Brian Deegan, Rob MacCachren and Marty Hart are in an absurdly close fight for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro 2 Unlimited title. With 10 races down and five to go, the next two rounds could be pivotal in the championship. Making it even more interesting is that this weekend's double round takes place at an all-new facility, the Wild West Motorsports Park near Reno, Nev., where no driver will have prior experience or advantage.
The new track will look like nothing else on the circuit. Although it's not much longer than the others, a little bit of extra length goes a long way. It is also built into a hillside, so it will have a lot of elevation change that the racers don't experience on the other tracks.
"The new track in Reno looks like Chula Vista has been reincarnated,” says Pro 2 and Pro 4 competitor Carl Renezeder, who was recently in Reno inspecting the track. “It has elements that remind me of some of the best short course racing I have ever experienced. I am ready to pull my harness straps tight and hammer down!"
Chula Vista was one of the more popular tracks back in the CORR days, and the Wild West site immediately reminded LOORRS competition director and track designer Tony Vanillo of the San Diego-area location and set about designing a track that reflected its potential.
“This will be one of our premier racetracks. The setting is going to be phenomenal,” says Vanillo.
The front straight is long and begins with a downhill section and ends with a steep uphill, with a couple of 100-foot tabletops along the way. The front straight ends in a tight, uphill 180-degree left-hand turn. Coming out of that turn will be a ski-jump-style dropoff that then goes into a set of rollers and then a 180-degree right-hander. A smaller tabletop leads into the wide-open Turn 3, which should be very fast. The back straight is uphill with a big, 150-foot tabletop and ends with a 150-degree, downhill left-hander onto the front straight.
It will be a great setting for the Pro 2 battle to continue. MacCachren has a 15-point lead on Deegan, who has a scant two points on Hart. Each of these drivers has three wins so far this season – Greg Adler has been the only other Pro 2 winner in 2012 – and a similar number of podium finishes. The championship will likely come down to which driver makes the fewest mistakes or doesn't have mechanical difficulties in the final five races.
Pro 4 is mostly down to two drivers at this point. Although Eric Barron has certainly made his presence felt, winning the last three races, he's coming out of too deep of a hole to have any impact on the title fight. That's left to brothers Kyle and Todd LeDuc, for the first time on separate teams. Kyle, who won the first six races of the season, says he is in championship mode now and his main focus is not on winning, but staying ahead of his brother and preserving or extending his 21-point lead.
RJ Anderson is in command of the Pro Lite class, and it will take some pretty bad luck on his part to lose much of his 47-point lead. Chris Brandt, second in the points, is going to have to recover his early season form to eat into that. Ryan Beat is only eight points behind, a position he sits in thanks to consistency, as he has only one podium finish this season, a second at Miller. Defending champ Brian Deegan has come on strong in the last four races, but too much bad luck early in the year has left him out of the hunt.
Doug Fortin put together an impressive run of five Pro Buggy wins beginning with Round 5, only to have it broken by Mike Porter at the last race at Glen Helen. That's left Fortin with a healthy, if not insurmountable, lead of 25 points over Steven Greinke. With 55 more points down to Geoffrey Cooley in third, it looks like it will be Fortin vs. Greinke for the title.
In SuperLite, it's been all about Sheldon Creed. The young rookie – he can't drive on the street yet – has six wins and a 14-point lead over Drew Britt.
All of these drivers will be tested at Reno, though, as the track could intimidate some of the less-experienced racers. The setting should be fantastic for spectators, because the grandstands sit at the lowest elevation, with much of the action taking place on the surrounding hillside.
The gates open to the public at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, which will each feature races for all classes, including the karts. There are also opportunities to meet drivers away from the track, with parties at the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino on Thursday night and at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino on Saturday night.
For more information, see www.lucasoiloffroad.com.