Carlson Pulls Off Big Bark River TORC Upset

Andrew Carlson picked up a stunning victory in the TORC PRO 2 division on Saturday at Bark River Int'l Raceway. (TORC Photo)

BARK RIVER, Mich. — Andrew Carlson picked up a stunning victory in TORC PRO 2 competition on Saturday afternoon at Bark River Int’l Raceway.

Carlson was making his PRO 2 debut on Saturday, starting on the pole in a truck previously driven by Keegan Kincaid. Carlson jumped out to an early lead as Eric Ruppel held off class favorites Brad Lovell and Luke Johnson for several laps. Lovell’s mistake on lap two allowed Johnson to speed by, and the top qualifier soon got around Ruppel as well.

By that point, Carlson had gapped out to a huge lead. Lovell, who had been plagued by overheating issues through practice and qualifying, dropped out and attempted to salvage some championship points.

The halfway mandatory caution brought Johnson right up to Carlson’s bumper, and most race fans expected the more experienced racer to pass the rookie quickly. But, lap after lap passed by, and Carlson held on to the lead, turning the Michigan fans and online viewers around the world into believers in the process. Johnson had a couple chances at the lead, but Carlson kept his composure and held the hard charger off to win his first PRO 2 race in storybook fashion.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into the class. To get out and get the green flag all the way to checkered is awesome for me, because I could just run,” said Carlson. “I’ve never run this truck behind anyone, ever, so I didn’t know what the PRO 2 roost was like. I was having a blast. This thing is so fun to drive.”

Luke Johnson, though disappointed with his second-place finish, came out of Saturday a big winner in the championship race, jumping from third place to first due to mechanical struggles by the previous leaders.

In the PRO 4 feature, calamity started just after the green flag, as defending class champion C.J. Greaves got tied up with Chad Hord in the opening turns and fell nearly a half lap behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Ross Hoek tried to hold off a wildly aggressive Keegan Kincaid as Johnny Greaves and Scott Douglas traded paint behind them.

Kincaid, racing a PRO 4 for the first time at Bark River Int’l Raceway, made it around Ross Hoek on the opening lap to seize the early lead. But, before the huge Upper Michigan crowd could get used to the new leader, Keegan slowed momentarily with a mechanical issue and dropped to fourth. Douglas took the lead with Johnny Greaves in tow. Kincaid had to work around Hoek once again as the action continued.

Douglas settled into the lead and held off Johnny until lap three, when Johnny took the long way around in the infamous Cemetery Corner to power his way to the front. Johnny would never trail again, but the action behind him was far from over. Keegan over-rotated in lap four attempting to pass Douglas, and Ross Hoek had nowhere to go.

Hoek slammed into Kincaid and broke a left rear suspension part in the process, taking him out of the race. Unfortunately, Scott Douglas’ strong run came to an early end as well, as he left the race at the halfway point.

The halfway mandatory caution allowed Chad Hord and C.J. Greaves to catch up to the leaders and return to action. Kincaid was very fast, but struggled to rotate his truck correctly in the second half, and he eventually dropped to fourth. Right before the white flag, C.J. Greaves used every inch of a highly banked corner to power past Hord and began a last-lap charge for the lead.

Hungry for a last-to-first storybook race, C.J. inched closer and closer to his father. With his last-ditch effort, C.J. threw his truck into the final corner with everything he had – but it was too much. C.J. slammed into the cement wall hard, but came out more or less in one piece, salvaging a second-place finish in a tumultuous race. Chad Hord scored his second straight podium coming in third.

“That was a handful,” said Johnny Greaves, who extended his points lead with his second straight win. “I knew C.J. was coming. [My spotter was] like, ‘holy crap, he’s on you, last turn,’ and I’m like ‘not this again,’ but I didn’t give up the last turn this time.”

In Pro Light competition, Kyle Kleiman held off his brother Cody Kleiman to pick up the victory. Rodney Van Eperen was the winner in the PRO Mod UTV division, while C.J. Greaves was the winner of the PRO Stock UTV feature.