Brian Deegan and his family celebrated his Pro Lite championship while his daughter Hailie, on the left, won the Junior 2 Kart title (LEFT) but Rob MacCachren (BELOW) took the Pro 2 title. (Richard S. James photos)
While Carl Renezeder had already sealed the Pro 4 championship and champions in two other classes – Pro Buggy and Pro Lite – were merely awaiting coronation, Pro 2 had potential to be a real nail-biter. If Rob MacCachren was just a bit off his game, there was a real possibility that Renezeder could pull something out and walk away from the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series finale at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park with another dual championship like he had in 2009.
A nail-biter it was. MacCachren might have lost a few millimeters of his fingernails had it not been for those Nomex gloves. For a moment it looked like the championship might go to…Brian Deegan?
Yes, Deegan, the two-time and defending Pro 2 champion, had battled with Bryce Menzies throughout the race for the lead and MacCachren was parked when the checkers flew. A flurry of adding and subtracting points meant that even as Deegan rolled his Rockstar Energy/Makita/Metal Mulisha/Mickey Thompson Tires Ford into victory lane with Menzies and Marty Hart in tow, exactly who had won the championship was still uncertain.
What of Renezeder? Well, after the first start was aborted after Mike Porter rolled off the second frontstretch tabletop jump, Renezeder and Robby Woods got together in Turn 2. Renezeder had to hit the pits and came back out mired deep in the field, but still with a chance. Unfortunately, after eight laps, his day – and his hopes for a second title – was done.
MacCachren had worked his way to second prior to the yellow for Renezeder and Woods, but Menzies took it back. Discretion being the better part of valor, MacCachren was fine tooling around in third to collect his title.
“At the beginning of the race I was just trying to stay clean, stay away from anybody,” MacCachren said. “If I could get to the front right away and run on my own, that's what I was going to do; otherwise I'd just settle into a position. We settled into third and I was just trying to maintain that position.”
That would have been perfectly suitable had his engine not gone sour. All he could do was keep circulating at low speed and hop he gathered enough points to hold off Deegan's charge. Menzies did his best to help MacCachren by taking the win away from Deegan, but Deegan was having no one of it. He was going to fully capitalize on his competitors' woes.
MacCachren parked his truck with two laps to go. All he could do was hope the math he was doing in his head was right. In the end, his 11th-place finish in his Rockstar Energy/Makita/BFGoodrich Tires Ford was enough to take his first LOORRS Pro 2 championship since 2010.
“Never do you want to win a championship on a tow strap,” said MacCachren (RIGHT). “But we got it done. Thankfully some scenarios happened that helped us. Carl [Renezeder] was out early, he was 18 points behind us. When they told me on the radio that Carl was out, I decided: ‘Well, we can try to win the race now.' But about that time the motor went away.”
It was a much closer call than MacCachren wanted. However, the fact that the championship was so close, coming once again down to the final race, illustrates how competitive things are.
“It's tough. These days the Pro 2 field…all the classes are so competitive. You have to be very, very reliable. You can't have mechanical failures; you can't have any failures. This year we seemed to have the least of everybody. So we're happy. It's good to get that championship back in our camp,” said MacCachren.
Deegan did everything he could, but came up short. He points to a black-flag penalty at Glen Helen as the turning point, where he lost the championship. There, as the laps wound down, he got into MacCachren in what officials decided was too aggressive of a move. Deegan lost 10 positions, or 20 points, to the penalty – enough to make a difference in the championship.
Still, all was not lost for Deegan. Not only did he move past Renezeder for second in the Pro 2 points, he was one of the champions-in-waiting. Once he brought his Rockstar Energy/Makita/Metal Mulish/Mickey Thompson Tires Ford under the green, the Pro Lite title was his. He looked like he was going to put an exclamation mark on that championship with a victory in the finale as he led the early laps. Instead, that honor went to 2012 champ RJ Anderson and his LoanMart/Walker Evans Racing Dodge.
“Luckily we had a cushion coming into today,” said Deegan after he, like MacCachren, took his title sitting on the sidelines. “I had a good qualifying effort and we were fast all weekend. We got out to the lead and I thought, ‘OK, I'm driving like 80 percent, I've got this.' Track conditions were coming to me – slick, hard-packed is my style, because it's like rally. It's all throttle control. I thought, ‘I'm going to drive away from these guys.' It really was coming to me, but I think we melted an oil line.
“In the end, it was a good deal. To win the championship in Pro Lite is saying something. It's way harder than it used to be,” said Deegan after claiming his third Pro Lite championship and fifth title in five years. He was actually celebrating the family's second title of the season; daughter Hailie took the Junior 2 Kart championship with a victory earlier in the day. It marks the first time two generations of the same family have won a title in the same year in Lucas Oil Off Road.
“She beat a lot of boys that are good drivers,” said the happy father. “When she stands on that podium and she's the only girl, that's saying something. That's not easy to do. I'm stoked. I'm pretty sure that's never happened, I don't think there's ever been a father-daughter championship in the history of off road, let alone racing in general. There's a lot that's going to come out of that. It was a cool, proud Dad moment.”
In the karts, it was a day of making statements. In both Junior 1 and Modified, the champions were also race winners. Myles Cheek won Modified Kart and the championship, while Ricky Gutierrez had a double celebration in Junior 1.
Likewise for Pro Buggy. Steven Greinke was both the defending champ and the champion-in-waiting, having come into the finale with a 50-point lead. Putting his SC Fuels buggy out front only made it that much sweeter.
With the Pro 4 title already decided in Renezeder's favor, the final race of the regular season was all about winning. A couple of interlopers made things more interesting – both Bradley Morris and RJ Anderson were giving Pro 4 a try. Anderson was starting on the outside of the front row, but got pushed up into the wall on the opening lap and parked his truck. That left Eric Barron out front, a position he was obviously happy with.
Kyle LeDuc was less happy about it. He attacked Barron relentlessly, setting his truck for the turns and backing in very early, even setting his truck for Turn 2 while still coming off the big step-up tabletop on the backstretch. But he couldn't do much about actually getting by Barron.
Then, on a restart after a brief yellow for debris, Renezeder got together with LeDuc, leaving LeDuc sideways and MacCachren into second. MacCachren looked good to stay there until he experienced his second engine failure of the day, albeit this one in much more spectacular fashion as a huge fireball erupted from his truck on the front straight before he parked it.
Barron cruised to the win in his LAT Racing Oils Toyota, his second of the season. He was followed by Renezeder and Kyle LeDuc.
Lucas Oil Off road Racing Series Round 15 Winners
Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park
Pro 4 Eric Barron
Pro 2 Brian Deegan
Pro Lite RJ Anderson
Pro Buggy Steven Greinke
Modified Kart Myles Cheek
Junior 2 Kart Hailie Deegan
Junior 1 Kart Ricky Gutierrez