LAS VEGAS — Only two rounds to go. That’s what the drivers and crews of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, were up against here tonight at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mistakes simply couldn’t be made, not if you wanted to stay in the points hunt, and every point would be fought over more harshly than ever. Some drivers might have thought to try and play it safe, but quickly realized that doing so would drop them back into the mid-pack wars of their respective classes. Other drivers tried to deliver a championship-clinching blow in the form of a dominant win, but ultimately, despite there being a good chance of titles being taken in three different classes tonight, only one driver will head to next month’s season finale with the points all sewn up. The Loctite Fight Under the Lights, presented by Loan Mart, was on in earnest here tonight, and the fans who packed grandstands saw a great show.
Pro 2 Unlimited
Thanks to the schedule change, the first race of the night was Pro 2 Unlimited, and it was Carl Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan who got out front early in this one. Right behind Renezeder, it was his young nemesis Robby Woods in the #99 Lucas Slick Mist/General Tire Chevrolet running second, with Brian Deegan third in the #38 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford, Rob MacCachren fourth in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford, and Greg Adler fifth in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Magnaflow Performance Exhaust Ford. The top five frontrunners held their positions over the opening four laps, until lap five, when Woods dove down the inside on Renezeder going into turn four, and after some resistance from Renezeder, Woods pulled ahead out of turn five to take the lead. Further back in the field, another hot race was going on over fifth place, with Bryce Menzies trying every line on the track to try and get past Adler to take the position. On lap eight, Menzies politely but firmly forced Adler to give him room on the inside at turn six, all without any serious contact, and Menzies moved up to fifth in the #70 Loctite/BFGoodrich Tires Ford. Two laps later, Deegan made an uncharacteristic mistake, as he bicycled in turn two and dropped back one spot to fourth. Meanwhile, Woods and Renezeder had started to pull out a gap over the rest of the field. On lap twelve, Menzies picked up another spot, as he got by Deegan on the inside coming out of turn three, using a beautiful drive off the corner to move up to fourth. At the white flag, it was now Woods, Renezeder, MacCachren, Menzies, and Deegan in the top five, and things were really starting to look good for Woods to take his first career win. Woods had been driving impeccably, but on the final lap, he had a bit of an over-rotation up in turn one, and Renezeder just got into him, causing a collective gasp to go out from the crowd, all of whom seemed to be willing the talented young driver on, knowing what was on the line for him. Both drivers escaped without any serious damage, and Woods held the lead; it appeared as though he was still going to do it. However, as he came out of turn three, his terrible luck struck in heartbreaking fashion, as an apparent transmission failure left him coasting out of the corner, and as the field roared past, Woods rolled into the hot pits off turn four, less than half a lap from that ridiculously-elusive first win. The crowd seemed to be almost as crushed as Woods must’ve been, but the race went on, and it was Renezeder who got the win when he needed one most. MacCachren finished second, with Menzies rounding out the podium in third, Deegan taking fourth, and Adler fifth. Renezeder’s win moved him to within 18 points of the championship leader MacCachren with just one round to go; Deegan and Hart are also still in the fight, 38 and 43 points back, respectively.
Next up was Modified Kart, and a couple of incidents up in turn one forced the race to go to a full restart after the first green flag. Front row starter Travis PeCoy got the worst of those goings on, as he got punted from behind, and was unable to make the restart. The rest of the field did take green flag number two, though, and at the end of lap one, it was Gavin Harlien out front in the #555 Team Associated/Ironclad machine, followed by Myles Cheek in the #1 Metal Mulisha/ThyssenKrupp kart, Cole Mamer in his #535 Simpson/Fox Racing Shox entry, Jeff Hoffman in the #547 BRT Signs/Simpson entry, and Scotty Steele in the #548 Martori Farms/SDHQ Off Road Racing machine. The frontrunners held their positions over the first four laps, with the first real change coming when smoke starting streaming from the back of Steele’s kart on lap five. The problem persisted over the next lap, and as the Competition Yellow came out at the end of lap six, Steele’s race was pretty much over, and he pulled into the hot pits under yellow. When racing resumed, it was now Brock Heger in the #511 LGE/CTS Motorsports/DASA entry who was up to fifth, but on the restart lap, Darren Hardesty Jr. got by him early on the lap to take over the position. Over the second half of the race, the top five raced quick and clean, and everyone held their positions. This gave Harlien the win, with Cheek second, Mamer third, Hoffman fourth, and Hardesty Jr. fifth in the #599 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Off Road Warehouse truck.
In the points battle, Cheek has widened his gap back to second place, which now belongs to Mamer, who leapfrogged Preston Roben here tonight. Cheek now stands at 605 on the year, with Mamer at 577, Roben third with 573, and Hoffman at 566, the only other driver in with a chance at the title.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Due to as-of-yet unresolved issues uncovered during post-race tech, the results of Pro Buggy Unlimited are still under review.
Pro Lite Unlimited
Once again, Pro Lite Unlimited was far and away the craziest race of the night. A rollover by Drew Britt (filling in for Jacob Person tonight) at turn two brought out the first full course yellow on the very first lap. With the field being allowed to “race to the caution” at the end of the lap, it was Bradley Morris, Jimmy Fishback, Sheldon Creed, RJ Anderson, and Brian Deegan in the top five as the field lined back up behind the pace truck. Racing resumed at the end of lap three, and on the restart lap, Deegan dropped several spots up in turn one, and it was Casey Currie who moved up to take over fifth position. Late in the same lap, though, Kyle Lucas and Ryan Beat got together in turn five, and Beat ended up on his side, which brought out the second full course caution; Lucas was able to continue, but unfortunately, Beat was not. Racing resumed again at the end of lap seven, and this time, Deegan had a great restart lap, as he got back up to fifth once again. Up front, Morris was starting to pull away quickly in the #24 K&N/Kicker Ford, while a bit further back, Creed was now on a charge. Both he and Anderson got by Fishback coming out of turn four on lap nine, before Creed then dive bombed Anderson on the inside going into turn six, forcing his way through without any real body contact. Just behind, Jerett Brooks got by Deegan for fifth early on lap 10, and soon he and Fishback were beating and banging in the race for fourth. Brooks then had to field pressure from behind as well, as Kyle Hart was hounding him for fifth. Hart confirmed the pass lap 12, going around the outside at turn three to take over the position. A third full course yellow then flew at the end of that lap after Justin Smith came to a stop in turn five. On the restart lap, Hart got by Fishback at turn one to move up to fourth, but then bicycled in the same turn on the next lap, and that put him back to sixth. Seconds later, the leader Morris then rolled all on his own in turn two, but landed on his wheels and jumped right back in the action in third position. Before the lap was up, Anderson then returned the favor that Creed had paid him earlier, as he forced Creed wide at turn six to take the lead.
Britt then crashed for a second time, this one over in turn four, and thus came full course yellow number four at the end of lap 15. When racing resumed on lap 17, there was a melee in turn two, as too many drivers tried to occupy the same track space at the same time. Lots of trucks got pushed around, and the biggest points of interest were, (1) Hart, Morris, and Fishback running three-wide around the corner, which ended with Fishback getting pushed off the outside after the exit of the turn, and (2) a rollover in the same corner by Lucas. The latter brought out a fifth full course yellow, and on the restart, Chris Lawrence’s truck came to a stop just out of turn six; sitting at the foot of the big tabletop on the front straight, he wasn’t able to make the green flag, and now it was a sixth full course yellow. While under yellow, Hart received a black flag for his part in the turn two incident just moments before, and as a green-white-checkers finish was called for, it was now Anderson, Creed, Deegan, Morris, and Currie in the top five. Deegan got by Creed early on the restart lap to take over second, and tried his best to get up and challenge Anderson for the lead over the final lap. Anderson was too strong, though, and scored a measure of redemption after suffering a gut-wrenching end to his title hopes last night thanks to a crash and subsequent fire, as he took his fifth win of the season in the #1 Loan Mart/Walker Evans Racing Dodge. Deegan was second in the #38 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford, and now needs to score no more than two points from a possible 52 in the final race next month to take his third Pro Lite Unlimited championship. Creed finished third in the #74 Traxxas/BFGoodrich Tires Dodge, and is the only other driver who still has a mathematical chance at the title in this class. Morris finished up in fourth, and Currie rounded out the top five in his #2 Monster Energy/General Tire Jeep.
Pro 4 Unlimited
Thanks to a new, temporary spot in the lineup, Pro 4 Unlimited was the final race of the weekend. Kyle LeDuc had nothing to lose this weekend, as he had to go for broke to keep his title hopes alive for the final race of the year. And so it appeared on the track, as LeDuc shot into the lead in his #99 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford, with Rob MacCachren second in the #21 Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Power Tools Ford, Carl Renezeder third in the #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan, Todd LeDuc fourth in the #7 Rockstar Energy Drink/Maxxis Ford, and Eric Barron fifth in the #32 LAT Racing Oils/Mickey Thompson Toyota. On lap four, Barron went mysteriously off the track between turns three and four, but re-joined at turn four, though he’d now dropped a spot to sixth; Brandon Bailey had taken over in fifth in the #77 Loctite/Moapa Energy Ford. Two laps later, the leader LeDuc then spun backwards going into turn four, and that dropped him to second. As Kyle got going again, he was now running substantially slower, and soon he’d dropped to third, with his brother Todd then getting past to put him yet another spot back on the next lap. Meanwhile, Barron was battling hard to try and get past Bailey to re-take fifth, and Bailey was trying equally hard to keep Barron at bay. A full course caution then came out at the end of that lap, as large chunks of debris were posing a real danger in several spots. When racing resumed, Kyle suddenly seemed like his truck had been cured of its issue, and he made quick work of his brother Todd coming out of turn three, where he moved back to a provisional podium finish. At the end of the same lap, Kyle then scored a measure of revenge, as he pulled a pass on Renezeder that was almost identical to the one Renezeder had pulled on him last night. LeDuc dove deep into turn six, and forced Renezeder wide (though with noticeably less contact), and jumped up to second in the process. LeDuc’s moment in the sun didn’t last long, though, as he over-rotated coming out of turn five on lap 11, and he ended up rolling up against the k rail on the outside entrance to turn six. LeDuc landed on is wheels, though, and was able to get going quickly again, though he now ran down in eighth place.
A full course yellow had already been thrown before Kyle had gotten moving again, and when racing resumed, it was now MacCachren out front, with Renezeder, Todd LeDuc, Bailey, and Barron in-tow. Barron got by Bailey on the restart lap to take over fourth, and Bailey then spun out in turn six on the following lap, which dropped him to eighth. Kyle LeDuc was moving up the order once again, and took over fifth after Bailey’s error, which was followed by a second spin two laps later. This time, Bailey lost it coming out of turn five, and ended up precariously-positioned with his nose against the same k rail that Kyle LeDuc had rolled up against earlier in the race. Bailey tried to back up and get going again before the leaders came around, but he wasn’t able to do it, and gave the crowd (and almost certainly the leading drivers) a brief scare as MacCachren, Renezeder, and Todd LeDuc were forced to squeeze between Bailey’s back bumper and the inside barrier going into turn six. The three got through safely, though, and continued charging, now with just two laps remaining. On the penultimate lap, Kyle LeDuc then drilled Barron from behind, and sent him careening across turn four and into the entrance to the hot pits. LeDuc got a black flag, thus ending any chance he had of keeping his title hopes alive. Up front, MacCachren stormed to his first win in the class this year, an historic moment considering it’s been over a decade since he’s raced a full season in this class- congratulations Rob! Renezeder finished a close second, and in so doing, wrapped up his ninth short course off-road championship, his third in five seasons in this class- well done Carl! Todd LeDuc rounded out the podium for the second straight race, with Ryan Beat finishing fourth in the #51 MavTV/General Tire Ford, and Aaron Daugherty taking fifth in the #23 E3 Spark Plugs/Racin’ Dirty Chevrolet.