Story by Homer Eubanks
The Lucas Oil Off Road Championship started the season at Firebird Raceway and came back to finish the season there as well. Round 15 had many championships undecided so the event became a deciding factor for many of the drivers. With the season championships over the Lucas Oil officials brought out $100,000 to offer for the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races on Sunday.
Brian Deegan put his driving talents to good use to lead the Pro 2 Unlimited racers into the final round with 632 points earned over the current reigning champion Rob MacCachren with 596. Deegan had earned his points through consistency as he had only one qualifying point on the season and two main event wins. Hanging back in third was Carl Renezeder (who had qualified quickest for this event) and now had 571 points.
Once the action got underway Jeremy McGrath, currently 4th in championship points, used his front row starting spot to grab the early lead. McGrath held the lead for several laps until MacCachren slipped inside of him. Soon after Scott Martenson caught fire causing a full course yellow erasing any real estate MacCachren had earned from McGrath. Once the green flew again MacCachren made it through turn one but McGrath got spun around and held up the pack long enough for MacCachren to regain his lost real estate. Robert Naughton drove around the turn one congestion and was behind MacCachren with Deegan third and Robby Woods stayed close in fourth. The front three ran hard and tight right up to the mid race yellow.
On the restart MacCachren once again dominated the field. MacCachren was able to hold the lead until Deegan came into turn three and rammed into the back of the MacCachren’s truck causing him to roll. It appeared Deegan was setting up MacCachren to cut inside but somehow forgot to hit the brakes and used MacCachren to slow him down. The officials noticed the incident and gave Deegan a well deserved black flag. Moving him to the back of the pack. Inheriting from Deegan’s oops was Greg Adler who was able to take the lead with Jeff Gieser second. Deegan was not the only one seeing the black flag during this free for all as Robert Naughton saw it as well. Naugthon’s black flag didn’t turn out to be a podium factor but Deegan was able to regroup and pass Evan Evans on the last lap to grab the third spot on the podium. Taking his first Pro 2 win was Greg Adler and making his first appearance on the Pro 2 podium was Jeff Gieser second overall. Deegan’s third place finish wasn’t needed to win the championship but was an added bonus to finish out the year. MacCachren’s truck was bent and he limped around to finish in ninth place.
Deegan’s win padded his season points total to earn him the championship and the defending Champ Rob MacCachren finished second with Carl Renezeder third for the year.
Pro 2 vs. Pro 4 Challenge Cup
Sunday’s dash for cash drew 25 contestants, both Pro 2 and Pro 4 Unlimited, to battle for the top spot on the podium and of course $30,000 to the one standing there. The Pro 2 trucks were given a half lap lead over the Pro 4’s to try and even out the power to ground difference. Setting on the pole of Pro 2 was Robby Woods with Jeff Gieser outside. Row two was Rodrigo Ampudia and Robert Naughton. Back in the Pro 4 line up it was Adrian Cenni, Curt LeDuc, Jerry Daugherty and Josh Merrill heading up their pack.
When the race got underway Robby Woods led the pack and began pulling away as Geiser and Carl Renezeder were battling for the second spot. Renezeder settled the argument on lap three and Geiser started feeling pressure from Jeremy McGrath. Back in the pack Cenni was working his Pro 4 towards the front. Things started heating up when Rob MacCachren tried to get underneath Ampudia and they tangled causing Ampudia to roll but land with rubber side down enabling him to continue. Ampudia’s troubles multiplied a lap later when he got up on his side in turn four and the truck caught fire taking him out of the race. Ampudia’s fire brought out a full course yellow. Once racing resumed Woods still had the lead with Renezeder second and Kyle LeDuc had moved to third. Another yellow slowed things down then on the restart Kyle LeDuc cut inside both Woods and Renezeder for the lead. LeDuc’s lead was short lived as he broke a tire off and dove up and over Evan Evans, retiring Kyle LeDuc and causing another yellow. Woods moved back into the lead but this time his lead was short lived as someone rammed into him in turn three hard enough to cause him to roll. He was able to get going but Adrian Cenni was now the leader with Todd LeDuc second and McGrath third. Todd LeDuc rolled in turn four but was able to limp along. Cenni was given a black flag for aggressive driving with Renezeder which put Robert Naughton into the lead. On the final lap McGrath and Renezeder battled for second and the two tangled causing McGrath to spin and Renezeder to almost flip. Todd LeDuc had broke down in the whoop section and Evan Evans ran over his truck causing him to roll over the berm.
When they crossed the line it was Robert Naughton, Carl Renezeder second and Brian Deegan. Naughton became the first Pro 2 truck to win the Pro 2 battle with Pro 4’s and in doing so took home $30000. The officials gave Renezeder a black flag for his altercation with McGrath which gave Deegan second place and the $15000 that went with it. McGrath was officially third winning $7500. When the Renezeder call was announced a fan shouted, “Justice has been served.” While yet another fan hollered out, ” Not until the person rolling Woods over is penalized.” I guess the officials missed that one.
Carl Renezeder came into the final round with a commanding lead in the Pro 4 Unlimited class with 674 points to Kyle LeDuc’s 604. Renezeder had three main event wins for the season won in Las Vegas, UT and at Glen Helen. Rick Huseman had earned enough points before his untimely demise to hold third with 552 points. Little wonder as Huseman had won six main events and qualified quickest six times making it obvious he will be missed by race fans.
When the 12 contestants were unleashed it was Adrian Cenni driving his new race truck into turn one first. Cenni was taking the high line with Kyle LeDuc holding onto second and with his brother Kyle running third. While attempting to take Kyle’s third place position Johnny Greeves ran over the front end of Todd’s truck in turn one. His over zealous move damaged his truck and Greeves retired shortly after. While this was going on Kyle took the lead from Cenni and Carl Renezeder had taken over third. The front two had taken advantage of the mayhem happening behind to pull several seconds lead over the rest of the pack. Of course this lead was taken away with the mandatory yellow. On the restart Renezeder applied some muscle on Cenni to grab the second spot around turn one. In the next turn Cenni spun allowing Josh Merrell to take over third. At this point Kyle LeDuc had four seconds lead over Renezeder and Renezeder had pulled ahead of the pack by seven seconds. Merrell on the other hand had Todd LeDuc and Liam Dorn pressuring his every move. Driving under the checkers first was Kyle LeDuc with Carl Renezeder holding on to second. Josh Merrell finished third.
For the overall season title Carl Renezeder had his number one plate wrapped up before this event. This championship is Renezeder’s eighth in short course racing, which is the most championships of any driver in the sport. Kyle LeDuc took home second place for the season with his brother Todd LeDuc third.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Pro Buggy class is always a tight battle and Mike Porter had put together the best season to earn 631 points with Jerry Whelchel second holding onto 592 points. Porter had won two main events on the year and set quick time twice as well. No wonder the points were tight as Whelchel had qualified quick two times and took home three main event wins. A close third place was Steven Greinke with 583 (three wins on the year).
To start the final race of the season off Garret George and Doug Fortin shared row one and on the start George took the early lead but Fortin was able to take over when George went wide in turn three. On the following lap Justin Smith and Steven Greinke both got around George. Justin Smith was able to quickly pressure Fortin for the lead and on the following lap Smith was able to get under Fortin in turn one. Fortin then received pressure from Grienke. While these two battled over second Smith distance himself from them. Smith was running out by himself until the mandatory yellow brought the pack back up to him. On the restart Greinke cut inside of Smith but his lead was short held as Smith retook the position in turn three. These two again pulled away from the pack. Greinke once again took the lead but Smith was able to once again come right back with another pass. At the checkers it was Justin Smith winning and a close second was Steve Greinke. Wade Wyman took third.
Finishing 12th was Mike Porter but that was good enough to take the season number one plate. Second on the season was Justin Smith, who with today’s win had five wins for the season. In third for the year was Jerry Whelchel.
Lucas Oil Challenge Cup
On Sunday one of the more unique Challenge Cup match ups was between the Pro Lite trucks and Super Buggies. These two classes run similar lap times so they were grouped together with the Super Buggies starting behind the pack of Pro Lites. I guess this is because the last two years the event has been won by a Super Buggy. Up for grabs was a purse of $35,000. In an attempt to balance out the competition the top 10 in each class were inverted. Cory Sisler was the front row setter that took the early lead. Moving up quickly were Pro Lite’s of Chris Brandt and Brian Deegan. Back a little further in the pack Super Buggy driver Justin Smith was moving ahead also. After a few laps Kyle LeDuc had taken over the lead and quickly put some distance between himself and Sisler. Just before the competition yellow came out Smith made a move inside Deegan to take the third place spot. So mid race it was LeDuc, Sisler, Smith and Deegan leading the pack. Once racing got underway Deegan went out after colliding with someone. This moved Brandt into fourth. A yellow caution again slowed the action while track workers cleared Austin Kimbrell from turn four. On the restart Sisler was able to slip past LeDuc for the lead. LeDuc got into a scrape with another truck dropping him back in the pack. A couple of laps later LeDuc rolled in turn one causing yet another yellow condition. LeDuc retired, and once racing got back underway it was Rodrigo Ampudia and Steven Greinke banging off one another which put both racers out of the race. With just two laps to go Sisler, who had led many laps was out with a blown motor. Sisler’s bad luck became Smith’s good luck as he inherited the lead. Once out front Smith set his eyes on the checkers and the $20,000 that came with it. Finishing second (first truck to finish) and taking home $10,000 was Chris Brandt. A well deserved third went to Casey Currie who had been driving the last few laps with his hood covering most of his wind screen. part of his $5000 winnings will obviously go for new hood pins.
Brian Deegan came to the Firebird final holding a tight edge in the Pro Lite class with 656 points and second place Chris Brandt had earned 653, while Cameron Steele was 90 points behind with 566. For the year Deegan had five wins and two fast qualifiers while Brandt won three and had as many qualifier points as well.
When the final race of the season got underway front row setter Chris Brandt found his nemesis alongside coming out of turn two behind Rodrigo Ampudia. Placing Brandt in third. A short time later Deegan took the inside line of turn four to steal the lead from Ampudia who got loose and dropped to fourth. The following lap Brandt, while running second, got loose in turn four allowing Casey Currie to run up alongside then take his position. Just before the yellow came out Ampudia lost his right rear wheel and ended up in the turn one wall. When the starter let the green flag fly Deegan was quick to distance himself from the pack. Currie, Brandt and Kyle LeDuc all fought over second. This three-way battle continued all the way to the checkers while Deegan enjoyed an easy win and earned himself the championship as well. Kyle LeDuc won the battle for second with Brandt crossing over third and Currie finished fourth.
With Deegan owning the championship Brandt had to settle for a close second for his year’s effort. Taking third in class for the year was Cameron Steele.
In the SuperLite class Chad George had accumulated 12 more points that Patrick Clark (626-614) and RJ Anderson was close with 592 entering this final round. One can see why it was a close battle by counting their wins for the season. In the wins category George captured two this year while Clark had one and Anderson had won four. Clark put together four quickest qualifying throughout the year while George had two and Anderson had four.
Things got a little mixed up during the final round. On the start Brent Fouch used his front row grid spot to take the early lead but got up on two wheels in turn three allowing third row starter Ryan Hagy to take over the lead. Hagy’s lead was also short as Kyle Lucas found his way around Hagy. Lucas held on until the mid race yellow but on the restart Hagy got by for the lead. When the pack reached turn three Chad George jumped into the lead and following him to the front was Austin Kimbrell leaving Hagy third. The front two began their heated race and pulled away from the battle for third between Hagy and RJ Anderson. Chad George went wide in turn three allowing Kimbrell to steal his lead and soon after Jason Ellis rolled causing a yellow. On the restart everyone held their positions until the white flag came out and things got physical. Kimbrell was able to hold his lead to the checkers but Kyle Lucas and RJ Anderson had made their way around for second and third. Chad George finished fourth.
When the points were tallied up it was Chad George receiving the number one plate and Patrick Clark held onto his second overall title by a slim margin over RJ Anderson.
Cory Weller’s season points total of 654 meant that John Dempsey, holding 635, needed to apply the pressure while Doug Mittag was still a factor with 630 points earned.
Once action got underway Weller, who had come up short on the uphill step up, landed hard and ran into the wall in turn four while leading overall. This gave the lead to Doug Mittag with Robert Vanbeekum second. Weller continued but was out of contention for this event. Mittag used the clear track ahead of him to pull away from the pack. He had pulled five car lengths from Vanbeekum and Vanbeekum also had an equal length lead over Dan Kelly who had Tyler Winbury challenging him. Kelly had some handling problems in turn three and Winbury took his spot. A couple of laps later Winbury dropped out after loosing a front wheel. Ryan Beat managed to drive his way up to third just before the mandatory yellow. Once the pack was unleashed again Beat managed to pass his way up to second but when he tried to steal the lead over the step up jump he came up short and rolled hard enough to put him out of the race. A few laps later Chad George had maneuvered into second. With only one lap to go George saw his opportunity and moved into the lead. Vanbeekum was close enough to George to also move past Mittag. Vanbeekum although smoked a motor on the last lap. Chad George went on to win the event with Doug Mittag crossing over second and Dan Kelly finished third.
Once the official count came in it was Cory Weller taking the SR1 title with Doug Mittag second and John Dempsey a close third. RJ Anderson took the overall title in the Unlimited UTV and Robert Vanbeekum was second in class while event winner Chad George was third on the season.
The UTV Lucas Oil Challenge Cup had eight entries with RJ Anderson the lone Unlimited UTV racing against the SR1’s. This put Anderson a half a lap ahead of the SR1’s on the start allowing him to lead for most the first half of the race. First SR1 was driven by last year’s Cup winner Ryan Beat. Third overall was Mittag. Mittag used up most of the early laps to catch Beat and just before the mid race caution came out was able to slip by Beat in turn three. Just as the yellow came out Mittag’s buggy started to smoke indicating troubles ahead for Mittag. Once Mittag was under the throttle again his SR1 blew out a large amount of smoke and then yellow flames came from the engine compartment. Once the fire crew got things under control Mittag was out. Anderson still had the lead but Beat was able to pass just before entering turn two. On the next lap Code Rahders challenged Anderson and the two collided in turn two sending Anderson off track briefly. Rahders was then close enough to pressure Beat for the lead and did over take him with just two laps to go. Beat however came back to retake the lead and eventual win. Rahders crossed over second but was set back a position for his incident with Anderson. This meant Dan Kelly took the second spot and Rahders was officially third. All three of the top finishers received seat time at the Cory Kruseman’s Sprint Car and Midget Driving School.
Junior Kart 1
The championship battle for Junior Kart 1 competitors saw Broc Dickerson with a commanding lead with 664 points to Elliott Watson in second with 619. Preston Roben had totaled 594 for third coming into this final round.
Taking advantage of this front row starting spot Preston Roben led the pack around the first lap. Behind Roben was Gavin Harlein and points leader Dickerson was back in third. Just before the mid-race caution Dickerson was able to shuffle ahead of Roben for the lead. Once out front Dickerson headed straight to the checkers for the win. Preston Roben held onto his second place finish while Darren Hardesty took third.
Having six wins on the season as well as six fast qualifying points Broc Dickerson deserved his championship status. Preston Roben ended the year second and third was Darren Hardesty.
The Junior Kart 1 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup race on Sunday had the contestants vying for class time at the Cory Krussman Sprint Car and Midget Driving School. Once the race got underway Gavin Harlien took the early lead with Travis Pecoy second. Pecoy lost his position on lap three when Preston Roben got by then a lap later Broc Dickerson moved past him for second. Just before the mid race caution Dickerson took the lead and turned out to be the winner. Harlien maintained second after fending off a hard challenge from Preston Roben, third.
Junior Kart 2
Myles Cheek came to Phoenix with 640 points in the Junior Kart 2 division with Chad Graham second holding onto a total of 619 points. Brock Heger was third overall with 569 earned on the season.
When the action heated up on Saturday it was Shelby Anderson leading the pack around turn one. Anderson held the lead for the first half of the race until the yellow brought the race to an almost halt. More than one stalled car had to be removed from the track while the racers continued slow under yellow. With just a couple of laps to go the race finally got back up to speed. It was still Anderson out front with Myles Cheek a close second. Starting fifth Brock Heger had moved up to third. Anderson appeared to have the event wrapped up but on the final turn of the race Cheek dove inside of turn four to steal her victory. Myles Cheek took the checkers with Anderson second and Heger finished third.
With his event win Myles Cheek clinched his championship with Chad Graham second and Brock Heger was third for the year.
In the Challenge Cup race Shelby Anderson took her car out front early ahead of Preston Roben. Third was Weston Schuck. The running order became a follow the leader event until Roben drove around Anderson for the lead. Things remained pretty much the same until the last lap and all of a sudden everyone got a little physical in the attempt to improve their position. It was Schuck that came out the worst of the encounter as Maxwell Ries was able to take over third. At the finish line it was Preston Roben taking the win with Shelby Anderson holding onto second. Third was Maxwell Ries. The three also received driving time at Cory Krussman Sprint Car and Midget Driving School.
Curt Geer and Dave Mason had battled all season long and come into the final Limited Buggy event with Geer holding the points lead with 634 over Mason’s 616. Quinton Tucker was third with 591.
In the final race of the points battle 17 cars took the field. Once racing started it was Quentin Tucker coming around with the pack behind him. Tucker had pressure coming from John Fitzgerald who had Bradley Morris pressuring him. By the third lap Fitzgerald found his way into the lead and a lap later Morris took the second spot. This was the running order up to the mid-race caution. On the restart Fitzgerald held his lead with Morris and Tucker trailing. A couple of laps later Tucker was pushed back to fourth by Geoffrey Cooley. Things remained pretty much the same until the white flag came out and Curt Geer found his way around Tucker for fourth. Fitzgerald had pulled some breathing room over second place and this left the action between Morris and Cooley. Probably the hardest racing was back in fifth with Kevin McCullough, Dave Mason and Dillon Ayers often three wide in corners. Back up front John Fitzgerald took the win with Bradley Morris second. A close third place was won by Geoffrey Cooley. By the way Tucker took fourth and Kevin McCullough won the fifth place battle. The two season points contenders finishing order was, Geer fourth and Mason seventh.
With Curt Geer finishing ahead of Dave Mason he won the season championship and Mason finished second. Quentin Tucker was third on the year.
In the Modified Kart division Mitch Guthrie Jr. led the class after 14 rounds of racing with 629 points and Mitchell DeJong was close on his heels with 624 earned. Third was Bradley Morris.
With the green flag in the air Brock Heger took charge with Kyle Hart second and points leader Guthrie third. Dejong was back mid-pack. Hart was able to steal Heger’s lead on the following lap. The lap after that Heger rolled his truck and this moved the points leaders into second and third. The running order was Hart, Guthrie and DeJong. However, just before the mid-race caution DeJong moved into second. The front running order remained the same until the final lap and charging from around fifth Bradley Morris ran into Guthrie, dropping Guthrie back to tenth and costing him his championship. Hart went on to win the event with DeJong second and Jeff Hoffman crossed over third.
Taking the overall season championship honors was defending Champion Mitchell DeJong. Mitch Guthrie Jr. ended up second on the season by a slim margin. Bradley Morris totaled up enough points for third.
The Modified Kart Challenge Cup race drew 18 cars to the line. At stake were three Cory Krussman Sprint Car and Midget Driving School certificates. It was Cole Mamer taking the early lead with Kyle Hart second. Hart tried to pass Mamer and the two got together opening the track up for Scotty Steele who moved into second. Steele pressured Mamer for the lead but couldn’t make his attempt stick. At the mid race caution it was Mamer, Steele and Hart. Once racing again Hart was able to slip into the lead and was able to distance himself from the battle for second. Moving through the pack was Bradley Morris and a couple of laps later he found himself in third behind Steele. Mamer had lost his second spot when he lost a wheel dropping him out of contention. There was no stopping Hart as he went on for the win. The battle for second between Steele and Morris ended in the two getting together and causing Steele to have a flat. While these two tangled Mitch Guthrie Jr. drove past and finished in second. Third place driving school certificate went to Blake Lenk, who also took advantage of the Steele/Morris incident.