Ryan Beat and Bradley Morris go at it. (Richard S. James photo)
It's the time of the racing season when points begin to come to the forefront. Wins still matter, but every possible point is critical as championships begin to run out of time. That was certainly an important factor as the competitors in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series arrived at the new Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nev., but it could have easily been lost amid the spectacular setting and closed-course off road track that greeted them.
With big elevation changes, a wide fast track and plenty of obstacles, the racing was bound to be spectacular. But with features like a couple of huge drops, there was potential for some big accidents as well. There were a few fairly dramatic tumbles – including one wild ride by Rob MacCachren that required a replacement truck to be brought in from Southern California – but no drivers were seriously hurt.
The accidents were only an unfortunate sideshow to the racing, and the track produced plenty of it.
“This place is awesome. This is what our trucks should be doing,” said Kyle LeDuc, driver of the Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford Pro 4. LeDuc was one of several drivers that had to keep an eye on the points as he duels his brother, Todd, for the Pro 4 title. He had his work cut out for him on Saturday after the top six qualifiers were inverted, and he was qualifier no. 1. Eric Barron, winner of the last three rounds, moved from the outside of the front row into the lead at the start.
Kyle quickly slotted behind his brother in fourth, then worked his way past Todd two laps in. Carl Renezeder, running second in his Lucas Oil/General Tire Nissan, and Kyle then tag-teamed Barron to move into first and second. Then Kyle began to stalk Renezeder, attacking repeatedly where he was quickest, going into Turn 4. That was where the pass for the lead began, as the two left Turn 4 side-by-side before LeDuc was finally able to seal the pass in Turn 1. With Todd in third, he added to his points cushion.
Then on Sunday he gave it right back. With a pair of apparently blown shocks in the rear – and an already-sore back from casing the whoops a couple of times the day before – there was no holding off first Renezeder, then Kyle's father Curt and finally Todd. For Renezeder, it was his 99th short course off road win.
One of the closest points battles has been in Pro 2. Brian Deegan, Rob MacCachren and Marty Hart have traded wins all season, with only Greg Adler spoiling the party so far. But MacCachren – with the previously mentioned tumble – and Deegan, with some mechanical difficulties, had races to forget. That left Hart and Adler fighting for the win. Hart was leading at the competition yellow, but Adler muscled past him in Turn 2. But on the last lap Adler got it wrong in the whoops and Hart got by him for victory in the ReadyLift/GearUp2Go Ford. That gave him the points lead.
But, much like in Pro 4, fortunes reversed on Sunday. An accident in Turn 3 for Hart, while Deegan cruised to a win in the Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford and MacCachren finished third, meant that Hart only had the points lead for a day.
If anyone didn't have to worry about points, it was Pro Lite competitor RJ Anderson. Yet he had about as good a day on Saturday as he could without winning, finishing second in the Monster Energy/Polaris Dodge while his closest competitor – not very close, actually – Chris Brandt, had engine trouble. So Casey Currie, who had taken the lead from Anderson on lap 2, went on to take his first win of the season and become the fourth different winner of 2012.
Number five came the next day. Deegan looked to be in control to take his fourth win of the season. Then on the final restart, Bradley Morris, a double winner at Glen Helen, had an amazing run and jumped into the lead. But Ryan Beat had an even better run, and sneaked inside Morris in Turn 1. He held that lead all the way to the finish for his first victory in the Premier Motorsports Group/eBay Motors Ford.
“I just saw an opening and had to go for it. I thought it was my one chance to get it done,” said Beat of the winning pass. “It's amazing. We've been working so hard, me, my dad and my mechanic, Roy, day in and day out. It feels good that it paid off and to know that we're here to stay and we're going to keep shooting for these wins.
Beat has had fairly consistent top-10 finishes and sat third in the points behind Brandt. But with Brandt's troubles on Saturday and a bit of a struggle on Sunday, he passed Brandt for second this weekend, although he has little hope of catching Anderson.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series resumes for night racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 21-22.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 11 winners
Wild West Motorsports Park
Aug. 24, 2012
Pro 4 Unlimited: Kyle LeDuc
Pro 2 Unlimited: Marty Hart
Pro Lite Unlimited: Casey Currie
Pro Buggy Unlimited: Doug Fortin
Super Lite: Code Rahders
Limited Buggy: Bradley Morris
Modified Kart: Cole Mamer
Kart Jr. 2: Broc Dickerson
Kart Jr. 1: Broc Dickerson
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Round 12 winners
Wild West Motorsports Park
Pro 4 Unlimited: Carl Renezeder
Pro 2 Unlimited: Brian Deegan
Pro Lite Unlimited: Ryan Beat
Pro Buggy Unlimited: Steven Greinke
Super Lite: Sheldon Creed
Limited Buggy: Jordan Poole
Modified Kart: Cole Mamer
Kart Jr. 2: Dylan Winbury
Kart Jr. 1: Conner McMullen