Short course off-road racing returned to Glen Helen Raceway, and Southern California welcomed it back warmly with a standing-room-only sellout crowd as the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series performed Rounds 9 and 10 under the lights.
It was a tight, loamy 0.8-mile course that met the racers in San Bernardino. Although short, the course was plenty wide to allow good passing and alternate lines – handy as the soft soil rutted up as the races went on. Those ruts and a whoops series that some dubbed the “un-rhythm” section caused plenty of carnage, but didn't diminish the quality of the racing.
In Pro 2 Unlimited, the quality racing has lately been found behind Rob MacCachren, as he has developed a habit of checking out. On Saturday, starting in third, he shot his Rockstar Energy Ford to the front ahead of Greg Adler, starting on pole thanks to the top-four inversion from qualifying. Fast qualifier Carl Renezeder was quickly around second-place starter Bryce Menzies and in pursuit of Adler. But coming hard through the whoops section into Turn 3, he got into Adler, sending him over. His glowing red brake discs may have told the tale, but whether mechanical difficulty or driver error, the move earned him a black flag and a move to the rear of the field. MacCachren was never headed and led Menzies, Ricky Johnson, Mike Johnson and Jeff Geiser.
Sunday was little different, with the exception of the red flag before the first lap was done. Robbie Pierce, who started on the front row, had a spectacular flip through the whoops section after someone got into him. He was transported to a local hospital alert and conscious, while the field waited on the front straight for the race to resume. Once it did, MacCachren was in command. At the competition yellow, he was followed by R. Johnson, Menzies, Renezeder and Geiser. Ricky Johnson was passed by Menzies and then dropped out shortly after the green flag waved again. Menzies also was struck with mechanical problems. MacCachren flew to the checker with Renezeder, Adler, Rodrigo Ampudia and Mike Johnson in tow.
“What a great track,” said MacCachren after his second win of the weekend. “I knew there was going to be a lot of carnage, so I knew the sooner I got out front the better.” MacCachren complimented his crew, saying, “They're making this truck faster every time.” That's not good news for the Pro 2 competition.
On both days, the Pro 4 Unlimited races begged the question, “How many times can Rick Huseman come from the back to the front?” The answer was not quite enough times to score another double win, but almost. Huseman, along with Renezeder, missed the drivers' meeting on Saturday and had to start at the back – not really a problem for either one. Huseman charged through the field while Kyle LeDuc (left) took charge. Renezeder had a little more trouble making it through, and rolled off the jump exiting Turn 2 a few laps in. Huseman worked his way into the top 5, with Adrian Cenni and Mike Johnson in between him and leader Kyle LeDuc.
Kyle had his own difficulties, though, catching an edge and rolling out of the lead a few laps later, handing the lead to Huseman. Kyle wasn't done, landing on his wheels and resuming racing in third. He charged back to the front, gaining the lead when Huseman bicycled, only to lose it again to Huseman's Monster/Traxxas Toyota on the next-to-last lap. He was second, followed by Cenni, Curt LeDuc and Travis Coyne.
“We're leading the points and we wanted to have a nice clean race to be sure we were there at the end,” said Huseman. “Sometimes you have those races that just kind of come to you – everybody's just kind of moving out of the way. I think a lot of it was going into Turn 2, I took a high line so I got a nice strong run for the whoops. I think I was able to pass three or four trucks right in the whoops section. After that, I was able to run some good laps and put myself in good position.”
After tire trouble early on Sunday, Huseman had his work cut out for him again. He might have headed to the front one more time, but, while running third, got balked by Carl Renezeder who bobbled in Turn 3, causing a big pileup. He got going again, but by this time Kyle LeDuc and Carl Renezeder had checked out. Renezeder got a great run off Turn 2 and through the whoops on the penultimate lap, and dove inside LeDuc to take the lead in Turn 3; two turns later, though, Renezeder rolled, handing the lead to LeDuc for his first win of the season in his Rockstar Energy/Makita Tools Ford. Huseman had to settle for second, with Kent Brascho, Mike Johnson and Eric Barron rounding out the top five.
“I know Rick's a madman so I wanted to get up front as soon as I could,” LeDuc said. “That was probably the nastiest, rutted up Pro 4 track ever, and the carnage showed it.”
Like MacCachren, Pro Lite driver Marty Hart was a double winner in the Stronghold Motorsports/Lamb Energy Ford, erasing his points gap to Chris Brandt. On Saturday, Hart was dogged by Brian Deegan who kept up the pursuit even after he ran wide and hit the wall in Turn 2 in a move he described on the podium as a “50-50 grind.” Brandt rolled out of the race while running third. Sean Geiser jumped into the lead on Sunday, followed by Hart, newcomer John Beyer, Matt Loiodice and Brandt. Deegan left the race with no drive in his truck, helping Hart's points chase. After the competition yellow, Hart went for the lead as Geiser sailed off the jump betweens Turns 1 and 2, hitting the wall and rolling. Loiodice would hit the same wall and later spin, dropping back. That left Brandt and Beyer on the podium, followed by Adam Wik and Aaron Daugherty.
Jerry Whelchel has been tough to beat since joining Pro Buggy Unlimited at the second Las Vegas weekend, and was immediately in front and pulling away from the pack on Saturday as the race began, with Bobby PeCoy close behind. PeCoy struck tire trouble, though, and left Cameron Steele, Steven Greinke, Doug Fortin and Phil Bollman pursuing. On Sunday, Larry Job started out front and was never headed, leading Greinke, Fortin, Whelchel and Kyle LeDuc, making a guest appearance in Mike Porter's buggy.
CJ Greaves dominated Super Lite on Saturday, with Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg showing his steady improvement over the season with a second. He'd improve on that on Sunday, battling with fellow Mulisha man Jeff Kargola for the lead for most of the race. Greaves sneaked by Kargola late to take second.
John Fitzgerald (right) is making a habit of pouncing late in Limited Buggy races to win, and he did so on Saturday, pursuing Curt Geer until Geer bobbled in Turn 2, and Fitzgerald took the win followed by Geer, Justin Smith, Quentin Tucker and Geoffrey Cooley. On Sunday, however, he tangled with Cooley while Smith ran away out front, and was black flagged. Fitzgerald did make it back up to fifth, behind Smith, Bruce Fraley, Dave Mason and Kevin McCullough.
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series resumes action at Speedworld Off Road Park in Surprise, Ariz., on Sept. 25-26 for another night race. The races from Glen Helen will be televised Aug. 28, Sept. 4, Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 on SPEED Channel and Oct. 24 on VERSUS. Check local listings for times.