ELK RIVER, Minn. – TORC: The Off-Road Championship wrapped up the season with one final day of racing on Sunday at the ERX Motor Park.
Sunday’s PRO 4 race carried with it a level of additional intensity and focus. As one of the few divisions that had yet to crown a champion, the pressure of the entire season came down to just 14 laps. For points leader C.J. Greaves, it was just another day at the office.
Despite a top-six inverted start, which put C.J. on the third row, the youngster raced with a level of poise and confidence well beyond his years to take the win and his third PRO 4 championship.
With Ross Hoek gaining the early jump, Scott Douglas, and Keegan Kincaid followed in tow with Douglas finding the front not long after. Despite nearly every fan in attendance visually focused on the No. 7 truck of Douglas, all thoughts were on C.J. Greaves.
It wasn’t a question of if, but when C.J. would make his move. No one had to wait very long. On the next lap, C.J. charged hot up the inside of the horseshoe turn before hitting the split lane, moving from fourth to second. Then just a few hundred yards down the track, C.J. was given a gift pass on Douglas, who experienced a mechanical problem and coasted to a stop atop the finish line jump.
With C.J. in the clear, attention turned to Kincaid and his newly wrapped Bass Pro Shops truck in second; and Johnny Greaves who regained his composure after an opening lap tangle. The duo would prove to deliver the best action for the remainder of the race, leaning on each other’s doors, swapping positions, and bringing the fans to their feet on the white flag lap. Eventually, the veteran savvy of Johnny came out on top, as he beat Keegan in a drag race through the split lane and found himself in the cat-bird seat for the final turn and eventual finish line.
While Johnny and Kincaid delivered the race day fireworks, it was C.J. who won the war, earning the PRO 4 championship and another victory.
“This is one of the toughest seasons we’ve had so far in PRO 4,” said C.J. Greaves. “We’re usually known as the guy that’s Mr. Consistency…this year we either won or were off the podium.
“We’re gonna keep working hard this off-season and come back with an even better truck next year.”
With the largest field in the pro ranks of the TORC Series, Sunday’s PRO 2 field saw 14 trucks come to the line, but when the chaos and slinging dirt finally subsided, only 10 remained and Brad Lovell led them all through the checkered.
With hometown favorite Andrew Carlson on the pole of his family’s track, and in a class proven to play well into his go-for-it driving style, this was his race to win. It appeared he was ready, bursting out to an early lead and then putting plenty of dirt between himself and the bridesmaid trucks.
Even after several full-course caution restarts, Carlson continued to hold the advantage over Brad Lovell and Luke Johnson, but suddenly a mechanical problem forced Carlson off the track, ending his winning bid.
The race was now in Lovell’s hands. However, he had to fend off yesterday’s winner and 2017 PRO 2 Champion Luke Johnson; a consistent Eric Ruppel in third; and the hard-charging Mike Vanden Heuvel, a two-time ERX winner.
Vanden Heuvel had already moved up from his deep-pack starting position, and in the closing laps he made one last effort to get on the box, with a two-for-one pass attempt in the horseshoe. He almost pulled it off, but he came through the sand whoops extremely out of shape, somehow saving what looked to be a sure roll-over, but shredding a tire from the rim on the landing.
This chain reaction of events gave Johnson and Ruppel their positions back, and returned the final running at the line to Lovell, Johnson, and Ruppel.
While Lovell came up just shy of winning the championship, the race win tasted sweet and helped to build momentum for next season.
“We came out here with something to prove,” said Lovell as he exited his truck. “Today, we weren’t worrying about points…it gave me the drive to just lay it all out. I couldn’t be happier.”
In PRO Light, Chad Rayford outran Cody and Kyle Kleiman for his first series victory. He led flag-to-flag, holding off the advances of the Kleiman brothers.
“I knew Kyle was a little faster than me,” said Rayford. “I knew I had good lines and I knew he would race me clean. It’s a good day…after yesterday and the crash on Friday…to come back and to do this for this team, this is the highlight of my career.”
In PRO Stock UTV, Zach Martin spoiled C.J. Greaves’ attempt at a perfect season with a victory in the season finale. In PRO Mod UTV, Kyle Chaney picked up the victory to secure the series championship.