Lena, Wis. ~ From the first green flag to the final checkered, race fans at the Dirt City Motorplex in Lena, Wis. were on the edge of their seat all weekend long. Championship leads either shrunk or completely vanished in some cases as the sport’s best off-road racers cranked up the intensity.
The cramped confines of the Lena track provide little room for error, and with only two weekends of racing left in the 2022 season, the opportunities to stay in the title mix are becoming scarce. That made round eight of AMSOIL Championship Off-Road a make or break situation, and the sports never stopped digging until the last laps were completed.
LeDuc Finds Fantastic Finish after Sketchy Start
At the beginning of the year, the championship chase in Pro 4 was expected to come down to the past two class title holders: CJ Greaves and Kyle LeDuc. Even with a deep field of contenders, the former champs were still expected to be neck-and-neck at this point of the season. But heading into Lena, CJ Greaves held a 42 point lead over LeDuc, with Johnny Greaves in second and Adrian Cenni sitting in third ahead of LeDuc.
LeDuc would need to make a move in Dirt City to get back into the fight. On Saturday, he took care of business, winning for the first time in a calendar year and picking up nine points on Greaves. On Sunday, a repeat performance would be ideal, but when LeDuc looked over to his left from his front row starting position he saw Greaves revving up next to him.
The crowd was ready for a dog fight between the two, but they would have to wait a bit longer. LeDuc brought the fans to their feet on the first turn, but only because he went too wide and bounced off the wall, knocking him back to fifth and giving Greaves an uncontested lead.
Still in striking position, LeDuc would make it even more interesting on the second lap as he once again went wide into turn one, banged back into the k-rail in the exact same spot and then found himself teeter-tottering atop the k-rail. The rest of the field would race to the finish line where the yellow flag was waiting for them. LeDuc was able to get off the concrete barrier and stay on the lead lap, which would prove pivotal to the final outcome on Sunday.
With LeDuc at the end of the line-up, Greaves was out in front, with Johnny Greaves and Cole Mamer leading the way. CJ would keep the lead and stayed in control of the race for the next several laps. LeDuc, meanwhile, was going for broke as he bonsaied around the track. When he found the rear bumper of another truck, he didn’t stay behind it for long. With four laps left, LeDuc got around Johnny Greaves for third, and then one lap later passed Andrew Carlson for second.
CJ Greaves looked quick enough to keep LeDuc at bay, but with four turns to go, Greaves pushed wide on a right-handed turn and that was enough for LeDuc to sneak through. Greaves made a last ditch effort on the final turn, but LeDuc had position, and the weekend sweep.
“I went backwards really quick on the first lap and then I got back up to CJ and then I put on the fence,” said LeDuc. “You kind of think the race is over at that point, so sitting there, I had some time to reminisce on what we were doing. As I got back off the wall you just have to regroup. This truck has been awesome this weekend. It’s been flawless and we’re coming out with two wins so that proves that we still got it in the truck, still got it the team. We’re gonna fight and that’s all we can do is drive to win races and hopefully championship comes with it.”
LeDuc’s win puts him 31 points behind Greaves but moves him into second. Greaves talked about the importance of winning races, but also their need to focus on the title over the remaining rounds. His second place finish marks six podiums in eight rounds this year.
Jimmy Henderson continues to push hard, including a third place finish on Sunday that was close to being a second if he could have found his way around a spinning Greaves on the final turn. His fourth podium of the year also moved him into fourth in the overall rankings.
Mittag Goes Flat Out for First Pro 2 Win
Dust control was the name of the game all day long at Dirt City as temperatures climbed into the upper 80’s by mid-afternoon. That meant an extra dose of water added prior to the Pro 2. It also meant 2wd trucks digging deeper for some early traction.
For the first half of the race, Doug Mittag and Ricky Gutierrez found the right footing as they held a race within a race out front. Mittag was able to keep the lead through the mid-race mandatory caution.
Mittag checked out in the second half, adding time with each passing lo and pulling away from Gutierrez for his first win of the season, which was redemptive after a late, pre-season push just to get the truck built in time for the opener.
“Super sweet,” said Mittag. “We build this truck in like 40 days, getting it ready last minute. We thought were gonna come with a fast truck and just start getting podiums, but it was a complete opposite. We were in 6th to 7th place week-in-and-week out. Just tough days and finally here we are up on the top of the box. I’m so excited now.”
The runner-up spot would take a bit longer to sort out. Brooks was fifth at the restart but moved into third behind Cory Winner and Gutierrez, who were fighting for position. Winner would spin with three laps to go, moving Brooks into third behind Gutierrez. It looked like Gutierrez was going to keep Brooks in the third spot, but with four turns to go, Brooks made his final move and powered past Gutierrez for second, his sixth podium finish of the season.
Gibbs Breaks Through in Pro Lite
After eight rounds of action, there is a tie at the top of the Pro Lite standings as defending champion Brock Heger and Kyle Greaves evened things up over the weekend. But the real story from Dirt City comes from the number five truck driven by Trey Gibbs.
Gibbs has been inching towards his first career win, having finished on the box four times this season with two of those being in the runner-up spots. On Saturday, Gibbs finished in third, just behind Heger and Greaves. On Sunday, he left them all in the dust.
The depth of the class was on display throughout as Matt Wood led from the start but was replaced out front by Brody Eggleston. Neither Wood nor Eggleston had a podium finish before Sunday, but they looked the part throughout. Gibbs, meanwhile, kept stalking the leaders, he tussled between second and fifth, but found a lot of late speed and good traction as he pushed past Eggleston on lap nine. A late pass like that usually means a close finish, but Gibbs had found another gear and started to check out on his way to the win.
“I’m not stopping here,” said Gibbs after the win. “We’ve been showing the speed all year and it’s here. It’s finally here. We got the monkey off the back.”
Eggelsted, who led at the halfway mark, kept pace with Gibbs through the finish line to finish on the podium for the first time in 2022. Wood never backed down, even with Heger and Carson Parrish on his rear bumper for much of the race.
Loire Leaps into Lead on Last Lap of Pro Turbo
The old saying in racing is if you want to finish first, first you have to finish. Unfortunately for Andrew Carlson, he nearly picked up his second win of the season, but instead he felt a heartbreaker with one lap to go.
Carlson got the lead on the first lap when the race leader spun and collected two cars. Carlson zipped into the lead and didn’t miss a mark, extending his lead over Robert Loire by nearly two seconds. But with the white flag in sight, Carlson slowed just before the start of the final lap. That opened the door and reset the podium for Loire, who was unmatched on the final lap as he raced to his second win in the past three races.
Gregoire Michaud and Elliot Burns put in a spirited fight for the final two podium spots, with Michaud crossing the line ahead of Burns as both drivers made it into victory lane for the first time this season.
PRO STOCK SXS: CJ Greaves didn’t waste any time getting into the lead, using a wider line than the rest of the field on the first lap and trusting his talent to move him out front
In a tale as old as time, Greaves was quickly joined by defending champion and points leader Brock Heger who worked through the slick turns to settle into second. Joining them a few laps later was Owen VanEperen, who had to maneuver through the field to get into third by the mid-point.
After the restart, not much changed in terms of running order. Heger made several passes on Greaves but those were quickly countered, and Greaves ended each lap with the lead. Greaves was able to stretch out his lead enough to finish ahead of Heger by several car lengths. VanEperen was in contact with Heger during the second half, finishing in third.
PRO SPEC: The Pro Spec class was designed to promote competition on an equal field, with each truck being roughly the same. The class has shown some of the best races this year and the revolving door at the top of the podium continued again on Sunday.
One day after missing the podium, Gray Leadbetter bounced back for her fourth win of the season. Leadbetter was able to get past Nick Visser but was never able to pull away as the two matched times for the final six laps. The gap between them during that time never exceeded one second, including the final lap that showed a .677 difference between first and second.
Easton Sleaper finished third. As for the overall standings, Visser and Leadbetter are now tied with 394 points each after eight rounds.
PRO AM SXS: Both Colin Kernz and Matt Boerschinger were looking for their first Pro AM SXS win this weekend.
For Kernz, who leads the points, a win would have given him momentum and a larger points lead over Bill Berger. But Boerschinger was a wall in round eight. For every move Kernz made in an attempt to get around the race leader, Boerschinger had the right countermove dialed up. When the dust settled, it was Boerschinger who grabbed his first win in 2022, with Kernz in second and Berger one spot back in third.
SUPER BUGGY: He may be a rookie in Super Buggy, but Billy Buth drove like a seasoned veteran on Sunday.
Buth grabbed hold of the lead on lap three and never missed a mark on his way to his first career Super Buggy win. The victory was his fourth podium finish this season and put him into the mix for the overall championship, where he now sits in the points lead by one point.
Mike Kirkman just kept finding more speed late in the race as he set the quickest time on lap 12 before running out of laps before he could catch Buth. It was good enough for his highest finish this season in second, one spot ahead of Michael Meister.
1600 SINGLE BUGGY: Defending 1600 Single Buggy champion Dylan Parsons was on point on Sunday as he got the lead early and picked up his first win of the season. Tony Keepers laid the pressure on heavily over the final ten laps but couldn’t find an opening to overtake Parsons. Connor Schulz, who is filling in for Tom Trelstad this weekend, picked up the final podium spot after starting tenth.
1600 LIGHT BUGGY: Tyler Roloff held off all challengers in 1600 Light Buggy on Sunday. One day after picking up his first career class win, Roloff stayed out front from start-to-finish for win number two. It looked like both Schulz brothers were going to round out the podium, but Colin and Connor became entangled with just more than a full lap remaining. That opened the door for Greg Stingle and Jake Schilleman.
MOD KART: It was an intense battle for the lead for a majority of the Mod Kart race on Sunday, but Porter Inglese was able to pull away from the field over the final few laps for his fifth win of the season. The race for the runner-up spot was a three-way affair, with Andy Johnson crossing the line ahead of Zach Wirhanowicz (3rd) and Tristin Hinton a close fourth.
170 SXS: For the second year in a row, Kody Krantz has swept the 170 SXS class in Dirt City. Krantz used a last lap pass after a restart to pick up his third straight win this season. Raymond Deininger locked down the runner-up spot, finishing just ahead of Drake Dreher in third.
570 SXS: It was a Sunday drive for new points leader Chase Braun who led the 570 SXS class from start-to-finish for his third win. Ryker Remington crossed the line in second with Hudson Houle holding off a pair of cars for third
SUPER STOCK TRUCK: With a starting position of fifth, round seven winner Joey Maciosek needed to steer clear of trouble to pick up the weekend sweep. Most of that smart driving happened on the first lap as several trucks spun or drifted wide on the slicked-up track. While in second, he was able to get around race leader Nick Byng, who spun out in front of Maciosek. After that, Maciosek was able to keep a hard-charging Scott Boulanger at bay for his fourth straight podium. Points leader Ben Holtger would finish third.
SPORTSMAN SXS: Cody Jones attacked the Dirt City track and sprinted to his second Sportsman SXS win of the year. Jones had some late pressure from eventual runner-up Matt Vanderheyden but was able to skirt away over the final two laps for the win. Jacob Blemke returned to the podium with a third place finish, his first trip to the winner’s circle since round three.
SHORT COURSE KARTS: It was blanket coverage for the top three finishers in Short Course Karts on Sunday. Race Visser led from the get-go and was able to hold off both Wesley Vande Voort and Gavin Plummer at the line for his first win of the season. Vande Voort finished just 3/10ths of a second behind Visser while Plummer was just 3/10ths of a second behind Vande Voort.
Only two weekends of racing remain on the AMSOIL Championship Off-Road 2022 schedule. The series returns to action August 13-14 at Bark River International Raceway in Bark River, Mich.