Las Vegas may have made its fortune on gambling, but as the site of the penultimate stop of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, the focus was on championships and where drivers needed to be conservative – or not – to secure their place in the championship. As the season winds down, this is not the time for some to roll the dice.
However, in Pro 2, the drivers had little choice. In virtual dead heat – Rob MacCachren and Brian Deegan were tied for the lead, with Marty Hart close behind – the title contenders had little choice but to go all in. Hart had the most to lose, and the most to gain, being behind the other two. He also had a huge challenge ahead to stay in it, because after blowing an engine in practice, he missed qualifying on Thursday, a session that set the grid for both Friday and Saturday nights and thus a double blow.
Yet Hart made the most of it, and ended up finishing ahead of McCachren and Deegan on both days. His drive on Saturday night was inspired, as he marched from 17th to second despite having to swing through the pits to serve a black flag penalty for jumping a restart. Both Deegan and MacCachren had difficulties on Friday night, and MacCachren's trouble continued on Saturday. Deegan ran second for most of the race on Saturday night, but yielded to first Carl Renezeder then to Hart.
That left Deegan with an 11-point lead over Hart headed into the final race at Firebird next month. Certainly not enough to rest easily with, but not a bad margin either.
While the championship fight was going on, Renezeder (LEFT) was winning in the Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan. And winning. And winning. Three times over the course of the event, Renezeder stood on top of the box. But it was perhaps the first time that was the most special. Winning the Pro 4 race on Friday night marked his 100th win in Short Course off road racing.
“It's an amazing journey,” Renezeder said. “The first race I won was in 1999, in Las Vegas. And now we got 100 here as well. I guess that's a good omen. The first one of these trucks I ever sat in was a Lucas Oil truck, so I've got to thank them. It's been an amazing road.”
He followed that with the Pro 2 win later that night and Pro 2 on Saturday. In Saturday's race he shot into the lead at the start, but on Sunday he had to work for it. He snuck his way toward the front, getting by Deegan for second and then beginning to hunt down Rob Naughton who had led from the beginning. When Naughton bicycled in Turn 5, Renezeder came through for his third victory.
The one he missed was Pro 4 on Saturday, when he lost a tire running second to Kyle LeDuc. LeDuc was out front just like the day before when his engine hiccupped and let Renezeder into the lead. On Saturday, LeDuc was dominating until a late-race restart. First his brother Todd got by him, then when he spun in Turn 3 – likely the result of some driveline issues – Corry Weller passed him as well for her best Pro 4 finish.
As a result, Todd gained ground on his brother with his first victory in the Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford, but he still has a 14-point deficit for the Pro 4 title, which will be tough to over come in a single race.
“My crew is amazing,” said Todd on the podium. “We finish every race and we're there every time, it just finally came together for us. We're pulling points and we're going to try to finish the best we can, with wins.”
All the championship drama in Pro 2 and Pro 4 made RJ Anderson clinching the Pro Lite title, which he did by driving his Monster Energy Dodge to victory on Saturday night, seem almost anticlimactic. He traded victories with Casey Currie, who finished second in the Monster Energy Nissan on Sunday just as Anderson did on Friday. Ryan Beat finished third both days, but with Anderson ahead of him and already with a huge lead, it wasn't enough to keep championship hopes alive.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series wraps up on Oct. 27 at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz. That race will be followed the next day by the Pro 2 vs. Pro 4 and Pro Lite vs. Pro Buggy Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 13 winners, Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sept. 22
Pro 4 Unlimited: Carl Renezeder
Pro 2 Unlimited: Carl Renezeder Pro Lite Unlimited: Casey Currie Pro Buggy Unlimited: Cameron Steele Super Lite: Sheldon Creed Limited Buggy: Jordan Poole Modified Kart: Cole Mamer Kart Jr. 2: Dylan Winbury Kart Jr. 1: Darren Hardesty
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 14 winners, Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sept. 23
Pro 4 Unlimited: Todd LeDuc Pro 2 Unlimited: Carl Renezeder Pro Lite Unlimited: RJ Anderson Pro Buggy Unlimited: Steven Greinke Super Lite: Ryan Hagy Limited Buggy: John Fitzgerald Modified Kart: Bradley Morris Kart Jr. 2: Broc Dickerson Kart Jr. 1: Hailie Deegan