Monday, April 2, 2012
Drivers Put on a Show in Round 2
by Scott Neth
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- After a terrific opening day of racing for the 2012 season of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, the drivers and teams were back to do it all again here in Round 2 at Firebird International Raceway in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, AZ. With no racing to worry about tomorrow, drivers were throwing caution to the wind, and were driving spectacularly all afternoon. Fans packed the stands to capacity once again, and were kept on their feet in unison throughout the day, as race after race of excitement, surprises, and emotion were laid down one after another. More than once, the crowd was heard cheering as one as a driver pulled off an unbelievable move, and this was an afternoon that many people will look back on as one of the best in recent series memory. Hopefully you didn't miss it, but in case you did, read up on what so many people are already talking about.
Junior 2 Kart
Once again kicking off the show today was Junior 2 Kart, and front row starters Broc Dickerson and Travis PeCoy ran one-two after the first lap. Eliott Watson ran in third, followed by Shelby Anderson in fourth and Jeremy Davis in fifth. On lap two, the leaders came up on a couple of drivers who'd gotten caught up in an incident at the exit of turn three on the opening lap, and as the leaders caught the lappers just coming into the either/or section, first-placed Dickerson made a late choice to run the low line. He'd started up the high line, and as he tried to jump the burm and go down to the low line, he scrubbed a lot of speed, and dropped four spots to fifth. The course then went full course yellow for an incident, and after several laps of re-sorting the running order (the young drivers had continued to make passes and run at race pace for nearly an entire lap when they were supposed to be under yellow), order was restored and racing resumed. The top five was now made up of PeCoy, Watson, Anderson, Davis, and Dickerson, but with Davis getting squirrelly coming out of turn one, he dropped back two spots to sixth. Darren Hardesty Jr. moved past both Davis and Dickerson to take over fourth in his #456 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/RC10.com kart, with the top five then holding position for the next three laps. On the penultimate lap, Anderson got down the inside of Watson at turn one, moving up to second in her #405 Walker Evans Racing/Anderson's Nu Power machine, and on the final lap, Hardesty Jr. pulled the same move at the exit of the same corner, moving up to third in the process. At the head of the field, PeCoy got the big win in his #411 Hoosier/Simpson machine, with Anderson taking second and Hardesty Jr. third. At the stripe, it was too close to call between Watson in the #403 Kar Tek Off Road/Driscoll's Surf N Skate truck and Dickerson in the #423 Dickerson Motorsports/Racer X Motorsports entry for fourth, with the nod eventually going to Watson, who beat out Dickerson by just eight thousandths of a second!
Junior 1 Kart
Next up was Junior 1 Kart, and defending points champion Broc Dickerson took the lead of the race after the first lap in his #223 Dickerson Motorsports/Lucas Oil truck. Conner McMullen ran second in the #288 Monster Energy/RC10.com kart, followed by Travis PeCoy in the #211 Signpros/CMI machine, Parker Darland in the #241 Extreme Dreamz/Alexander Ford/Lincoln entry, and Bear Nunley in the #215 Nunley Racing truck. On lap three, Darren Hardesty Jr. had a great turn one, going past Nunley on the outside, then by Darland on the inside, moving from sixth to fourth place in his #231 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Lucas Oil kart. Up front, McMullen used the low line at the either/or section to make big ground on the leader Dickerson on both laps two and three, moving right up to Dickerson's back bumper. Dickerson managed to keep McMullen at bay, though, and at the Competition Yellow, the two ran one-two, followed by Hardesty Jr., PeCoy, and Darland. This order stayed the same on the restart lap, but on lap eight, McMullen got by Dickerson in turn one to take over at the front. At the white flag, the running order was McMullen, Dickerson, Hardesty Jr., Darland, and PeCoy, with Nunley getting by PeCoy going into turn one on the final lap to take over fifth place. Up front, the top three were nose-to-tail, and in a last-ditch effort to get the win, Hardesty Jr. took the low line in the either/or section. He came out in front, but didn't have enough momentum, as McMullen and Dickerson raced past to finish one-two. Hardesty Jr. finished third, followed by 241 in fourth and Nunley in fifth.
It was another thrilling performance by the drivers of Modified Kart today, and yesterday's winner Myles Cheek got the action kicked off by leading the first lap in his #557 ThyssenKrupp/CMI kart. Marty Hart ran second in the #523 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/Duncan Racing truck, followed by Cole Mamer in the #535 Mamer Motorsports/Simpson machine, Blake Lenk in the #521 Team Associated/Missing Lenk Motorsports entry, and Sheldon Creed in the #574 Trophy Kart truck. On lap four, the track went full course yellow for a pile up along the high line of the either/or section. Everyone involved was ok, but tow trucks were needed to clear a few of the karts, so the field circled under yellow for three laps. When the field finally got restarted, Mamer got by Hart on the inside through turn two, moving up to second place in the process. Two corners later, Hart made a late choice to run the low line at the either/or, and ended up rolling as he tried to dive down to that line. This moved Lenk to third, Creed to fourth, and Jeff Hoffman to fifth in his #547 Hoffman Racing/Foddrill Motorsports truck. The field stayed in order for several laps, but with the white flag just coming out, Bradley Morris moved by Hoffman for fifth with just a lap to go. Morris also got by Creed on the final lap, while up front, Graham got the big win, his first in this class- congratulations Chad! Second went to Cheek, third to Lenk, fourth to Morris in the #504 K&N/Lucas Oil truck, and fifth to Creed.
The final race before Opening Ceremonies was Limited Buggy. Bradley Morris, who suffered an odd suspension failure yesterday, took the early lead here this afternoon, and was chased by Jordan Poole, Tatum Ronco, Dillon Ayers, and Kevin McCullough in the top five. On lap two, John Fitzgerald got by both McCullough and Ayers to take over fourth in his #314 BFGoodrich Tires/Kar Tek Off Road buggy, while Ronco dropped back two spots to fifth. McCullough then moved back into the top five on the following lap in his #389 Gear One/General Tire buggy, and on that same lap, Ayers got by Poole to take over second spot in his #398 Gear One/Signpros Lothringer. The running order was now Morris, Ayers, Poole, Fitzgerald, and McCullough in the top five, with Fitzgerald then moving up to third when Poole went wide at turn two on lap six. Poole then pulled off the track on the next lap, and by the Competition Yellow, it was now Morris in the #304 Lucas Oil/BME Motorsports AlumiCraft, Ayers, Fitzgerald, McCullough, and Jeff Richards in the #315 ABC Muffler/VP Racing Fuels buggy in the top five. On the restart lap, Richards moved up to fourth, with Lindsay Geiser taking over fifth in her #395 Geiser Bros Design and Development/Canidae Geiser. Two laps later, Richards went wide at turn one, dropping down a spot to fifth, then giving up another spot to Tatum Ronco in the next corner, before slowing substantially, and eventually pulling out of the race. From there on in, the running order up front stayed the same, with Morris getting the big win over Ayers, Fitzgerald, Geiser, and Ronco in the #303 No Fear/FK Rod Ends Tatum.
Pro 4 Unlimited
After Opening Ceremonies, racing resumed with the fastest vehicles on the track, the Pro 4 Unlimiteds. Starting from the front row after a two-row inversion of this morning's qualifying results, Adrian Cenni got out front early in his #11 Team Realtree Outdoor Energy/4 Wheel Parts Ford. Kyle LeDuc ran second in the #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, with Todd LeDuc third in his #7 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Carl Renezeder fourth in the #1 General Tire/Lucas Oil Nissan, and Curt LeDuc fifth in the #43 Zipfizz Healthy Energy/Truxxx Ford. On lap two, Curt LeDuc got a little wild coming into turn three, which allowed Josh Merrell to get by on the inside in his #22 MavTV/Hart and Huntington Ford and move up to fifth. Up front, Kyle LeDuc was really dogging Cenni for the lead, but when he tried to make a pass going into turn one on lap five, he got crossed up, landed on his door, and slid wide into the outside fence. Cenni got by unscathed, and amazingly, LeDuc put himself down on four wheels, spun around and got going again, still in second place! Within three laps, LeDuc was again challenging for the lead, and after forcing Cenni wide at turn one on lap eight, he moved into first place. Behind all this, reigning champion Renezeder was having issues, with what looked like a loss of front wheel drive. He fell back through the field, and at the Competition Yellow, the running order up front was Kyle LeDuc, Cenni, Todd LeDuc, Travis Coyne in the #5 ProComp/Team Associated Ford, and Merrell.
On the restart lap, Coyne nearly went off the track at the landing of the ski jump, dropping him down to last place. This moved Merrell up to fourth, and Curt LeDuc to fifth. Up front, Kyle LeDuc was simply pounding down the laps, and no other drivers seemed to have an answer for his pace. Despite having to get through lapped traffic in the closing laps, LeDuc kept a good gap to those behind, and took the win comfortably to get the clean sweep of the weekend. Cenni finished second again today, and with Todd LeDuc taking third, today's podium was a repeat of yesterday's. Merrell finished fourth, and Curt LeDuc rounded out the top five.
Pro Lite Unlimited
After many drivers came through their first trial by fire in stacked field racing, the rookies and veterans alike had a much cleaner, quicker race today. Matt Cook took the early lead in his #55 Supercross.com/Loctite Toyota, followed by Chad George in the #42 Discount Tire/Traxxas Ford, RJ Anderson in the #37 Monster Energy/Polaris Dodge, Chris Brandt in the #82 BFGoodrich Tires/National Concrete Cutting Toyota, and Austin Kimbrell in the #88 Toyo Tires/Xtreme Machine & Fabrication Ford. Anderson got by George for second on lap three, with George then spinning and dropping well back two laps later. Anderson then moved up again, taking the lead from Cook, and quickly opening up a little gap to those behind. Further back, Kimbrell bobbled in turn two, and with nowhere to go, Brandt got into his side and spun him around. Then came the Competition Yellow, and the running order up front was Anderson, Cook, Brandt, Sheldon Creed, and Currie.
After the Mandatory Pit, from which Creed did not return in his earlier position, Brandt got by Cook to move up to second. Kimbrell also moved up again, taking over fourth position, while Cook slowed and eventually stopped; his race was over. This moved Kyle Lucas up to fifth in his #25 Speedco Truck Lube & Tires/Performance Utility Supply Ford, but a rollover then dropped Lucas down to the last spot on the lead lap. Jimmy Stephensen moved up to fifth in his #33 No Fear Energy/Losi Nissan, only to be passed by George for that spot on the next lap. Up front, the top three were simply in a class of their own, in three very equally-matched trucks racing right at the limit. Brandt was getting a great drive out of turn four, riding his truck up the side of the steep burm that divided the high and low lines, and picking up great momentum into turn five, but it wasn't enough to pass Anderson. The young gun picked up his first-ever win in Pro Lite Unlimited as a crowd on the tips of its toes watched on in delight- congratulations RJ! Brandt and Currie were both less than two truck lengths behind in second and third, with Kimbrell taking fourth and George fifth.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Jerry Whelchel and Cameron Steele started together on the front row in Pro Buggy Unlimited, and they ran one-two after lap one, followed by Doug Fortin Jr., Jeff Cooley, and Larry Job. The top five held their positions through the first four laps, before Steele got by Whelchel on the inside at turn three to take the lead on lap five. Whelchel got the position back using the low line in the either/or section, and on the next lap, Steele caught an edge in turn four and rolled over. As Fortin Jr. and Cooley swerved to avoid hitting Steele's rolled car, Fortin Jr. just got by, while Cooley got briefly high-centered on the burm between the high and low lines. Fortin Jr. didn't get away without incident, though, as he incurred a right rear flat, sending him into the hot pits. After a full course caution to clear Steele's car, racing resumed with Whelchel, Job, Steven Greinke, Cooley, and John Holmes in the top five. After several laps, another full course caution came out after a rollover by Patrick Pendley, but on the restart, the running order up front was still the same. On the restart lap, Rich Ronco moved up to fifth in the #99 Yokohama/King Off Road Racing Shocks Tatum, and with one lap to go, it was Whelchel in the #5 ProAm/General Tire Foddrill, Cooley in the #22 Competitive Metals/Impact AlumiCraft, Greinke in the #23 SC Fuels/Concourse Racer, Job in the #7 Supercross.com/Toyo Tires AlumiCraft, and Ronco in the top five. On the final lap, Ronco spun in turn three, handing fifth to Mitchell DeJong. At the finish line, it was perennial hot shoe Whelchel who got the win, followed by Greinke (who got around Cooley on the last lap), Cooley, Job, and DeJong in the #24 Traxxas/Red Bull AlumiCraft.
Pro 2 Unlimited
Today's Pro 2 Unlimited race was one of the best in recent memory, a race that kept fans on their toes right down to the checkered flag. Rodrigo Ampudia had the early lead in his #36 Lucas Oil/Toyo Tires Ford, followed by Marty Hart, Brian Deegan, Greg Adler, and Rob MacCachren. On lap two, Hart had a great run down the low line at the either/or, and simply blew by Ampudia despite the very slick early conditions, taking the lead in the process. A full course caution then came out after Justin Davis' truck was forced to stop between turns three and four, and when racing resumed, Jeff Geiser moved up to fourth on the restart lap in his #44 Tap It Brewing Co./Mickey Thompson Chevrolet. Adler and MacCachren then both got around Geiser to take over fourth and fifth, with MacCachren passing Adler for his fourth spot not long afterwards. Up front, Hart was starting to pull away a bit, while behind him, MacCachren was just starting to make some ground on the three frontrunners. Just as he did, though, his truck slowed suddenly, dropping him to fifth just before the Competition Yellow. The running order was now Hart in the #15 ReadyLift Off Road Suspension/GearUp2Go.com Ford, Ampudia, Deegan in the #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Magnaflow Performance Exhaust Ford, and MacCachren in the #21 Rockstar/Makita Ford, but when the drivers returned from the Mandatory Pit, MacCachren took up position at the tail of the field. Why he did so is unclear, but it was probably for the better, as his injured truck was unable to run with the frontrunners.
On the restart lap, Deegan and Adler got great drives out of turn one to move past Ampudia, while Geiser was once again running in fifth. Up front, Hart had seemed invincible in the first half, but was now being pressured big time by Deegan and Adler, with Deegan making the first move for the lead. Deegan got inside in turn three and made a nice pass, but then bicycled in the next corner, allowing Adler to get by inside and take the lead. In the confusion, Deegan managed to stay ahead of Hart, with Ampudia also getting by for third. Geiser then passed Hart as well, getting an inside run through turn one to move into fourth. Up front, Adler was driving exceptionally, and doing a stellar job to hold off a very hungry Deegan. On each of the last two laps, Deegan tried to make a run using the low line at the either/or, swinging out wide to try and hold off Adler where the lines re-joined. Adler was far from intimidated, though, as he literally leapt past Deegan in mid-air off the final jump to re-take the lead on both occasions. It could've all ended in tears very easily, but to the delight of the packed crowd, Adler kept his lead and got a tremendous win, followed very closely by Deegan in second. Ampudia picked up third place, with Geiser fourth and Hart fifth.
Closing out this weekend's events was the Super Lite race, and it was young Cody Rahders who had the early lead in his #16 Superchips/General Tire truck, followed by Ryan Hagy in the #0X General Tire/Metal Mulisha machine, Sheldon Creed in the #74 Racer X Motorsports/Fox Racing Shox entry, Drew Britt in the #7 Quick Lane/Source Refrigeration & HVAC truck, and Brent Fouch in the #21 Fouch Racing/P.C.I. Race Radios truck. Hagy got the lead on lap two with a good run through turn three, but then slowed coming out of turn five, and pulled off the track, eventually returning many laps later. Creed took the lead, with Britt then moving up to second by using the low line at the either/or on lap four. From there, the top five held their positions through the Competition Yellow, and at that point, their running order was Creed, Britt, Rahders, Trenton Briley in the #17 Kal Gard Lubricants/Black Rhino machine, and Fouch. On the restart lap, Rahders spun out in turn four, which moved Fouch up to fourth, and Wyatt Kirchner to fifth in the #26 General Tire/Safety Kleen entry. At the head of the field, the top three were now well clear and running very close to each other. On the last lap, Britt was trying everything to get some kind of a run on Creed for the lead, but whereas yesterday Creed looked a little vulnerable out front, today he seemed anything but. Both he and Britt looked much quicker and more confident, really throwing their trucks into the corners as they battled right to the end, with Creed coming out the winner to take a clean sweep of the weekend. Britt finished second, Briley third, Fouch fourth, and Garrett Poelman fifth in the #62 Supercross.com/Loctite truck.
With that, the first weekend of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series' 2012 season has come to a close. Don't worry, though: we've got seven more weekends, a full 13 more rounds of racing yet to come, and along the way, we'll pass through six more unique venues, all of which promise to bring you some of the best racing action on the planet. Next up on the calendar are Rounds 3 and 4, coming to you from the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park. With this year's new, more compact season schedule, we've got our races closer together than ever, so there's only three weeks between now and So Cal, so get ready to join us again soon, April 21st and 22nd, when the series returns to Lake Elsinore, CA for the first time since 2009. We've got a totally re-invented facility which drivers and fans alike should love, so don't miss out!
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.