in Pro 2. We’re going with the 410 [Pro 2M] motor, so our truck will be good for however long we want to run it. I’m just glad to get out there with those guys. I’m not taking anything away from the Pro Lite guys, they’re all great drivers, but in the Pro 2 class you’ve got RJ, Jerett [Brooks], Beat is moving up, Brian Deegan. All of those guys that have been doing it for so long. It’ll be interesting to get in there with a fresh truck, built more for me. I’m excited to get to Glen Helen for Round 1.
Who would you like to thank for all the support you received this season?
I’ve got to thank my parents, mostly. They’ve given me so much ever since I was 12 years old and started racing snocross. Them, my wife, my kids, my whole family. My sister, she supports me, my grandparents, my mother in law and father in father in law, they all come to the races. Then, Polaris, Walker Evans Racing, Holz Racing Products, Fokus Graphics, Chad Mittag and Doug Mittag, those guys have been helping me a lot, Hoosier Tire, BFG tires helped me in Pro Lite, Parker Pumper, Rugged Radios, and I think that’s everyone.
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