Officially, the name for Rounds 11 and 12 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series at Speedworld Offroad Park in Surprise, Ariz., was the E3 Spark Plugs Duel in the Desert. Unofficially, it was the Brian Deegan Benefit Weekend.
After capturing his first Pro 2 win six long weeks ago at Glen Helen, Deegan nearly swept the weekend in two classes, missing only the Sunday Pro 2 victory thanks to a flat tire. Even then, he still managed to make the podium in third and stretch his points lead over Carl Renezeder, who had a weekend to forget in Pro 2, retiring from both Pro 2 races. Two wins in Pro Lite also helped Deegan close the gap to that class's points leader, Chris Brandt, who had a third and fourth.
Deegan's feat was especially impressive given that both his races were back to back each day, with Pro 2 immediately following Pro Lite, on 100-plus degree days. Along with his steady progression to the top of the box in his first year of Pro 2 competition, it's also an illustration of Deegan's commitment to the sport.
“I focus so hard on racing,” the Metal Mulisha general said after Sunday's Pro 2 finale. “I just think about it every day. I study it, I watch it, I study tape, I read books about it. I put my full heart and mind into it. And my crew…Dude, the best crew. They want to win and give me the best truck. It's a combination of everything. And, in my heart, I feel like I deserve to be here and I want to be here. That's why we spend the time and money, to come out and do the best we can.”
It doesn't hurt that Deegan hasn't had a Pro 2 DNF all season. He's quick to point out he doesn't believe in luck, but rather preparation meeting opportunity. “We're prepared, and we're meeting opportunity,” he said.
Deegan had an especially good opportunity starting on pole for Saturday's Pro 2 race. He was never headed, although he was hounded hard by Rob MacCachren, recovering from a broken collarbone suffered during an endo at Glen Helen.
He had to work a little harder for the Pro Lite wins. On Saturday it was a fight with Corey Sisler, who had started on the pole. Deegan started third and was attacking Sisler immediately, and in the lead by the end of the first lap. But after a yellow flag, Sisler retook the lead when Deegan got up on the bike and led at the competition yellow. However, a mechanical problem for the No. 19 truck of Sisler left Deegan with clear sailing.
On Sunday, Casey Currie started on the pole, with Jimmy Stephensen on the outside of the front row. Deegan started in fifth; Sunday's starting order was determined by point standings, with the top six inverted. Stephensen led the first half of the race, fending off Currie. By the competition yellow, Deegan was in third. After an aborted restart due to racers jumping the flag, the second restart had the same result – Deegan shot past Currie immediately, and was into the lead by the end of the lap.
It was the Pro 2 race that followed – the one Deegan didn't win – that showcased some of the best – and wildest – racing that the sport has to offer. Starting sixth, Deegan was into third immediately for a flat tire after contact with Renezeder. Up front it was Rodrigo Ampudia, looking for his first Pro 2 win since Miller Motorsports Park last year, and MacCachren. When a yellow flag came out for an incident involving Robbie Pierce and Myan Spacarelli that also caused problems for Renezeder and Jeremy McGrath, it was a boon for Deegan, who was up to fourth by the time the competition yellow flew. For the latter half of the race, MacCachren hounded Ampudia, trying the inside at nearly every turn. He finally succeeded on the penultimate lap, as Ampudia's engine hit a sour note and he dropped to fourth.
Kyle LeDuc (RIGHT) had a weekend to remember. Not only did he add a third class – UTV for Black Rhino – to Pro 4 and Pro Lite, he had a double victory in the big trucks. Starting fourth on Saturday after posting the top time in qualifying, Kyle was in second and breathing down Adrian Cenni's neck by the end of the first lap and got by him a couple of circuits later in Turn 4, leading the rest of the way.
On Sunday, Kyle's brother Todd started on pole. Rick Huseman was up from fifth into second by the end of the opening lap, but a suspension problem left him struggling and dropping down the order. That left Todd with a healthy lead. But Kyle was coming. The competition yellow put Kyle on his brother's rear bumper, and brotherly love only goes so far. Kyle may not have forced the issue too hard, but he didn't need to – Todd bicycled and gave the lead to Kyle.
“I got lucky with those guys battling behind me and I stretched it out,” said Todd. “Then I saw that big Rockstar truck behind me and I saw Kyle coming. I didn't make any mistakes until the restart, In Turn 2, I just didn't get the rotation and it bicycled on me. I collected myself, but then coming into Turn 4, Carl [Renezeder] over-rotated in front of me and I checked up and it spun me sideways.” Todd kept at it to finish third.
Kyle's double wins helped in his points struggles, but not much because Pro 4 points leader Renezeder was second both days. Huseman, second in the points, was third on Saturday but eighth on Sunday. LeDuc made some ground on Huseman, but not much on Renezeder, who stretched his lead over Huseman.
Three-time kart champ Sheldon Creed made his debut in the full-size vehicles in Surprise, taking on Super Lite. The results came immediately, as he finished second to Chad George on Sunday. There were also a couple of maiden voyages in Pro 4, with Pro 2 regular Greg Adler filling in for Travis Coyne and Buggy ace Doug Fortin driving the Renezeder truck that Kent Brascho had been piloting. Both had best finishes of fourth, with Adler just missing the podium on Saturday and Fortin on Sunday.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series heads to Sin City and Las Vegas Speedway on Nov. 5-6. Look for the first television broadcast from Surprise on Oct. 15 on CBS.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 11 winners
Speedworld Offroad Park, Surprise, Ariz., Sept. 24
Pro 4 Unlimited: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2 Unlimited: Brian Deegan
Pro Lite Unlimited: Brian Deegan
Pro Buggy Unlimited: Justin Smith
Super Lite: RJ Anderson
Limited Buggy: Brian Freeman
UTV SR1: Ryan Beat
Unlimited UTV: Chad George
Modified Kart: Mitchell DeJong
Kart Jr. 2: Shelby Anderson
Kart Jr. 1: Preston Roben
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 12 winners
Speedworld Offroad Park, Surprise, Ariz., Sept. 25
Pro 4 Unlimited: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2 Unlimited: Rob MacCachren
Pro Lite Unlimited: Brian Deegan
Pro Buggy Unlimited: Jerry Whelchel
Super Lite: Chad George
Limited Buggy: Quentin Tucker
UTV SR1: John Dempsey
Unlimited UTV: RJ Anderson
Modified Kart: Kyle Hart
Kart Jr. 2: Preston Roben
Kart Jr. 1: Broc Dickerson