Lucas Oil Off Road Series - Pro-2 & Pro-4 Moving Forward
CORONA, April 7, 2011: No matter how dominant any particular driver or team was in the past, a new season always brings with it questions: Will the champ and other veterans still be dominant this year? Who has figured out something new that will come into play as the early part of the season unfolds?
But it also seems that the opening round often stirs up even more questions instead of giving solid answers. Because there is so much uncertainty, the racers and the teams can't possibly know how good their setup is going to be relative to the rest of the field, so frequently it's not until after round one that teams know where to set their sights, which means it's usually the second race weekend where the questions begin to be solved.
As the 2011 opening races played out, many results were predicted by some of the pundits. For example, defending Pro 4 champ Rick Huseman didn't have it easy, but he did methodically work his way to the front to take the win in both main events at Firebird Raceway. Prior to the event, we interviewed Huseman, and he said he hadn't changed much because it was working, so why mess with success?
"I guess I'd have to say that my theory worked," Huseman said. "We feel like we have a package that works. We only made some small changes, and I think our strategy worked. Our truck worked flawlessly all weekend, and it might have been one of the cleanest, best weekends ever in racing. We got the points for leading at the yellow flag and fastest qualifier. That's huge. We ran the same body panels all weekend, and we still have the same ones on the truck for the next race. It was pretty amazing. I was fastest in qualifying, so my spotter told me, 'Just let them figure it out, lay back, drive clean, because if you finish last, you're going to be screwed.' And as it turned out, with other guys dropping out and running into each other, I only had to pass a few guys."
Because of his consistency out front, he holds a strong 10-point lead in the title chase after winning Rounds 1 and 2 over former champ and perennial contender Carl Renezeder. But you can also expect Renezeder and the rest of the field to have their sights firmly set on Huseman again as the season moves on to the second stop at Speedworld for Rounds 3 and 4.
And then there's Pro 2, where the fastest weren't necessarily the most successful. In one of the deepest fields in history, Brian Deegan took his truck to a fifth and a third place in the first two races, and those two results were enough for him to take control of the points.
"I think it's going to be a good battle," Deegan said. "I expected to leave the race in the top three. That was my goal. Now, I'm leading the points, and that has changed my goals. I realized that I'm going to do whatever it takes to battle for the championship, and that's the plan. There are a handful of good drivers who can win the championship, and it showed after that first weekend. But has a rookie ever led the points?"
As you can imagine with 5-3 scores landing the points lead, there were a lot of other racers who had trouble during the two events, including day-one winner Bryce Menzies falling behind and then suffering engine trouble on day two, and as it sits, there is a three-way tie for second in the points standings only two points behind Deegan, and then another three-way tie for fifth in the standings directly behind that group, albeit a further 16 points back.
Perhaps among all of the classes, most of the answers will come in Pro 2 at Speedworld two weekends from now.