Lucas Oil Off Road - Surprise Plays Host to Fantastic Races - Surprise AZ
Another day of bright sunshine, warm temperatures, and pleasant breezes greeted racers, crews, and fans here at the Speedworld Off Road Park in Surprise, AZ, as the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by Geico Powersports, returned for Round 4 of the 2011 season. A large crowd was on hand to witness another fine day of racing, which culminated in a succession of five consecutive thrilling races to close out the weekend. You really missed out if you weren't here, and if you weren't, here's our recap of the day's events.
Kicking the day's racing off were the Junior 2 Karts, and it was yesterday's winner Myles Cheek who came from the outside of row one to take the early lead in his #457 Lucas Oil/Fast Aid truck. In second it was Chad Graham in the #410 Hart and Huntington/MavTV machine, with Paige Porter third in the #462 Redline Performance/Advantage Boats kart, Preston Roben fourth in the #414 DCI Duggins Construction/Mad Graphix entry, and Weston Schuck fifth in the #404 NTV Newfoundland/Foddrill Motorsports truck. Over the next few laps, distinct battles formed over first, third, and fifth places, with noticeable gaps between each fight, but no drivers were able to make any headway in these battles before the competition yellow. Once the field had been brought back together behind the Can-Am Commander Pace UTV, the drivers were let loose under green flag conditions. Cheek had a slow getaway, which allowed Graham to run down the inside into turn one and grab the lead. A few laps later, Jeremy Davis simply out-pulled Schuck out of turn one to move up to fifth in his #285 Green Army/Gatorwraps.com kart. With one lap to go, the order was Graham, Cheek, Porter, Roben, and Davis in the top five. On the last lap, Roben really muscled his way by Porter to briefly grab third coming out of turn one, but Porter managed to get back by before the race's end to re-gain a podium finish. Up ahead, Graham was the big winner, taking the win ahead of Cheek, Porter, Roben, and Davis.
In the Junior 1 Kart race, yesterday's winner Eliott Watson made a great getaway from third on the grid to slot himself into first place in his #203 RC10.com/McKenzies kart by the end of the first lap. Second was Broc Dickerson in the #223 Dickerson Motorsports/PCI Race Radios machine, followed by the #273 ProAm/Richard Hibbard Chevrolet entry of Wolfgang Ries, Preston Roben in the #210 DCI Duggins Construction/Canidae truck, and Darren Hardesty in the #231 Hardesty Motorsports/AlumiCraft machine. As the top five drivers were each running smooth, fast, and mistake-free, they all held their positions through the competition yellow. On the restart lap, massive traffic helped Roben to jump up a spot to fourth, and also helped Travis PeCoy to move into fifth in his #211 K&N/Sunoco Race Fuels kart. After everyone settled down, the order remained the same for a few laps, but on the final lap, Roben made one more move to grab third from Ries. Up ahead, Watson made it back to back wins this weekend, while Dickerson finished runner-up for the second straight race, with Roben taking third, Ries fourth, and PeCoy fifth.
The Modified Kart kids always bring about an exciting race, and today's fray was a true thriller. Sheldon Creed made a good start from the outside of row one, but it still wasn't enough to hold of Bradley Morris in the #504 Kicker/Tri State Materials machine, who held the lead at the end of lap one. Creed ran second in the #522 Team Associated/Fox Racing Shox kart, ahead of Mitch Guthrie Jr. in the #555 Walker Evans Racing/K&N truck, Scotty Steele in the #548 Simpson/DeJong Off Road Cars entry, and Jeff Hoffman in the #547 Venture Four Racing/Full Tilt Trophy Karts truck. By lap two, points leader Mitchell DeJong was already up to fifth after starting last in his #1 Speed Racing LLC/Method Race Wheels machine, while just ahead, Guthrie Jr. was really hounding Morris and Creed in an attempt to move up. On lap four, Guthrie Jr. was able to pick off Creed, and he now had only Morris left in front of him. Further back, DeJong was up another spot to fourth after a clean pass down the inside of Steele in turn one, and a spin by Creed in turn three helped DeJong pick up another spot as he moved into third. Creed battled back, though and re-took third on lap six, just ahead of the competition yellow. The running order was now Morris, Guthrie Jr., Creed, DeJong, and Steele in the top five, but once action resumed, the kids were off again like blood-thirsty sharks, darting and swapping positions every which way. Guthrie Jr., Creed, and DeJong each moved up a position as they got by Morris, who dropped down to fourth, with Hoffman up to fifth once again. Guthrie Jr. now had clear track in front of him as he began to quickly check out, while behind him, a ferocious battle was on for second between Creed, DeJong, and Morris. The fight culminated in a pile-up of sorts between the three in turn one; Morris got away pretty clean to move into second, with Creed dropping to third. DeJong came out the worst by far; his truck was pushed off the track, where it was unable to re-fire; his race was over. The order was now Guthrie Jr., Morris, Creed, Cole Mamer in the #535 Mamer Racing kart, and Hoffman with just a lap to go, but on the last lap, a rollover by Scotty Steele in turn two caught out Hoffman, who was passed by Kyle Hart for the final spot in the top five. Clear of all the goings on behind him, Guthrie Jr. cruised home for his second win of the season, ahead of Morris, Creed, Mamer, and Hart in the #523 GearUp2Go.com kart.
First out onto the full-length track were the UTVs, which again featured the dual-class race of Unlimited and SR1 UTVs. Dan Kelly, driving the #824 Xtreme Machine and Fabrication/Maxxis Yamaha, and Doug Mittag, driving the #848 Gear One/Custom Off Road Design Yamaha, started from row one, with Mittag leading Kelly at the end of the first lap. Corry Weller ran third in her #810 Lucas Oil/Walker Evans Racing Yamaha, with John Dempsey fourth in the #855 Dempsey Construction Inc./747 Ink Kawasaki, and Tyler Winbury fifth, first of the Unlimited UTVs, and piloting the #694 4130 Clothing/Deviate Films Kawasaki. On lap two, Chad George passed Winbury for the Unlimited UTV lead in his #1 Monster Energy/C&G Performance Kawasaki, but soon dropped out of the race on the following lap, ending his run for the day. Up front, Mittag was starting to run away with it, and Kelly was the only driver who was able to hang with him. By the competition yellow, the order up front was unchanged, with Mittag, Kelly, Weller, Dempsey, and Winbury running in the top five. On the restart lap, Dempsey was a little slow out of turn four (perhaps a missed shift?), and Winbury was able to get by and move up to fourth. From there on in, the top began to string out a bit, and Mittag came through to take his second consecutive win in the SR1 and the overall. Second and third in SR1 and the overall were Kelly and Weller, with Winbury fourth overall, best of the Unlimited UTVs. RJ Anderson took second in the Unlimiteds in his #637 Walker Evans Racing/South Point Polaris, with the Unlimited UTV podium being rounded out by Robert Vanbeekum in the #664 Monster Energy/Muzzys Kawasaki.
Next up were the Limited Buggies, and it was Quentin Tucker who started from the pole and took the early lead in his #377 Blanco Basura/Sara Lee buggy. John Fitzgerald ran in second in his #314 BFGoodrich Tires/Signpros machine, ahead of Geoffrey Cooley in the #322 BFGoodrich Tires/Major Performance AlumiCraft, Curt Geer in the #385 Green Army/BDI Bowden Development, Inc. Lothringer, and Dave Mason in the #365 King Shocks/SR Performance AlumiCraft. Fitzgerald quickly made his way past Tucker to take the lead on lap two, and he was soon opening up a lead over the rest of the field. Behind him, Geer was up to third after a nice drive down the inside of Cooley in turn four on lap three, while Bradley Morris was up to fifth in his #304 Lucas Oil/AOK buggy. Morris then picked up another position on the following lap, taking over fourth from Cooley. Kevin McCullough was next to move up, taking over fifth in his #389 Gear One/MDM Racing buggy, while up front, Fitzgerald now had a sizeable lead over the competition. At the competition yellow, Fitzgerald still held that lead, with Tucker second, Geer third, Morris fourth, and McCullough fifth. Geer got turned around in turn two on the restart, which dropped him all the way down to last place, and promoted McCullough to third, with Morris still fourth, and Mason now fifth. Morris was then black flagged (perhaps for some involvement in Geer's getting turned around?), which moved Mason to fourth and Cooley to fifth. Mason picked up another spot on lap twelve as he moved up to third, and with one lap to go, it was Fitzgerald, Tucker, Mason, McCullough, and Cooley in the top five. From there on in, the top five drivers held their positions through the end of the race, with Fitzgerald taking his second win of the season, ahead of Tucker, Mason, McCullough, and Cooley.
Another rousing edition of Opening Ceremonies came just ahead of the Pro 4 Unlimited race, and it included a nice invocation by Racers for Christ Chaplain Steve Hanson, and a terrific and moving performance of The Star Spangled Banner by Mary Jo Johnson. With the crowd riled by her high notes and some spectacular fireworks to back her up, it was now time to go racing again.
Today's Pro 4 Unlimited race was undoubtedly the most carnage-filled race in the history of this series; no driver was immune from trouble, and only those whose crews gave them the best trucks were able to get to the finish line. Carl Renezeder started the #17 Lucas Oil/Team Associated Ford next to Kyle LeDuc's #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford on the front row, and it was LeDuc, as if shot from a cannon, who leapt out to the lead and quickly began building a gap over those chasing. Renezeder ran in second, followed by Rick Huseman in the #36 Monster Energy/E3 Spark Plugs Toyota, Ricky Johnson in the #48 Red Bull/BFGoodrich Tires Ford, and Todd LeDuc in another Rockstar/Makita Ford, the #4. Adrian Cenni then moved up to fifth in his #11 Atrium Payroll/Metal Mulisha Ford on lap two, and as Kyle LeDuc continued to streak off into the distance, the rest of the field was starting to stack up behind Renezeder. LeDuc's efforts were in vain, though, as the race was then red flagged to allow crews to clear a fire onboard his dad Curt's truck. Curt escaped to safety, and once the fire was out and racing resumed, the order got substantially shuffled on the restart lap. First Johnson pulled off at turn two, then LeDuc slowed at turn four with a mechanical issue. Through the clutter came Huseman, who assumed the lead ahead of Kyle LeDuc, Cenni, Todd LeDuc, and Steve Barlow in the #83 Maxxis/Roush Yates Engines Ford. Renezeder then slowed with a broken sway bar and brake line, which dropped him to fifth, and helped Travis Coyne up to fifth in the #5 ProComp/Lucas Oil Ford. Meanwhile, as Kyle LeDuc continued to slow, his brother Todd then suddenly slowed as well, and though Kyle was able to continue, Todd was soon out.
The race wasn't even to the competition yellow, and several trucks were already out, but things were just getting started. Renezeder's issues continued to cost him positions, which allowed Kent Brascho to move up to fifth in his #8 K&N/Speedco Ford. At the competition yellow, the running order was Huseman, Cenni, Barlow, Coyne, and Brascho in the top five, with five trucks already out of the race. Brascho joined the DNF list while the rest of the field followed the Blanco Basura Toyota Tundra pace truck under yellow, and after the restart, Renezeder was up to fourth, with Jerry Daugherty fifth in the #23 Magnaflow/KMC Wheels Chevrolet. Huseman was looking good up front, until a spin in turn four dropped him to third behind Cenni and Barlow. Cenni ran well up front, and Barlow was also going good and holding off Huseman, who over-jumped the jump out of turn five, landing his front end on the back of Barlow's truck. No real damage was done, but on the next lap, as Huseman dove down the inside of Barlow heading into turn two, Barlow must've hooked a rut, because he suddenly flipped sideways and went for a big rollover. The race was red-flagged to allow emergency crews to tend to Barlow, who gave them the thumbs up despite a nasty-looking crash.
Once the wreck was cleared, the field began to roll again, and just as it did, smoke became visible from Cenni's machine. A green-white-checkers finish was called for, and on the restart lap, Cenni ducked to the inside of turn two to move out of the way of those behind. Cenni was obviously suffering from a major issue, and Huseman zipped by and into the lead once again. Coyne was up to second now, with Renezeder third, Cenni still moving in fourth, and John Harrah simply driving past the carnage in fifth with one lap to go. Coyne and Cenni pulled off on the last lap, as did Daugherty, with Coyne making it the furthest of the three (you'll see why that matter in a moment). Up front, Huseman was well out in front as he picked up his fourth win in a row, making it four for four this season. Second went to Renezeder, third to Harrah in the #13 Speed Racing LLC/General Tire Chevrolet, and fourth to Aaron Daugherty in the #24 Tuff Country/Racin' Dirty Chevrolet, who was the last driver moving when the checkered flag waved. Coyne's managing to crawl further than Cenni and Jerry Daugherty was to his advantage, as his efforts netted him a fifth place.
After an unbelievable Pro 4 Unlimited race, it seemed like the atmosphere here at Speedworld needed to get calmed down somewhat, and for the first half of the Pro Buggy Unlimited race anyway, we got what we needed. Front row starters Mike Porter and Steve Greinke slotted in first and second at the end of lap one, with Justin "Bean" Smith third, Jerry Whelchel fourth, and CJ Greaves fifth. For the next seven laps, the drivers up front raced fast and clean, but didn't change position, and at the competition yellow, it was still the #8 Redline Performance/Speed Energy AlumiCraft of Porter out front, with the #23 SC Fuels/Concourse Racer of Greinke second, Smith in the #19 BFGoodrich Tires/Competitive Metals AlumiCraft in third, Whelchel fourth in the #5 Select Glass/Redline Performance Foddrill, and Greaves fifth in the #33 Traxxas/Maxxis AlumiCraft. After the restart, however, the excitement of the Pro 4 Unlimited race suddenly carried over into this race, as things took a real shakeup. Rich Ronco cracked into the top five on the restart lap, diving his #99 Yokohama/King Shocks Tatum down the inside of Greaves in turn four. Three laps later, Doug Fortin took fifth away from Ronco with some great accelerations out of turns four and five. A full course caution was then called to allow crews to clear a two-car crash in turn six, and on the restart, Fortin picked up another spot in his #96 Fortin Racing Inc./Fox Racing Shox Racer, and was running fourth when Smith and Whelchel stacked up in turn four on the same lap. This moved Fortin up to third, with Ronco now fourth and Smith in fifth. With the white flag waving, everything was looking good for the leader Porter, but a sudden blowout of his left rear tire as he approached the mogul section left Porter struggling to hold the lead. Try as he might, Porter could not fend off Greinke, who went by and into the lead with just a couple of corners to go. Behind Greinke, and with just seconds left in the race, Fortin then blew his motor, and dropped five spots as he sputtered to the finish. Up ahead, Greinke took his first-ever win in Lucas Oil Off Road- congratulations Steve! Second went to Porter, third to Smith, fourth to Whelchel, and fifth Justin Davis in the #85 TCS/Kroyer Racing Engines Racer.
Next out on track were the Super Lites, and it was Austin Kimbrell and CJ Greaves who started up front in this one. Neither of these two, however, could hold off yesterday's winner Jacob Person, who put his #92 Fiberwerx/Geiser Bros Design and Development truck up into first on the opening lap. Greaves ran in second in his #33 Torchmate/Maxxis machine, with RJ Anderson third in the #37 Goodyear/So Cal Super Trucks entry, Chad George fourth in the #42 Rodeo Ford/Bull Outdoor Products truck, and Patrick Clark fifth in the #25 BFGoodrich Tires/MoTec machine. Clark went wide off the jump after turn five on lap two, which allowed Kimbrell to pull ahead and into fifth place in his #88 Yokohama/Kimbrell Racing truck, but Kimbrell was passed for that same spot by the #2 General Tire/Monster Energy entry of Jeff "Ox" Kargola on the following lap. A few laps later, Greaves had a spin in turn two, which collected Anderson, but allowed George to squeak by and into second place. Up front, Person was still the leader, with George second, Kargola third, Anderson fourth, and Wyatt Kirchner fifth in the #26 Speed Racing LLC/Method Race Wheels machine at the competition yellow. On the restart lap, Kargola stuttered coming out of turn four, allowing Anderson and Kirchner to scramble past. Anderson then picked off George a couple of laps later, while Clark moved past Kargola to re-join the top five. Up front, Person was well clear out in front, and stayed there to pick up his second consecutive win, sweeping the weekend in the process, and he celebrated with a nice twist of his wheels coming off the jump at the finish line. Second went to Anderson, third to George, fourth to Kirchner, and fifth to Clark.
With three straight thrillers having gone right in a row, the drivers of Pro Lite Unlimited must've felt like they couldn't disappoint, and thus made added another exciting race to the lineup. Brian Deegan turned his front row starting position into an early lead in his #38 Metal Mulisha/Gibson Performance Exhaust Ford, with Chris Brandt, Corey Sisler, Jacob Person, and Rodrigo Ampudia in tow. Person dropped back on lap two, while Cameron Steele moved up, putting his #16 Yokohama/Stronghold Motorsports Ford up to fourth. Further forward, Brandt was closing the gap on Deegan with is #82 Makita/Total Power Toyota, and just behind, Sisler was also closing up in his #19 BFGoodrich Tires/Skin Industries Ford. Deegan and Brandt then began to move away a little, and at the competition yellow, Deegan led Brandt, Sisler, Steele, and the #36 Tecate/Fox Racing Shox Ford of Ampudia. Steele moved up to third on the restart lap, with Sisler down to fourth and Kyle LeDuc up to fifth in his #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford, but Steele then spun on the next lap, allowing Sisler, Ampudia, and Casey Currie into third, fourth, and fifth. LeDuc had stopped in turn six, and in combination with Richard Cassey's being stopped facing the wrong way in the moguls, crews were given a full course yellow to get these drivers safely clear of the track. Once racing resumed, Steele again got up to fourth, but another mistake dropped him down a spot to fifth on the very next lap. With the white flag waving, the battle was suddenly on up front. Brandt was all over Deegan, and with the crowd roaring as the two diced back and forth, Brandt even managed to nose ahead more than once. However, Deegan was a little too crafty, and made his truck, as he put it, "a little wider" in the final turn to hold off Brandt for the win. Brandt settled for "first loser," with Sisler third for the second straight race, Ampudia fourth for the third race in succession, and Steele fifth for the second time in a row.
Rounding out a great weekend of racing was the Pro 2 Unlimited race, and with a stacked field lining up behind Rodrigo Ampudia and Marty Hart, who started on the front row, everyone in attendance rose to their feet to see this brawl get underway. A big rollover by Myan Spaccarelli on the opening lap forced a restart of the race, and it was yesterday's winner Rob MacCachren who took full advantage of a second shot at the start to grab the early lead in his #1 Rockstar/BFGoodrich Tires Ford. Behind MacCachren came Ampudia in the #36 Papas & Beer/Lucas Oil Ford, with Hart third in the #15 Monster Energy/ReadyLift Toyota, Greg Adler fourth in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Magnaflow Ford, and Jeff Geiser fifth in the #44 Canidae/Geiser Bros Design and Development Chevrolet. Hart and Adler were caught out in turn two on the second lap, which dropped them well back, and promoted Geiser to third, Jeremy McGrath to fourth, and Robby Woods to fifth. Up front, MacCachren had a bit of a gap over Ampudia, and the two were quickly getting away from the next group behind, where Geiser seemed to be holding up McGrath, Woods, and Rob Naughton just a bit. However, Geiser was driving very well to maintain his position, as he made several great moves to re-take his third place whenever McGrath managed to nose ahead. Geiser had his hometown fans cheering as he fought to maintain his podium position, but his charge was cut short when his driveshaft dropped out the bottom of his truck on lap eight.
On the next lap, the competition yellow came out, with MacCachren still leading over Ampudia, McGrath in the #2 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, Woods in the #99 Lucas Slick Mist/General Tire Chevrolet, and Naughton in the #54 LAMB Energy/Maxxis Ford. On the restart, Ampudia went around in turn two, dropping him way down the order. Ampudia's incident forced drivers to scramble to get by him, and allowed Hart to move back up to fourth, with Carl Renezeder now fifth in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Ford. Bryce Menzies then grabbed Renezeder's spot on the following lap, just ahead of a full course caution, which was thrown to allow crews to clear a rollover by Phil Bollman. On the restart, Hart had his second spin of the day in turn two, and this one collected several drivers behind him. Menzies and Renezeder got through clean to take over fourth and fifth, and with a few laps left, Menzies closed down on Woods to challenge him for third place. On the final lap, Menzies was really hounding Woods, but Woods fended off Menzies' advances to keep his third place. Up ahead, it was MacCachren who kept it cool and picked up another win to make it a clean sweep of the weekend. McGrath finished second, with Woods third, Menzies fourth in the #7 Red Bull/KMC Wheels Ford, and Renezeder fifth.