Rounds three and four of the 2012 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, titled the Rockstar So-Cal Shootout presented by E3 Spark Plugs and Gieco, debuted at the all new racing facility at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in Lake Elsinore, CA. The Lucas Oil people did a fantastic job of building a 1.1 mile track that proved to be both demanding for the drivers and enjoyable to the fans. Track elevation rises away from the grandstands in multiple tiers providing 100% visibility. It is a fast track with turn one being a left hand sweeper leading into a step up onto a table top jump. Dropping off the table top enters a hard left hand turn (a lot of action here). A short climb up hill got the vehicles airborne again before dropping into turn three (another good passing point) which is a right hand switch back. The drivers are then faced with a whoop section before entering the left hand turn four (yet another point of action). Another elevation change puts the race vehicles in the air in front of the grandstands just before the finish line.
A lot of planning went into the racetrack but someone over looked the parking lot. Parking itself is massive (and that is the problem) and there is only a single lane in and out of the facility. Sunday’s exit with teams and fans funneling into a single file was a bit frustrating. Future improvements were promised and hopefully traffic is the top issue. One thing about short course fans is they are a hardy group. On Saturday the ambient temperature was best described as African Hot. The shinning new grandstands reflected up enough heat to fry eggs and yet the seats were packed and others lined the fence to catch all the racing action.
When it comes to change sometimes it is good and sometimes — well, you decide. This year the officials eliminated the UTV class in favor of adding time for a mandatory pit stop for the Pro 2 Unlimited, Pro 4 Unlimited and the Pro Lite Unlimited classes. At the mid-race caution all teams head into the pits for a two minute pit stop. Good for anyone needing assistance but frustrating for those drivers emotionally wound up and having to set still for two minutes. For the fans the schedule now has the Pro Buggy Unlimited and Super Lite Unlimited events after the Pro 2 Unlimited. Fans coming to see just the big guns left early which did help with the exiting traffic situation.
Pro 2 Unlimited
When the Pro 2 Unlimited class consisting of 18 trucks went out to qualify it was the #38 of Brian Deegan setting quick time with a 50.357 time besting #2 Jeremy McGrath’s 50.578. With a gap of only 0.221 seconds between qualifiers the event was sure to provide some close competition.
Due to the inversion Rodrigo Ampudia and Marty Hart sat on the front row for Saturday’s round of racing. When the green flag came out Ampudia took the lead with Hart and Carl Renezeder third. Beginning of lap two the home town favorite Deegan cut inside of turn one in an attempt for the lead but the outside faster line put him back to fifth. Just as the pack was getting the speed up a roll over in turn one and safety crews dealing with a fire in Ryan Hancock’s truck in turn three brought things to a halt. On the restart Ampudia had some serious pressure from Hart while back in the pack McGrath and Deegan bounced off one another in turn one. On the following lap Hart managed to steal the lead from Ampudia and a lap later Ampudia was in third as Deegan made his way past. At the mid-race caution it was Hart leading and Renezeder second and Ampudia had moved back to third. On the restart Deegan tried the inside line again in turn one and this time managed to grab second. Shortly after Evan Evans had mechanical woes and stalled on track causing another yellow as he had to be pulled off. When racing got going again Hart quickly put some distance between himself and Renezeder who was fighting off the advances of Deegan. With two laps to go Deegan managed to get ahead of Renezeder for second. On the last lap Hart was trying to avoid slower traffic in turn three and Deegan was able to throw his Rockstar/ Makita Ford down inside of the turn and steal the lead. At the finish line it was Brain Deegan crossing over first with Marty Hart second and Carl Renezeder third.
Sunday’s weather was much nicer than the day before but the Pro 2 Unlimited drivers brought there own kind of heat to the racetrack. On the start Marty Hart took control with Rob MacCachren second and Rodrigo Ampudia third. Back in turn one Jeremy McGrath and Rob Naughton got tangled up but both were able to go after the pack cleared. On lap two Nick Tyree caused a yellow condition as his truck had to be towed off. When racing resumed Hart held the lead and actually pulled away from MacCachren who had his hands full with Ampudia challenging his every move. But then the mid-race yellow came out and they all headed into the pits. After the restart it didn’t take long before MacCachren started applying pressure to Hart. The pressure was applied for a couple of laps before MacCachren really plowed his way over the whoops, putting him in a position to get around Hart in turn four. However, Hart was able to come back and retake the lead the next lap in turn two. Things really heated up then as these two started leaning on each other and swapping paint as the two went back and forth arguing over the lead. Behind them the action was just as intense. Brian Deegan had moved to third with Robby Wood and Renezeder both challenging his position. As these three battled Rodrigo Ampudia closed up to join them. Woods and Renezeder got together in turn one sending Woods up the embankment and Renezeder sideways on track. About that time Deegan’s motor blew with enough smoke to kill mosquito’s a mile a way. Up front MacCachren, Rockstar, was able to hold off Hart and Ampudia was able to take third. Deegan continued his mosquito fumigation long enough to finish fifth behind Greg Adler.
Pro 4 Unlimited
So far this season the Pro 4 Unlimited could be called the Kyle LeDuc show. Other than Carl Renezeder setting fast time on Saturday LeDuc has set fast time and won all four of the Pro 4 Unlimited events. In Saturday’s event Kyle quickly established himself the leader with last year’s champ Carl Renezeder second and Todd LeDuc third. On the third lap Corry Weller brought out a yellow flag as she rolled over in turn one. When racing resumed Kyle LeDuc distanced himself from Renezeder who was busy holding off Todd LeDuc trying to steal his position. The pack had to regroup mid-race during the pit stop and afterwards it took a couple of restarts before the action really got back to speed. But no one could match the speed of Kyle LeDuc so the event ended in a follow the leader to the finish line. Kyle LeDuc, Rockstar / Makita Ford, won it with Greg Adler moving through the pack to earn second and Josh Merrell was third. At the awards presentation Kyle apologized to the fans for checking out on the competition but said he was there to win.
For Sunday’s round Carl Renezeder pitted during the parade lap with mechanical problems. Once it was determined he was not able to join the race the event got underway. Due to the inversion fast qualifier Kyle LeDuc was on row three with Josh Merrell and Greg Adler sharing the front row. Merrell was able to grab the early lead and held the position for several laps before he got wide in turn four and Kyle LeDuc was there to grab the lead. A couple of laps later Todd LeDuc, who had been trailing Merrell, was able to make his pass around turn one. Eric Barron then started pressing Merrell for third and the two provided most of the action for the remainder of the race as Kyle LeDuc, Rockstar / Makita Ford, won easily with Todd LeDuc second. On the last lap in turn three Barron spun out and Merrell got up on two wheels but was able to hold on for third. Renezeder was able to rejoin the race but several laps down.
Pro Lite Unlimited
A total of 24 entries in the Pro Lite Unlimited division meant plenty of action throughout the race. Chris Brandt and Justin Smith shared the front row with fast qualifier RJ Anderson on row two with Austin Kimbrell. Brandt was able to take the early lead but it was cut short when the yellow flag came out due to someone’s metal bumper on track. The restart once again saw Brandt the leader with Casey Currie slipping from his third row starting spot into second. Justin Smith was third. That is until Smith lost an argument with the turn one barrier. With Smith trying to get straightened out Anderson jumped into the third slot ahead of Kimbrell. Soon after another yellow came out as Smith and Adam Wik had to be removed from the track. One with a blown motor. Once racing again Anderson made his way to the front with Brian Deegan and Brandt trailing. These three pulled away from the pack that was being led by Matt Cook in fourth. Anderson held off Deegan for the remaining laps until the last lap when he made a mistake and Deegan capitalized on it. Driving under the checkers first was Brian Deegan, Rockstar / Makita Ford, with RJ Anderson second and Chris Brandt third. On the podium Deegan, the hometown favorite, thanked all his fans but later should have also thanked the officials as his team forgot to take the winning truck to tech inspection. Whatever the reason the officials did not penalize him for the infraction.
Sunday’s line up had Brian Deegan on the pole with Matt Cook alongside. Fast time qualifier RJ Anderson sat behind Deegan and Chris Brandt shared row two. When the green flag came out Deegan lead the pack with Anderson following and Brandt third. After a few laps the front two were able to pull some breathing room from Brandt but Deegan didn’t have any breathing room as Anderson wanted his position. Just before the mid-race yellow Anderson made his move to capture the lead from Deegan. After the restart things heated up as Deegan cut inside in turn one and he and Anderson were side by side going into turn two. Anderson looked to have the edge but Deegan then took back the lead on turn three. Anderson was able to come back the next turn and again take the lead back. Soon after Noah Fouch came up to battle but ended up bouncing off Deegan in turn four. Brandt moved to second while Deegan held third. A lap later Fouch who had been black flagged pitted for his penalty. With two laps to go Deegan faded back away from the front two. By the last lap Deegan was limping around the track before stalling out in the whoop section. Winning the event was RJ Anderson, Monster Energy/Polaris Dodge, with Chris Brandt taking second and third was Bradley Morris.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
The Pro Buggy class drew 21 contestants to Lake Elsinore and again provided plenty of action. Cameron Steele busted out from his front row advantage with Robb Harvey trailing and Jerry Whelchel a close third. By lap three the front two had pulled some breathing room from Whelchel, who was holding off Doug Fortin, but Steele had little room between himself and Harvey. The pack was brought under control after Rino Navera stalled in turn three causing a yellow condition. On the restart Steele was clear but back in the pack things got all fussed up as the pack behind him had its troubles getting around turn two. Whelchel and a few others shook loose but then Whelchel got hung up on the barriers in turn three. If that wasn’t enough Harvey then couldn’t negotiate turn four. All this caused another restart. The lap after the restart Larry Job tried to double the uphill jump, smacked into the face of the ramp and bounced sideways and stalled on top of the table top. Yet another yellow caution. Just as with all the other restarts Steele was able to maintain his lead but this time he had Mike Porter second and Steven Greinke third. On the last lap Greinke was very determined as he over-shot the jump before turn three resulting in a temporarily lead. Steele came back to retake the lead down the whoop section and managed to hold on for the win with Greinke second and Doug Fortin third.
Sunday’s event started with a clean start around turn one. Out front Mike Porter had Garrett George pressuring and Doug Fortin was a close third. Racing was straight forward for four laps before Garrett George had issues and had to be pulled from the track. When racing resumed Porter still held the lead with Fortin second and fast qualifier Geoffrey Cooley moved to third. Mike Porter was beginning to distance himself from Fortin when another yellow slowed things down for John Holmes to be removed from turn one. Before the yellow came out Cooley had stole second from Fortin. When the green came out Porter had the hard charging Cooley on his tail until turn three when Cooley appeared to miss a gear and Fortin was able to mount an effort on Porter. With one lap to go Porter had Fortin pressuring but the two had pulled away from Cooley. At the checkers it was Mike Porter, Doug Fortin and Geoffrey Cooley finishing out the podium.
On Saturday the Limited Buggy class was dominated by Bruce Fraley. Fraley came out early to set quick time over Bradley Morris. When the 19 contestants came out for round three Zachery Hunt became the early leader with Dillon Ayers second and third was Fraley. Hunt led for most of the first half but just before the mid-race yellow came out he headed into the pits which handed the lead to Fraley. On the restart Fraley took the lead with Ayers second and Jordan Poole third. Fraley and Ayers pulled away from the pack. A couple of laps later turn three proved to much for Ayers and he dropped back to fifth. Now in second was Kevin McCullough. Fraley then put the hammer down the remaining laps to pull off a comfortable win with McCullough second and John Fitzgerald third.
When racing got underway Sunday it was Jordan Poole taking the lead with Bradley Morris second and John Fitzgerald third. Morris grabbed the lead on lap three and a couple of laps later Fitzgerald moved into second. Soon after that Ayer’s the day’s fast qualifier moved into third. The front three remained tight throughout the race with the last lap being the most important. Ayers got sideways in turn three as he was challenging for the lead. Then as Fitzgerald and Morris went through the whoop section Fitzgerald was able to pull ahead enough to take the lead in turn four. Crossing under the checkers first was John Fitzgerald with Bradley Morris a close second. Zachery Hunt was third.
A cool breeze was beginning to chill the sun baked crowd when the 11 Super Lite contenders came out for the final event of Saturday’s show. When the race went green front row setter Garrett Poelman led the pack around turn one but got sideways in turn two handing the lead to Code Rahders. Rahders’ lead was short lived as he spun the next lap in turn one giving the lead to Ryan Hagy. Drew Britt was a close second and pressured Hagy all the way to the mid-race caution. While most of the attention was on the two leaders Rahders regrouped and was charging through the pack. When they were brought back in line for the restart Rahders was fourth behind Poelman. Once racing again, Rahders quickly moved to third. In the following lap Rahders put the pedal down through the whoop section to take second. Rahders then found himself focusing on Hagy and the lead. Rahders pulled alongside Hagy up the hill before turn two and having the inside line was able to take the lead in turn two. With one lap to go it was Rahders, Britt had moved to second, and Hagy was third. Rahders made it through turn three just before a three car pile up took out Hagy and Britt. Rahders apparent victory was cut short as he had a flat and his suspension let go just before the final turn causing his truck to bounce into, and lodge itself, against the safety barriers. Where he ended his race. The turn three mayhem and Rahders’ bad luck gave the lead to Jessie Johnson with John Gable second and Sheldon Creed crossing over third. However, after official review Johnson was dropped to third, giving Gable the win and fast qualifier Sheldon Creed second. Guess all one can say is, “That’s racing.”
Sunday’s Super Lite event was a bit more subdued. Ryan Hagy used his pole position to take control of the event from the start. Hagy was able to distance himself from Garrett Poelman as Poelman had to contend with a persistent Jessie Johnson. Johnson managed to take Poelman’s second place on lap three. Back in the pack Code Rahders and Larry Linkogle tangled in turn one with Linkogle spinning out. Rahders somehow held on to fourth behind Drew Britt. Just before the mandatory caution came out Johnson slipped past Hagy for the lead. Third place was still Britt with Rahders in fourth. Another yellow came out when Sheldon Creed caught Rahders rear bumper rolling Rahders over in turn three where he came to rest on his passenger’s side. On the restart Johnson held the lead with Hagy second and Trenton Briley third. Hagy went wide in turn one dropping him from second to sixth. A lap later Briley couldn’t maneuver around turn three and bounced off the retainer barriers. With one lap to go Britt closed up on Johnson but couldn’t find a way around having to settle for second. Creed crossed over third.
Modified Karts had 15 competitors on course with Bradley Morris being the one who qualified fastest. For his effort Morris endured a third row inversion. Sharing the front row were Blake Lenk and Sheldon Creed. Once the green flag waved it was Creed taking the early lead with Myles Cheek making his way from the fourth row starting spot into second. Shortly after Cheek was able to take the lead with Creed in second. After the mid-race restart Creed muscled his way around Cheek in turn two. Cheek held the spot for a couple of laps before Bradley Morris appeared and took over the lead. Bradley Morris held the lead to the finish line with Myles Cheek second and Cole Mamer crossing over third. In round four it was all Bradley Morris. Morris looked like an easy winner after leading almost all of the laps until Kyle Hart took over with just three laps left. But on the lap the mattered most Morris retook the lead and held on to win. Kyle Hart was second and Myles Cheek finished third.
Kart Jr 2
A total of 18 Kart Jr 2 trucks took the course. A turn one roll over caused the event to be restarted. On the restart it was Shelby Anderson jumping out front with Darren Hardesty second. Elliott Watson was third. Anderson then lost the lead in the s-turn to Hardesty who later on had his own troubles allowing Dylan Winbury to take over the pack with a couple of laps to go. Dylan Winbury went on the win and Darren Hardesty crossed over second and Shelby Anderson was third.
Sundays round four of the series saw Travis PeCoy the early leader with Jeremy Davis trailing and Shelby Anderson behind him. Just before the mid-race caution Anderson moved into second. On the restart the front four Davis, Anderson, Dylan Winbury and Elliott Watson pulled away from the pack. The following lap saw Anderson take over and hold the position to the checkers. Second was Jeremy Davis and Darren Hardesty held third. On the podium when asked about her win Anderson said, “you got to do what you got to do. Girls got to get up here too.”
Kart Jr 1
There were 14 Kart Jr 1 trucks taking course for Saturdays round three of the series. Broc Dickerson had come out earlier to set fast time. Taking the lead on lap two was Darren Hardesty from early leader Parker Darland. On the following lap the current champ Dickerson made his move to take over the race. Hardesty came back the next lap and was able to hold off Dickerson until the last lap. Broc Dickerson took the checkers with Darren Hardesty second and third was Conner McMullen. On Sunday Darren Hardesty set quick time but got shuffled back in pack on the start. Taking charge early was Broc Dickerson with Conner McMullen second. These two pulled away from the pack and remained there throughout the event. At the finish line it was Broc Dickerson again taking the win and Darren Hardesty was second ahead of Conner McMullen.