It seems a long time since the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, started the 2018 championship journey back at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, AZ in April of this year. However, it’s actually only been about four months, and now we stand on the precipice of the second half of the season, which is poised to go, starting with two rounds of racing at the Utah Motorsports Campus this weekend. As we prepare to start the countdown to the various class championships, we thought it important to take a look at how we’ve gotten to where we are so far in each of our championship races.
The season started off in an odd way, with recent retiree and short course legend Carl Renezeder filling in marvelously for the injured Bryce Menzies out in Arizona. Renezeder drove a stellar race to hold off Kyle LeDuc for the win, setting Menzies up with a near-perfect start to the points race. However, Menzies’ injury turned out to be longer lasting than originally anticipated, and Menzies hasn’t made a return to the series yet.
In Round 2, down at Estero Beach, Adrian Cenni survived a brutal, truck-breaking race to take the win, his first in many years, after LeDuc was black flagged on the final lap. The next day, young hotshoe Doug Mittag got the W, making it three different winners in as many races. This trend continued at the series’ next stop, Wheatland, MO, as LeDuc finally scored his maiden win in the new Evvo 2 truck, ahead of yet another different winner, veteran Scott Douglas, who notched another victory in terribly sloppy, treacherous conditions. Then it was on to the halfway point of the season, the one-night race in Reno, and after leading the points for much of the season, RJ Anderson finally got the monkey off his back at the same track where he scored his first Pro 4 win last year by taking the win again, extending his points lead in the process.
With a win and three runner up finishes, Anderson has amassed a solid 15-point lead over Mittag with five races remaining. However, the rest of the drivers who’ve won (aside from Renezeder), have all kept themselves quite closely stacked, with just 20 points separating fifth-placed Douglas from Mittag; LeDuc and Cenni lie three and 18 points adrift of Mittag, respectively. LeDuc is still an obvious favorite at virtually any race, and with so many championships behind him, he could certainly be the man to come back and take it again with a second half charge. However, Anderson’s consistency has been crucial, and with the field size being so small in this class, are there enough points opportunities out there for LeDuc to claw back the ground between himself and Anderson? Only the next five rounds will tell…
Pro 2 has essentially been the Rob MacCachren show this season, with the veteran driver taking wins in four of the six rounds thus far en route to a massive 33-point lead. The only two others drivers to have taken wins this year, RJ Anderson and Bradley Morris, haven’t maintained enough consistency to keep themselves within striking distance, and the two currently sit third and fifth in the championship, 36 and 39 points out, respectively. Consistency has, however, been on the side of Jerett Brooks, who’s taken two seconds and two thirds so far this year, and while he’s been thus far winless since that amazing first race, first win last year in Arizona, Brooks is now at least a constant frontrunner, and should he find the extra pace to score a few wins, he just might threaten MacCachren near the end of the year.
Three other drivers are also reasonably close for the runner up spot: defending champion Jeremy McGrath, Rodrigo Ampudia, and Brian Deegan. McGrath hasn’t had the magical season that he had last year, but three podium finishes have helped keep him in the hunt, and he sits fourth, 37 points behind MacCachren. Ampudia, by contrast, is enjoying one of his better seasons, and his first podium in a while, a second place at Wheatland, seems to have helped rejuvenate him, as he now sits in sixth, 47 points back. Finally, there’s three-time champion Brian Deegan, who has had absolutely miserable luck on multiple outings this year, yet still finds himself in seventh, 64 points out, thanks in no small part to his incredible speed and talent. Look for some good battles between MacCachren and Deegan in the second half of this year, as both should have reasonably free reign to go after some race wins.
Ryan Beat is having one of the best seasons in the history of Pro Lite, and hasn’t finished off the podium yet this year. With four wins, a second, and a third, Beat’s results have been nothing short of stellar, and his smooth, almost effortless style must make things all the more frustrating for those trying so hard to keep pace. Indeed, nobody’s been able to keep up with Beat, at least points-wise, this year, as Beat currently holds a 30-point lead over second-placed Brandon Arthur, who himself has had a solid, consistent season that most drivers would love to have. Arthur himself hasn’t finished outside the top five yet this year, but three second places and a third have netted him a huge deficit to Beat, and Arthur will need some luck to catch the championship leader in the second half.
One point behind Arthur is Christopher Polvoorde, and like Arthur, Polvoorde also has yet to finish outside the top five this year. Polvoorde is also the only driver besides Beat to have taken a win this year, and his sweep of the Estero Beach weekend has definitely helped lock him in as a title threat. However, like Arthur, Polvoorde will have to find some extra speed to help him catch Beat. Mickey Thomas is the only other driver who’s got any kind of realistic chance, mathematically, in the championship race, as he sits 50 points behind Beat, but he’ll have to do even better than his already solid run of top six finishes (a second place, a third, two fourths, and two sixths) if he’s to challenge those ahead of him.
Bookended thus far by a pair of bad luck races, points leader Darren Hardesty Jr. has had an otherwise stellar run this season in Pro Buggy, and the young driver is the top contender to win his third straight title in the class. Four wins in a row really helped Hardesty Jr., but a pair of lowly finishes also really hurt him, and thus he currently has only a narrow four-point lead over young Trevor Briska. Briska’s record itself hasn’t been outstanding, but three podium finishes, including his maiden win in Round 1, have put him right in contention with five rounds to go. Indeed, as has been the case the last couple of years, the points race in this class is a tight one, with the top five drivers being separated by just 23 points, and the next four by a scant 12 points (although sixth-placed Sammy Ehrenberg is 28 points behind fifth-placed Chris Nunes).
Besides Hardesty Jr. and Briska, the other three main title contenders are Eliott Watson (8 points out), Bud Ward (13 points back), and Chris Nunes (23 points behind). Watson is the only other driver besides Hardesty Jr. and Briska to have taken a win this year, and his outright speed, when he’s dialed in, is as good as anyone’s, so be sure to watch him in the second half as he tries to make a run and steal the title from his good friend Hardesty Jr. Ward is also quick, and at just 13 points out, is still in with a serious chance, while Nunes still has a lot of room to grow and learn, which makes his future prospects even scarier to those who are already established in the class.
Production 1000 UTV
With a massive, seemingly-insurmountable lead of 47 points, Brock Heger is almost a full race worth of points ahead of his nearest competitor as the Production 1000 UTV title race begins the second half. Four wins and two thirds have made the young driver, once again, the class of this field, and while many other talented drivers are taking the starts each round, none have found a consistent answer to Heger’s speed and ability. Jason Weller currently sits in second thanks to three podiums and five top five finishes, but as he remains winless in the class so far, he’ll have to find another gear in order to threaten Heger. Behind Weller, it’s another fair distance back, 22 points in fact, to Robert Stout, who heads a good two-man race for third in the championship. Were it not for a pair of 12th place finishes this year, Stout could easily be fighting Weller for second, but as it stands, he sits a scant four points up on Myles Cheek, whose two wins (Round 1 and Round 3) have helped keep him in the running, despite a pair of 15th place finishes also being on his record this season.
Turbo Production UTV
In this, the inaugural season in the National Series for the Turbo Production UTVs, UTV queen Corry Weller leads the title fight as we enter the second half, but two wins, a second, and a third have still only put her out in front by two points, as teammate Paul O’Brien’s record, which includes one win, three seconds, and a third, has kept him right in contention for the championship. These two are well and truly in a class of their own so far this year, for while Trevor Leighton and Eliott Watson are also in with a somewhat realistic mathematical chance at the title, the two sit 52 and 55 points out, respectively, with just five races remaining. Of those two, only Leighton has taken a win, and neither has shown the consistency needed to give Weller and O’Brien a run for their money. It should, however, be a good title fight between these two, so watch for them to battle it out to the bitter end for that first-ever Turbo Production UTV National Championship.
It’s another very close race in Modified Kart this season, as championship leader Mason Prater and second-placed Brody Eggleston are separated by just five points. Prater has taken a win and three seconds in the four races thus far, while Eggleston has a pair of wins, a fourth and a sixth. The two young hotshoes have already clearly separated themselves as the leading title contenders; third place is Bronsen Chiaramonte, and he sits 15 points behind Eggleston. Luke Knupp, another 19 points back, is the only other realistic championship rival, while Reno winner Ricky Gutierrez also has a 15th and a 16th place finish, leaving him mired in sixth place overall, 64 points behind Prater. Utah’s rounds this weekend could prove crucial to either Prater’s or Eggleston’s chances for the championship, so be sure to note how things shake out for these two boys.
Junior 2 Kart
With wins in all four rounds so far this year, Connor Barry has established himself as the clear championship favorite in Junior 2 Kart this year. Barry’s wins have also been more than convincing on multiple occasions, so if anyone is to challenge Barry for the title, they’ll have to get started right away with some big results in Utah this weekend. Second place in the championship is Ethan Ebert, and having steadily improved from a fourth to two thirds and then a second so far this year, he may just be the driver to unseat Barry on the top step of the podium at some point this year. Holden Heitritter started the season strong with a pair of second place runs, but a subsequent seventh and then a sixth have dropped him back noticeably, though he remains the only other driver with a somewhat realistic shot at the title this year.
Junior 1 Kart
Only four drivers have competed in all four rounds of competition in Junior 1 Kart so far this year, and of these, young Jake Bollman seems to have the most consistent speed. A pair of wins have helped Bollman to the top of the hill so far, but a pair of fourth place runs have also kept him from amassing a large lead, as Ayden Ford’s one win and three seconds have kept him within just three points of Bollman. Third place, another ten points back, is Lake Adler, and while this young driver has been steadily improving, more speed must be found in order to deal with Bollman when he’s running clean. Finally, there’s Bergen McGrath, who’s taken third in every race so far, but still finds herself in fourth, six points behind Adler. McGrath is improving her speed, but will need to continue to do so in order to break her streak.
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. Our events can be seen on CBS, CBS Sports Network, MAVTV, and Live all season long on LucasOilRacing.TV. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course! For more information, please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter in our Newsletter Signup section of the home page.
Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series