The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series made several changes to its racing procedures during the off season, some of which were introduced at the opening round at Firebird international Raceway in March, and some that will make their debut when the series rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway later this month. As with any change, some competitors welcomed them with open arms while others are reserving judgment.
Perhaps the most significant of the changes is the elimination of the mid-race competition yellow. Since its inception, the series has gathered the field up in the middle of the race and slowed it down, whether a caution period was warranted or not. Sometimes a necessary caution coincided with the competition yellow.
However, few races go without a caution period, especially in Pro 2 and Pro Lite. So the series did away with the competition yellow and will now not count yellow flag laps against the race distance. A bonus point will still be awarded to the leader at halfway.
Pro 2 and Pro Lite competitor Brian Deegan has mixed feelings about the changes.
“I think the mandatory yellow is what makes this racing exciting. I don't know why they're not doing it,” the defending Pro 2 champ says. “Not counting the yellows gives the guys who have more problems throughout the year a better shot at winning the title, which isn't us. I'd rather have the yellows counted because we have good prepped trucks.”
Carl Renezeder raced in a Pro 4 race that went caution free at Firebird, a first for the series. But also during the weekend, he raced in another Pro 4 race and two Pro 2 races (winning three out of the four) that had more than their fair share of cautions, so he saw it both ways. His opinion is somewhat opposite Deegan's.
“I think the mandatory caution is too contrived. They're going to happen, especially in the bigger classes. Maybe not as much in Pro 4, but it will – especially on the tighter tracks.
“I don't know about the yellows not counting. It sure makes the race awfully long. I'm surprised the track held up as good as it did. When they don't count the yellows, the track will dry out. It only has so much life to it,” Renezeder says.
The new yellow flag procedure will certainly alter strategies. For one thing, competitors have to be prepared to run many more laps than they did before, since the race will no longer be a set number of laps. That bit Sheldon Creed, who had a shot at winning Sunday's Pro Lite race at Firebird. Just as he took the lead on the penultimate lap, his truck began to sputter, running out of fuel. But racers will also have to adjust their race plans in other ways – just holding position for the first half may not be enough to put a driver in position to win with the new rules.
“It changes [the strategy] quite a bit,” says Renezeder. “If you know the lap the yellow's going to be on, you can plan for that. But I think it's better.”
Other new rules will include red and yellow lights in the cockpits lit by race control to give drivers immediate notification of a flag change and Raceceivers tied into the drivers' radios so race control can communicate with them directly. Both changes are planned for implementation at Las Vegas.
It's early, and there is a lot of racing to be done yet, but Renezeder had about as good a start as possible, scoring max points in Pro 4, giving him a 12-point lead over Eric Barron and a 14-point edge over Kyle LeDuc, who had minor mechanical problems in both races. A win and a second in Pro 2 left Renezeder a single point shy of Marty Hart, who flip-flopped positions with Renezeder, in the points.
Deegan's weekend in Pro 2 wasn't what he would have liked, but he left Firebird tied for third in the points with Greg Adler. In Pro Lite, however, a win on Saturday and a third on Sunday gave him he championship lead over Casey Currie and Sunday winner RJ Anderson.
Geoffrey Cooley and Bradley Morris swapped wins in Pro Buggy, with Cooley heading into Vegas with the points lead.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Championship Points
Carl Renezeder 102
Eric Barron 90
Kyle LeDuc 88
Marty Hart 99
Carl Renezeder 98
Greg Adler 84
Brian Deegan 84
Brian Deegan 98
Casey Currie 88
RJ Anderson 82
Geoffrey Cooley 98
Bradley Morris 94
Dave Mason 93
Cole Mamer 97
Brock Heger 97
Travis Pecoy 92
Kart Junior 2
Parker Porter 101
Hayden Clink 98
Broc Dickerson 90
Kart Junior 1
Blaze Nunley 96
Kali Kinsman 94
Ray Roben 89