Firebird International Raceway
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Opening Round Sizzles at Firebird
by Scott Neth
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, is back in action here in 2012. Picking up right where we left off in 2011, the drivers and teams are back here at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, AZ, just at the south end of the Phoenix metropolis. As always, throngs of excited fans were here to greet their favorite drivers, and just as predictably, the welcoming rays of the Arizona sun shone brightly over a perfect day at the races. The racers weren't showing any signs of winter cobwebs here today, and put on a great show for the fans, who packed the stands thoroughly.
Junior 2 Kart
Getting the 2012 racing season kicked off were the boys and girls of Junior 2 Kart. Starting from the pole position, it was Dylan Winbury in the #469 Wagon Burners Racing/Black Rhino kart who took the early lead, followed by Travis PeCoy, Shelby Anderson, Darren Hardesty Jr., and Jeremy Davis. As Winbury started to pull away ever so slightly over the next few laps, the order behind him remained the same, and at Competition Yellow, he was still being chased by PeCoy in the #411 Hoosier/Simpson truck, Anderson in the #405 Walker Evans Racing/Bud's Tire and Wheel entry, Hardesty in the #456 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/RC10.com kart, and Davis in the #485 Green Army/Jamar machine. On the restart, Anderson got a good run down the inside of PeCoy at turn one, sipping by and up to second place. PeCoy got the spot back before the end of the lap, though, using the low line at the either/or section to make his move. Hardesty Jr. then got tucked in right behind PeCoy's back bumper, and as the two went like a train through the first two corners on lap seven, Anderson was forced wide, dropping her back to sixth spot. Anderson got one spot back on the next lap, while on the final lap, Davis made a pass on Hardesty Jr. to take over third place. Out front, Winbury kept clear of the battling going on behind him, taking the first win of his Lucas Oil Off Road career, and in his first race in this class no less- congratulations Dylan! Second went to PeCoy, third to Davis, fourth to Hardesty, and fifth to Anderson. Winbury, PeCoy, and Hardesty Jr. are among many young drivers who've moved up from Junior 1 to Junior 2 Kart this year, and who are showing a lot of promise right out of the box.
Junior 1 Kart
Next up were the Junior 1 Karts, and it was Conner McMullen who had the lead after the first lap in his #288 Monster Energy/Foddrill Motorsports machine. Behind McMullen, it was Darren Hardesty Jr. in the #231 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Hoosier kart, Travis PeCoy in the #211 Hoosier/Simpson entry, Matt Crowell in the #242 Xtreme Machine & Fabrication/Racer X Motorsports truck, and Ricky Gutierrez in the #278 G Brothers/VP Racing Fuels machine. On lap two, defending class champion Broc Dickerson moved up to fifth in his #1 Dickerson Motorsports/Lucas Oil truck. Up ahead, the battle for the lead was really heating up, and on lap four, McMullen and Hardesty Jr. went across the start/finish line side by side. Hardesty Jr. got the better of McMullen into turn one, taking the lead from McMullen ahead of the Competition Yellow. At this point, Hardesty Jr., McMullen, PeCoy, Crowell, and Dickerson made up the top five, but on the restart, PeCoy got into Crowell, dropping the two well back. PeCoy and Jadyn Winbury also collected just three turns later, leaving PeCoy nearly a full lap down. Up front, Hardesty Jr. had control of the field, and finished this race three places higher than he had in his Junior 2 race, taking the win in fine form. Second went to McMullen, third to Dickerson, fourth to Gutierrez, and fifth to Rayce Geiser in the #246 BulletProofDiesel.com/Geiser Bros Design & Development entry.
In the final kart race of the day, it was Sheldon Creed and Kyle Hart who started from the front row in Modified Kart. Hart grabbed the early lead over Creed, with Myles Cheek, Jeff Hoffman, and Cole Mamer running in third, fourth, and fifth. Creed spun in turn one on the second lap, dropping him well back in the pack. This moved Cheek, Hoffman and Mamer into second, third and fourth, respectively, with Scotty Steele now fifth. Hoffman then dropped back, moving Mamer and Steele up one spot each, and helping Bradley Morris to move up to fifth. On lap five, Steele got a bit wild coming out of turn two, which allowed Morris and Hoffman to get by and take over fourth and fifth places. With the leaders well into the lapped traffic at this point, it became very difficult to decipher the running order, but up front, it was still Hart and Cheek running one-two, followed by Steele and Brock Heger in third and fourth. After the restart, Cheek was really putting the pressure on Hart, and after chasing hard for a few laps, Cheek made the move and took the lead from Hart. Once he was out front, Cheek was not to be caught, as he ran a tremendous pace en route to his first victory in the class in his #557 ThyssenKrupp/CMI kart. The defending Junior 2 kart champ looks good in Modified Kart this year, and seems to be making more than good on his goal of becoming more competitive in this class- way to go Myles! Second went to Hart in the #523 ReadyLift Suspension/Duncan Racing truck, with Heger taking third in the #511 Brock Heger Racing/DASA machine. In fourth, it was Steele in the #548 Steele Racing/Simpson entry, and rounding out the top five was Sheldon Creed in the #574 kart.
First out onto the full-length track were the Limited Buggies, and two perennial greats sat on the front row, in the forms of John Fitzgerald and Bruce Fraley. Fitzgerald grabbed the lead early in his #314 King Off Road Racing Shocks/Wiks Racing Engines buggy, and was chased by Jordan Poole in the #310 Riot Racing/Yokohama Fraley, Fraley himself in the #312 Race Fuel Energy Drink/BFGoodrich Tires Fraley, Kevin McCullough in the #389 Gear One/General Tire machine, and Dillon Ayers in the #398 Gear One/Fat Performance Lothringer. McCullough picked up two spots over the next three laps, passing Fraley and Poole to move into second by lap four. At the Competition Yellow, the running order was now Fitzgerald, McCullough, Poole, Fraley, and Ayers in the top five, but on the restart lap, Fraley got around Poole to take over third spot. These two then had a great battle over the next several laps, exchanging places three times in the process. Poole eventually put a little clean air between himself and Fraley as he cemented third place, while up front, another great battle was on the horizon, this one for the lead between Fitzgerald and McCullough. McCullough closed right down on Fitzgerald as time was running out, and on the last lap, he stuck his nose out a few times as he attempted to find a way by in the final handful of corners. Fitzgerald covered his lines well, though, and held off the young hard-charger to get the win. McCullough took second, followed by the rookie Poole in third, Ayers in fourth, and Fraley in fifth.
Pro 4 Unlimited
Following Opening Ceremonies, it was time for Pro 4 Unlimited. Following a four-row from qualifying, it was Curt LeDuc and one of his sons, Todd, starting on the front row, but it was Curt's other son, top qualifier Kyle LeDuc, who had the lead after lap one. Following Kyle LeDuc's #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford was Curt LeDuc in the #43 Zipfizz Healthy Energy/Truxxx Lift and Leveling Ford, Todd LeDuc in the #7 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Greg Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Affliction Ford, and Carl Renezeder in the #1 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan. On lap three, a crash in turn one by Ryan Beat (driving for Carey Hart) brought out a full-course yellow, but within a lap, the crash was cleared and racing resumed. Travis Coyne had moved up to fifth before the full course caution in his #5 ProComp/Team Associated Ford, but on the restart lap, he was passed by Adrian Cenni in the #11 Team Realtree Outdoor Energy/4 Wheel Parts Ford for that position. With Kyle LeDuc quickly pulling away up front, Cenni was also on the move, picking off Adler and Curt LeDuc on lap seven as he moved into the top three. Adler then rolled at the exit of turn three, dropping him back to last place. Cenni was now closing quickly on Todd LeDuc, and at the Competition Yellow, the running order was Kyle LeDuc, Todd LeDuc, Cenni, Curt LeDuc, and Josh Merrell in the #22 MavTV/Hart and Huntington Ford.
The drivers then pulled off in unison, heading for the hot pits in the first edition of the new mandatory pit stop rule. All drivers were given two minutes to work on their trucks and change flat tires, before re-joining the race under yellow in the order they'd been in prior to the mandatory stop. No major work was done to any of the trucks, and once racing resumed, Kyle LeDuc again pulled away quickly at the head of the field.
Pro Lite Unlimited
A giant field of Pro Lite Unlimiteds was up next, and with so many trucks on track, this race was bound to be an interesting one. Justin "Bean" Smith grabbed the early lead in his new #84 Competitive Metals/Metal Mulisha Ford, followed by Austin Kimbrell in the #88 Toyo Tires/Kimbrell Electric Ford, another all-new truck. RJ Anderson ran third in the #37 Monster Energy/Walker Evans Racing Dodge, followed by Chris Brandt in the #82 BFGoodrich Tires/National Concrete Cutting Toyota, and Casey Currie in the #2 Monster Energy/General Tire Nissan. The running order up front went unchanged for a few laps, but by lap four, fast qualifier Bradley Morris was up to fifth in his #24 GoldStar Asphalt!/Lucas Oil Ford. Up front, Smith got a little squirrelly coming out of turn one, dropping well back before pulling off track with an unknown issue. Anderson now led, with Kimbrell, Brandt, Morris, and Currie in tow. Currie and Brandt both moved forward on the next two laps, taking over fourth and second, respectively, but a full-course caution then came out following a rollover by Sheldon Creed. Officials took this opportunity to have the drivers come in for their Mandatory Pit Stop. Before heading to the pits, though, Brandt stopped on track, and ended up getting towed to the hot pits, and though the field then came in for the Mandatory Pit, he still fell a lap down.
As the field returned to green flag racing, the running order now Anderson, Kimbrell, Currie, Morris, and Kyle Lucas. At the end of the restart lap, Morris just managed to get by Currie, but got turned sideways and was flying through the air while lying across Currie's front bumper off the first jump, and when he landed, he was sent into a violent barrel roll, which ripped off his left front wheel and ended his race immediately. As trucks scrambled to avoid hitting him, Lucas had nowhere to go and hit Morris in the roof as he was still crashing. The race was red flagged, and despite the scary turn of events, Morris quickly climbed from his truck, drawing a relieved cheer from the crowd. Lucas was able to continue despite some front end damage, and after a few laps under yellow, racing resumed, with the running order now Anderson, Kimbrell, Currie, defending champion Brian Deegan in the #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and Matt Cook in the #55 Supercross.com/Loctite Toyota.
On the restart lap, Currie had a half spin at turn four, which held up Deegan, who dropped back several spots while trying to avoid running into Currie. Currie also fell out of the top five, moving Cook to third, Jerett Brooks to fourth in the #77 Synergy Electric Racing/Maxima Racing Oils Ford, and Chad George to fifth in the #42 Discount Tire/Traxxas Ford. Anderson then spun at turn four and dropped to third, with Cook then stopping on track on the following lap. A full course caution came out to allow crews to clear Cook from his precarious position just at the landing of the ski jump out of turn two, and on the restart lap, Anderson spun again, this time coming out of turn one, dropping him down a few spots more. On the final lap, George tagged Deegan's left rear corner coming into turn four, spinning Deegan out and dropping him several positions. Somehow, the incident failed to draw the wrath of the officials, as George picked up third place. Ahead of him, and keeping clear of so many incidents in this race, it was Austin Kimbrell who got his first win in the class in his all-new truck- congratulations Austin! Second went to class rookie Doug Mittag, who was supposed to be being "tried out" in the #81 Supercross.com/BFGoodrich Tires Toyota; I think after taking a podium finish in his first try, his team owners will be taking him much more seriously. George finished third, with Anderson fourth and Creed fifth in his first race in his new #74 Ford, despite his early rollover.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Another huge field came out on track next, as no fewer than 25 Pro Buggy Unlimiteds hit the dirt for another action-packed race. Starting from the outside of row one, Doug Fortin Jr. moved to the head of the field early in his #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./McGrath Fiberglass Racer, followed by Garrett George, Mike Porter, Steven Greinke, and Jerry Whelchel. Porter moved up to second on lap two in his #8 Mickey Thompson/Signpros Custom Lettering AlumiCraft, but after that, the next several laps saw the top five remain unchanged. Then on lap seven, Greinke picked off George for third, while up front, Porter was really closing on Fortin Jr. for the lead. At the Competition Yellow, Porter was right on Fortin Jr.'s back bumper, with Greinke, George, and Whelchel filling out the top five. With Mandatory Pit Stops only being required in Pro 4 Unlimited, Pro Lite Unlimited, and Pro 2 Unlimited, racing resumed quickly here, with Mitchell DeJong moving up to fourth on the restart lap in his #24 Traxxas/Red Bull AlumiCraft. DeJong then had a near-spin at turn four, dropping him well down the order. The running order was now Fortin Jr., Greinke, Porter, Whelchel, and Geoffrey Cooley in the #22 Competitive Metals/BFGoodrich Tires AlumiCraft. Greinke was now hounding Fortin Jr. for the lead, and with the white flag in the flagman's hand, Greinke pulled alongside the leader at the start/finish line. Greinke took the lead and never looked back, pulling open a good cushion on the final lap, taking the win to start his season off right in the #23 SC Fuels/Concourse Racer. Second went to Fortin in his all-new racecar, followed by Porter, Whelchel in the #5 ProAm/Camburg Foddrill, and Cooley in his brand new machine.
Pro 2 Unlimited
The highly-anticipated Pro 2 Unlimited race was up next, and with five of last year's seven race winners returning to the track here today, it was easy to understand what all the hubbub was about. Robby Woods grabbed the early lead in his #99 Lucas Slick Mist/General Tire Chevrolet, ahead of Marty Hart, Rob MacCachren, Carl Renezeder, and Rodrigo Ampudia. A near-pile up at turn four on the opening lap meant that Woods and Hart were substantially clear of the field in the early going, but over the next several laps, MacCachren began to slowly wind in these two. However, the order in the top five went unchanged for the first ten laps. On lap eleven, within sight of the Competition Yellow, Hart made his move on Woods, using the high line in the either/or section to finally make the pass for the lead. At the halfway point, the running order was now Hart in his new #15 ReadyLift Suspension/GearUp2Go.com Ford, Woods, MacCachren in his all-new #21 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Renezeder in the #17 General Tire/Lucas Oil Nissan, and Ampudia in the #36 Lucas Oil/Papas & Beer Ford. On the restart lap, Renezeder got by MacCachren after just tapping MacCachren and unsettling his truck coming out of turn three. A few laps later, Renezeder got around Woods coming out of turn five, but the two then collected in turn one, sending Renezeder to the outside of the corner, where his truck stopped, and was forced to end the race early after smoke began puffing out of it. With the race red flagged as a precautionary measure, the running order was now Hart, Woods, MacCachren, Jeff Geiser in the #44 Tap It Brewing Co./BulletProofDiesel.com Chevrolet, and Ampudia in the top five. After the return of the green flag, Jeremy McGrath moved into fifth in his #2 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, and just before the white flag, MacCachren got by Woods to take over second spot. From there on in, the top five drivers held their positions, with Hart taking his first win in the class, in his first race with his new team no less... congratulations Marty! Second went to MacCachren, third to Woods, fourth to Geiser, and fifth to McGrath.
The final race of the day was Super Lite, and as mentioned yesterday, with all three of last year's top points finishers moving up to new classes this year, the Super Lite field is wide open for new drivers to establish their dominance in the class. Ryan Hagy got to the head of the pack early on in his #0X General Tire/Metal Mulisha truck, with Sheldon Creed second in his #74 machine, Trenton Briley third in the #17 Kal-Gard Lubricants/Black Rhino entry, Drew Britt fourth in the #7 San Tan Ford/Majerle's Sports Grill truck, and Brent Fouch fifth in his #21 Fouch Racing/General Tire entry. A full course caution was then brought out when Wyatt Kirchner hit the catch fence coming onto the front straight, an incident which ended his race for the day (Kirchner himself was ok). When racing resumed, Creed got around Hagy on the restart lap, with Britt also moving up to pass Briley for third. Britt then passed Hagy for second two laps later, and was hounding Creed for the lead on the very next lap. Fortunately for Creed, the Competition Yellow then came out, allowing him to catch a breather and re-think how he could try and hold off Britt. On the restart lap, Briley went wide at turn one, dropping him back to seventh spot, while up front, Creed was now finding the speed he needed to keep Britt at bay. For the remainder of the lap, the top two drivers kept a fairly constant little gap between them, a gap that was too much for Britt to bridge, as 14-year-old Creed picked up the win. Second went to Britt, third to Hagy, fourth to Cody Rahders in the #16 SuperChips/K&N truck, and fifth to Fouch.
That wraps up the day's events here at Firebird. Join us again tomorrow as we return to "The Valley of the Sun" for Round 2 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO. Gates open to the public at 9am, with qualifying for the full-size classes starting just afterwards at 9:15, and racing starting at noon. The weather is supposed to be cooler tomorrow, so get out and enjoy the day!
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. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course. For more information please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com.