Brian Deegan came into the final race of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series all but assured of the Pro 2 title. Indeed, the hauler rolled into Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Az., with championship T-shirts on board. Much less certain was the Pro Lite title, but he did more than necessary to ensure himself twin short course off-road championships for 2011.
With a large margin in Pro 2, all Deegan had to do was complete a lap to seal the deal in his rookie year in the class. But in Pro Lite, he had a tiny three-point lead over Chris Brandt coming into the finale.
He extended that lead to four points by setting the fastest lap in qualifying. Unfortunately, that meant that Brandt, who qualified fourth, would start on the pole thanks to the inversion. Brandt's turn up front was short-lived, though, as Rodrigo Ampudia, starting second, shot into the lead at the start, followed by Deegan who ended up in second.
With Brandt needing to finish a couple of spots ahead of him to win the championship, Deegan was sitting pretty, but not sitting satisfied. A lap later he was into the lead and pulling away. Brandt followed him, but Casey Currie inserted himself in between Deegan and Brandt, allowing Deegan to build a lead until Ampudia rolled and brought out a full-course caution.
Deegan was never headed, and Brandt, who was back into second as Currie faded, was eventually passed by Kyle LeDuc. Deegan sealed his second Pro Lite title – the first came in his rookie year in 2009 – with a victorious flourish.
In Pro 2, Deegan started sixth and kept his nose clean through the first lap while Jeremy McGrath got by Greg Adler to take the point. Once the first lap was done, the championship was decided and the race from then on was all for the glory. All hell was free to break loose, and it did.
Rob MacCachren – second in the championship points but with no shot at catching Deegan – took the lead just before John Martenson rolled in Turn 5, his truck catching fire for good measure. Martenson was fine, but the ensuing full-course caution bunched things up. On the restart, McGrath and Carl Renezeder came together, essentially ending any shot at victory for both drivers. Deegan, meanwhile – and with McGrath's and Renezeder's help – was heading toward the front. By the time the competition yellow flew, he was in second, and the race had seen the end of long runs of racing.
On the restart, a melee in Turn 1 eliminated Rob Naughton's hopes, and then Robby Woods took himself out of contention by rolling in Turn 3, bringing out another full-course caution. And then things got really messy. On the next restart, Deegan got into MacCachren, sending him rolling in Turn 3. The contact, which Deegan described as an unfortunate incident, was popular neither with the crowd nor the officials, who sent Deegan to the back.
“I'm so bummed [the season] had to end like that,” Deegan said. “Rob's been a great competitor to me all year, and I really like him. But, in the end, there are a lot of ups and downs to racing.”
That left Adler in front, followed by Jeff Geiser and Evan Evans in his first appearance in the series after a long absence from short course racing. The next restart was followed by another incident in Turn 1, and another yellow appearing on the starter's stand.
The final restart was for a two-lap sprint. Despite Geiser's best efforts, he couldn't get by Adler. Deegan did pass Evans to push him off the podium in the end and wrap up his Pro 2 championship with a third.
"It's exciting to come this far,” said Deegan. “For a rookie year in Pro 2, to win a championship – and not by a little – it's crazy. It's just been a good season. I can't say we ever really had a bad day in Pro 2. We had one bad race where we got banged around, but we came back and finished top 10. Other than that we were top five every race. It's hard to compete with that. Brandt was hard – he was top three very race, but he wasn't winning a lot. Consistency wins championships.”
The Pro 4 championship had already been decided in Renezeder's favor, leaving the finale for bragging rights. Kyle LeDuc took the lead early and never looked back, while Johnny Greaves, Adrian Cenni and Todd LeDuc struck trouble. Renezeder (ABOVE RIGHT) finished second to cap his season, while Josh Merrell ran a clean race to finish third.
Some of the other championship races were spread out enough that the outcome of Saturday's races scarcely mattered. Mike Porter and Corry Weller (LEFT) had bad days in their Pro Buggy and SR1 UTV races, respectively, but won their titles anyway. RJ Anderson claimed the Unlimited UTV title, and Curt Geer won Limited Buggy.
Pat Clark came into the finale with a slim chance of overtaking Chad George for the Super Lite title, trailing him by 12 points. But a broken axle on the first lap ended his chances, while George finished second behind Austin Kimbrell to win the championship.
Mitchell DeJong repeated as Modified Kart champ, while Myles Cheek won the Junior 2 Kart championship with a win and Broc Dickerson won the Junior 1 Kart title.
On Sunday, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series competitors compete in the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, where Pro 2 and Pro 4 go head to head, as do Pro Buggy and Pro Lite.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 15 winners
Firebird Raceway, Chandler, Ariz.
Pro 4 Unlimited: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2 Unlimited: Greg Adler
Pro Lite Unlimited: Brian Deegan
Pro Buggy Unlimited: Justin Smith
Super Lite: Austin Kimbrell
Limited Buggy: John Fitzgerald
UTV SR1: Doug Mittag
Unlimited UTV: Chad George
Modified Kart: Kyle Hart
Kart Jr. 2: Myles Cheek
Kart Jr. 1: Broc Dickerson