Rob MacCachren, adding Pro 4 to his repertoire at Miller Motorsports Park in a guest drive for Stronghold Motorsports, stops his pit bike at Rick Huseman's truck, with a simple observation:
“You're crazy, man.”
Normally dominating Pro 2, MacCahren hasn't had much opportunity to share track space with Huseman and get accustomed to his driving style. He wasn't expecting Huseman to get a little off track and up on the two wheels to get by him during practice. It's clear that Huseman will do whatever he needs to do to win, including walking a bit on the wild side.
“I like driving a little wild, as long as I feel I'm in control,” Huseman says. “Most of the time I'm trying to be in control. We're on a brand-new track, just learning it, trying to do some fast lap times. We beat everybody by about a second-and-a-half today, so whatever we're doing is working.”
Working is a bit of an understatement. The driver of the No, 36 Monster/Traxxas Toyota has won at least one race every race weekend in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series so far this season and is leading the Pro 4 Unlimited points after Miller by a pretty solid margin. While it's possible he'll go into cruising mode for the second half of the season, it seems unlikely.
“There are different philosophies throughout the year, depending on where you are in points. At the beginning of the year, we're trying to win races and get a good lead in points. Toward the middle and the end you start making sure you finish races, especially in a series where there are lots of racers. We've got a lead in the points right now, but not a very big one. It's hard to tell what to do…if we keep going for it and try to build the lead or what,” he says.
It's a pretty good dilemma to have, especially for a guy that had no expectations of being in this position. What began as a test session in competition conditions at the first race at Las Vegas has turned into a full-blown run for the championship.
“I had no idea I would be racing in this series. I talked to my sponsors and they wanted me to go to the first two events. I asked them, ‘What are we going to do if we start leading the points? Are we going to walk away from this?' They said we'd look at that when it comes down to it. And it came down to it. We're here, and Toyota's backing us 100 percent. Without Traxxas and Toyota, BFGoodrich and even Monster, we wouldn't be in this series. If we can go for two championships, why not?”
The only reason why not would be the travel. It's not the distance; it's the time away from his infant son, his first, that gets hard. But Huseman's wife and son will be at most of the rest of the races. That adds to the family atmosphere in the Huseman pit. His brother Danny is the crew chief; his brother Kevin is the chief mechanic and his father helps out now and then as well.
“We've got it pretty dialed, my brothers and I,” Huseman says. “Everybody knows their job, and we've got Toyota with the motor program. Not having to worry about that, not having to worry about whether my brothers are going to do a good job…. My brothers want to win as bad as I do, and it's a team effort to get into the winner's circle. They know that and they want to make sure the truck's in tip-top shape so we can be in the winner's circle. To have that confidence, it makes it a lot easier.”
That part, he wants easy – he doesn't want to worry about whether the truck is going to last the race or not. That way he can concentrate on the driving. And like a true racer, he doesn't always want the easiest race.
“Whenever I can come from the back and pass people fair and square and pass the fast guys and go for the win, that's a really good race for me,” he explains. “I had a couple of those last year. Those races make it a lot more special. When you get the holeshot and lead the whole race, it's great and it's fun and all, but you don't feel you worked as hard for it as when you come from the back.”
While the Riverside, Calif., racer says that sometimes when you start up front, you're a sitting duck, that hasn't proven the case for him too much this season. He's started up front and finished there more often than not. It may not be the most fun and rewarding, but he seems to like it nevertheless.