Lucas Oil Off-Road - Points Races Ramp Up In Vegas
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, is back in action this weekend, with Rounds 13 and 14 here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With just three races left in the regular season, the drivers at the top end of the field are sharpening their focus as they try to pick up every possible point in their pursuit of their class championships. Today's Round 13 saw some great racing on the longest track of the series, and the weather held up well as folks packed the stands under pleasant late fall sunshine. Read on to find out how the day's events unfolded.
Pro 2 Unlimited The Pro 2 Unlimited race was really a good one, and it was Jeremy "Showtime" McGrath who put his pole starting position to good use, grabbing the early lead in his #2 Monster Energy/ReadyLift Ford. McGrath has had several strong runs this season, but today's was his best yet, as he ran quick, clean, and smooth, and never left any room for those behind to even put a nose near him. Brian Deegan, Rob MacCachren, and Robby Woods all made various bids to get to the front, but none ever really presented a real challenge to the leader McGrath, who led the race wire to wire and picked up his first career Lucas Oil Off Road victory. McGrath is immensely popular with the fans, and they cheered in unison as one of the all-time greats of the dirt finally stood atop the box here today. MacCachren finished the race second in his #1 Rockstar/MasterCraft Safety Ford after edging by Deegan on the penultimate lap; Deegan finished third in his #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford. Fourth went to Carl Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/Team Associated Ford, charged up to fourth through a rough and tumble field. Rounding out the top five was Rob Naughton, who survived multiple mishaps to pick up a strong finish in his #54 ReadyLift/Losi Ford.
In the points chase, Deegan continues to lead the field handily, and despite dropping a couple of points to second-placed MacCachren, Deegan is still up by 43 over MacCachren, 590 to 547. Renezeder lies third with 539, while McGrath's win jumps him up to fourth at 515. Greg Adler rounds out the top five, and has 511 points.
Pro 4 Unlimited The Pro 4 Unlimited race was in some ways a very somber one, as the field was without its defending champion, the crowd favorite, Rick Huseman, who along with his brother Jeff and their friend Danny Hicks, lost his life in a plane crash just three weekends ago. In a touching tribute, Rick's brother Kevin brought the famous #36 Monster Energy/E3 Spark Plugs/Traxxas Toyota out on track one final time, pacing the field before the start of the race. With its engine singing one final time, #36 headed off the track to make way for the race's start, and it was Josh Merrell who led the field in the early going. Merrell did a great job to hold the lead for several laps, moving clear of the field in his #22 Hart and Huntington/MavTV Ford, but a rollover on lap seven ended his first place run. Fortunately, Merrell landed on his wheels and continued in fourth place. From there, Carl Renezeder inherited the lead in his #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Ford, and held off Kyle LeDuc and his #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford for all but a few corners.
Unfortunately for Renezeder, those few corners were the last few, as LeDuc drove deep into turn six, forced Renezeder way wide, and got the lead. Renezeder tried to battle back, but couldn't quite get the lead back, and LeDuc went on to pick up the win. Renezeder took second, Merrell third (his first-ever podium), Todd LeDuc fourth in the #4 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and Mike Jenkins fifth in the #47 Traxxas/BFGoodrich Tires Ford.
With Huseman's passing, Renezeder is now running pretty far out in front in the points chase. With a total of 624 points to date, Renezeder leads second-placed Kyle LeDuc, who has 557, by 67 points, and unless LeDuc is within 52 points of Renezeder by tomorrow's end, Renezeder will lock up the 2011 championship. No other drivers are mathematically eligible for the title, but the battle for third place is pretty close. Todd LeDuc leads that battle with 503, with Kent Brascho fourth at 498, and Jerry Daugherty fifth with 488.
Pro Lite Unlimited With a very close race between Chris Brandt and Brian Deegan in the championship chase, today's race would be crucial, as every point would have big significance. Deegan ran in second for just a couple of laps, but by lap three, he drove deep into the final corner to grab the lead, a lead he would never relinquish. With all kinds of shuffling, bumping, and banging going on behind him, Deegan and his #38 Lucas Oil/Metal Mulisha Ford were once again untouchable, and for the eighth time this season, he came away with the win. Behind Deegan, young RJ Anderson had a great race in the #37 Walker Evans Racing/South Point Dodge, as he had what was easily the best finish of his career in this class, taking second place in a stacked field. Third went to Brandt in the #82 BFGoodrich Tires/KarTek Toyota, who almost certainly was hoping for a better finish as he continues to pursue that elusive title. Series newcomer Andrew Caddell had an impressive debut after taking fourth in his #43 Traxxas/AMSOil Dodge, and rounding out the top five was Justin "Bean" Smith, whose had his first run in this class in the #25 Jeff Carpenter Racing/Performance Utility Supply Ford.
Points-wise, things continue to swing in favor of Deegan, who has now taken the points lead by three points over Brandt, 608 to 605. These two are in a two-horse race for the title, as third place is Cameron Steele, way back at 522. Fourth is Jimmy Stephensen with 505, and just behind him is Rodrigo Ampudia, who lies fifth with 501.
Super Lite Kyle Lucas made his Super Lite debut this weekend, and did a great job to lead the field for the first couple of laps. However, Lucas had a bad corner in turn one on the third lap, dropping three positions and handing the lead to Brent Fouch. Fouch's lead was short-lived, though, as RJ Anderson moved into the lead before the competition yellow in his #37 Dethrone Racing/Goodyear truck. Racing in his third class of the day, Anderson did a great job to hold off another "third class of the day" driver, Chad George, as he went one better than he did in Pro Lite Unlimited to get the win here in Super Lite. George finished second in his #42 Kawasaki/Yokohama machine, with Fouch third in the #21 Forgiven Energy/General Tire entry, Patrick Clark fourth in the #25 BFGoodrich Tires/Method Race Wheels truck, and Sheldon Creed fifth in his #74 A.M. Ortega/BFGoodrich Tires machine. As far as the championship goes, George has widened his lead to eight points over Clark, 580 to 572. Anderson's big win brings him a little closer to the two drivers ahead of him, and he now sits 27 points out of first with 553. Fouch is fourth with 475, and Jessie Johnson is now fifth with 455.
That wraps up the day's action from here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Join us again tomorrow for Round 14 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, with gates opening to the public at 9:00am. Racing kicks off at 11:00am with the Junior 2 Karts, and Opening Ceremonies will go off at 1:30pm. The championship chases are coming right down to the wire, and you won't want to miss a minute of the action, so get here and get your front row seat for a great day of racing!