The original article, The History of Short Course Racing, was posted in 2015 and, as we all know, a lot has happened since then. Established series have dissolved and new series have stepped in to replace them. Those who have been around the sport long enough know not to despair as similar events have occurred in the past but the love of short course off road racing has endured and still excites fans today.
Here we are facing a world wide pandemic. Who would have thought one would be asked to wear a mask to enter a bank. Who would have thought the government would say stay home and don’t work. Let’s not forget those supposedly life saving masks either. The point is all this has had its affect on short course off road racing. So read on to find out how the sport fairs today.
One of the biggest upsets to short course racing came in November of 2020 when the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series LOORRS, along with the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Racing Series LORORRS, were dissolved. We all know 2020 was a bad year for racing, so when it was announced by Ritchie Lewis, Director of Race Operations for LOORRS, to discontinue its ownership and operation of the series it was heart breaking, yet understandable. Lewis stated, “This year, Lucas Oil made an incredible financial effort to keep our off road commitments to our employees, promoters, racers and sponsors, during arguably one of the roughest periods of time for our country. As we look ahead, there are too many variables that could impact the financial commitment and overall health of the series going forward, which necessitated this difficult course of action.”
If one looks back on the year their actions can be justified. Before the pandemic became a household name on March 8 2020 LOORRS came out with a release stating, “Due to the weather forecast for next week’s race, the season opener, will be postponed at Glen Helen March 14th and 15th rounds. Organizers will add a day to Reno and the second Glen Helen later in the year. Weather forecasts rain is expected starting on the 10th through the 18th for the racetrack area.”
Then on March 17 another release came out stating, “It is with much disappointment that we must announce that in accordance with the latest CDC and White House recommendations, as well as local health department recommendations, we will be postponing the April 24-26, 2020 event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, AZ. The health and safety of our race teams, fans and staff is of the utmost importance to us.
Before these disappointments LOORRS seemed to going full steam ahead when on April 3, 2020 they announced, “While the current focus of all Americans is to stay healthy, many race fans and drivers are eager to interact and profess their love of racing. eSports, through a variety of races and broadcasts, has allowed that to happen during a time when this community needs it the most. To further enhance that camaraderie, Lucas Oil Products, the American-based manufacturer and distributor of performance additives and oils, announced today that they are expanding their presence in eSports. Lucas Oil eSports will begin with a focus on the competition surrounding the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Lucas Oil has already enjoyed a partnership with iRacing through the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Several of the tracks and the series events can be utilized with the online platform. In fact, the 3/8 mile dirt oval track and the off-road track at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, are scheduled to be scanned for future iRacing competitions.
“Lucas Oil has always tried to be on the cutting edge of all that it involves itself with and eSports is one of the new leading areas of development within racing,” said Morgan Lucas, Senior V.P. of Sales for Lucas Oil. “We have a great family of Lucas Oil supporters and that racing goes hand-in-hand with that. eSports is an important way for us to expand our exposure to new groups while creating a bond with our existing racing community.”
A series of races are currently being planned to create a sense of togetherness for the community of each of the series and events. Lucas Oil eSports will utilize the vastly popular iRacing platform, which many racers currently use to hone their skills.
Now in 2021 the second annual Jim Beaver eSports eShort Course Triple Crown will take advantage of iRacing’s newest off-road content release for its next round, heading to Bark River International Raceway for the first time on Thursday, April 15. Racers will take the wheel of iRacing’s virtual Pro 4 short course truck in hopes of joining the five drivers who have already earned their way into the 2022 eShort Course World Cup.
To keep one informed of events that may, or may not, have an impact on the series a management change occurred Oct 2018 that needs mention for its historical value. LOORRS announced Bill Smith’s promotion to Series Director for both the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and the Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League. The promotion comes after Smith served as Race Director for the series the last two years. The announcement came from Ritchie Lewis who will now hold the title of Lucas Oil Director of Racing Operations.
Great American Shortcourse
With LOORRS gone It is said that when one door closes, another opens to opportunity, and so it was that the Great American Shortcourse GAS series was formed.
In February of 2021 GAS announced Short Course Racing Continues on the West Coast with the Launch of the Great American Short Course Series Powered by OPTIMA Batteries Oak Hills, CA. Veteran short course race series director Lee Perfect and race promoter Dave Cole of Hammerking Productions joined forces to create a new series, Great American Short Course (GAS) powered by OPTIMA Batteries.
GAS stated, The unexpected events of 2020 led to the unfortunate shutdown of the LOORRS short course series on the West Coast, leaving families with no place to race. The partnership between Perfect and Cole is designed as a strategic path forward with the goal to not merely keep short course racing alive, but to successfully grow to new heights. GAS will be starting out with four events on existing and well-known short course tracks near major metropolitan centers.
Perfect’s team is comprised of many who have experience launching a short course series, paired with the talented group at Hammerking Promotions who built the legendary King of the Hammers event and highly successful ULTRA4 Series. “This is an incredible opportunity,” explained Perfect. “We plan to take a fresh look at short course racing in the West and learn from each other to build something sustainable, safe, and fun for everyone from the grassroots racers to the pros.”
GAS is working to fine tune existing rules based on feedback from racers, keep familiar classes for both the regional and national level racers to allow them to utilize their existing vehicles, and add new twists to be announced soon. Hammerking Productions is known for unmatched video and live streaming production capabilities as demonstrated at King of the Hammers. The same proven production team will provide a top-notch live streaming package to keep fans and sponsors engaged whether they are able to attend open spectator events or not.
“We learned from King of the Hammers that it’s better to have your fans be able to actively participate at the events than just sit there watching, and we aim to provide that opportunity here,” explained Dave Cole. “We have been working hard behind the scenes and are excited about this new chance to freshen up short course racing in the West! And a major plus is having a company like OPTIMA Batteries, who has also successfully developed many very popular events, is going to offer the series some unique opportunities for collaboration and cross promotion in the future,” noted Perfect.
Shortly after its conception GAS announced, “In keeping with their mission to prioritize driver safety and development, the Great American Shortcourse series (GAS) is excited to announce a partnership with the United States Auto Club (USAC). GAS will be utilizing USAC’s existing programs for all driver licensing, registration and ticketing.
“We have worked with USAC for a decade to provide safe and competive racing in the Ultra4 Series and now we look forward to utilizing their industry expertise in the shortcourse arena as well.” Said Dave Cole, CEO of Ultra4 Racing and GAS Co-founder.
The United States Atuo Club (USAC) is the sanctioning body behind some of the largest racing organizations in the country. Drivers will be provided with USAC supplemental insurance through the USAC annual licensing program. Through this program, a GAS driver may purchase a license for the complete GAS season, a single GAS event, or they can choose the option that encompasses the Midwest race season as well.
GAS / SST/ KOH
Joining forces seems to be the best strategy for GAS. In an announcement made March 18, 2018 the Great American Shortcourse (GAS) announced partnership with Stadium Super Truck (SST) series and ULTRA4 Racing’s King of the Hammers (KOH).
In an effort to lay the foundation for tomorrow’s professional short course drivers to showcase their skills to fans and sponsors from around the globe, the Great American Shortcourse series (GAS) is excited to announce a partnership with Robby Gordon and his Stadium Super Truck (SST) series and Ultra4’s King of the Hammers (KOH).
Dave Cole (GAS co-founder) and Robby Gordon have agreed to combine forces to hold a single event in Southern California for both series’ year end finales on the weekend of November 13-14, 2021 where competitors will share the same facility, track staff, and additional operational and promotional resources. “Robby and I believe that by working together as a team we can create better opportunities for our racers, fans and sponsors and we look forward to a future of continued collaboration as the GAS series matures”, said Cole.
The second phase of this partnership will put GAS class champions from ModKart, Production UTV, Production Turbo UTV, Pro Buggy, Pro Lite and Pro 2 behind the wheel of a Stadium Super Truck competing head-to-head against a slew of heavyweights from several off-road disciplines at a new event called the Off Road Race of Champions (ORROC) held in early February during the 2022 King of The Hammers in Johnson Valley, CA.
With almost two decades of experience in short course race promotion, Lee Perfect, GAS co-founder and series Director stated, “I believe maintaining a connection with the grass roots racer while still providing opportunities for professional growth is crucial and I am glad Robby and Dave share that vision.”
In addition, but not finalized, Cole and Gordon are working out the details of an arrangement that will award the highest placing GAS finisher in the ORROC event with a free ride for the entire 2022 SST series where he or she will compete in front of packed grandstands in conjunction with the Indy Car Series at iconic locations like the Long Beach and St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
“These are a few of many steps we will be taking that are geared toward creating opportunities for our driver’s progression as professional athletes. We believe this mindset is vital for the sustainability of our sport and we are excited about the partnership with Robby and SST”, said GAS co-founder Ryan Thomas.
Stay tuned for more details regarding this exciting alliance between SST and GAS in the coming months.
2018 changed Midwest racing again
A release from Crandon International Raceway on March 5, 2018 changed the whole landscape of Midwest racing. Citing the need to ensure the future of short-course off-road racing in the American Midwest, Crandon International Raceway, Bark River and ERX Motor Park today announced their immediate withdrawal from The Off Road Racing Championship (TORC Series).
In addition, the three purpose-built facilities announced that planning is underway for a five-weekend championship race series that will incorporate both traditional PRO and Sportsman truck, buggy and UTV categories as well as Crandon’s 49th annual Labor Day weekend World Championship/World Cup races.
In December of 2018 the history of Short Course racing once again altered course. The year 2018 will be remembered when Short Course Off-Road Racing was united into one major racing series. What brought about the historic event was the announcement that three major Midwest racing venues had withdrew from TORC The Off Road Championship. Soon after it was announced another announcement stated that Lucas Oil partnered with the same three tracks; Bark River, Crandon International Raceway and ERX Motor Park, with a four weekend race schedule.
The original withdraw notification came by a Crandon, Wisconsin release March 5, 2018. Citing the need to ensure the future of short-course off-road racing in the American Midwest, Crandon International Raceway, Bark River and ERX Motor Park today announced their immediate withdrawal from The Off Road Racing Championship (TORC Series).
The partnership between Lucas Oil and the Midwest racetracks was a long time in coming. In the beginning the Crandon WI Jaycees started a Baja style off-road race titled the Brush Run 101. By 1984 the event had morphed into short course with its main event held at Crandon International Raceway. The sanctioning body then was SODA, Short Course Off-Road Drivers Association. Then in 1996 Marty Reid formed Championship Off-Road Racing CORR. Reid had a TV package which swayed the drivers to leave SODA and race in the new series. Reid would later sell CORR to Jim Baldwin who moved the series to the west coast. So after CORR left the Midwest series was racing under the title World Series of Off-Road Racing WSORR. Next the series would be run by The Off-Road Championship TORC sponsored by TRAXXAS. In 2010 the United States Auto Club USAC became the sanctioning body. Ownership was yet again to pass in 2013 when The Armory, a Southern California advertising and production company, bought rights to TORC. Then in 2015 it was announced that TORC was purchased by Mountain Sports International, Inc. MSI. TORC is still owned by MSI but with their main tracks partnering with Lucas Oil they sent out a release on Match 23 2018 stating, Unfortunately, TORC: The Off-Road Championship will not hold events in 2018. We will, however, continue to evaluate future opportunities for TORC. We remain grateful to our drivers, partners, and fans for their support and wish everyone a great racing season. So as you see the Midwest series has been under many different hands.
So, I mentioned CORR. In 2005 Jim Baldwin, a Southern California developer and off-road racer, saw the potential in CORR and bought the series from Marty Reid. Baldwin got short course racing maximum exposure with live TV broadcasts on both SPEED and NBC. However, If you will remember back in 2008 the economy was upended causing serious doubt as to the future of Short Course racing. Then in a press release from CORR stated: “Championship Off-road Racing has made the difficult decision to cancel the Primm, Nevada race on October 25th and 26th. The current credit crisis had made it very difficult to cover CORR’s costs.” This would lead to the end of CORR.
Tony Vanillo, former Technical Director for CORR, announced he had secured Lucas Oil as a sponsor and was putting on a six race Lucas Oil American Off-Road Series LAORS for 2009. Before Vanillo could get organized Lucas Oil Products announced they had finalized an agreement with Tony and Sherry Vanillo to acquire complete ownership of the newly formed American Off-road Series. The series would be renamed the “Lucas Oil Off-road Racing Series LOORS” (later LOORRS).
So since 2009 the two main series were LOORRS and TORC. During the turmoil of the recession the promoters and many major sponsors met to discuss the future. During the meeting the sponsors let it be known the best thing to do would be to combine the series to concentrate advertising dollars. Those having financial investments were not willing to give up their investments to the other nor did they form a partnership. So since 2009 the two major series have competed for sponsor dollars.
In a recent release from LOORRS “Lucas Oil Executive Vice President Bob Patison all of us in the short course world have worked tirelessly over the past 10 years to promote the sport and help it to reach its full potential. “This expansion is not only exciting for all sides, but it also incorporates big events at proven venues. The objective is to create one viable national touring series for the PRO categories in the next year or two, but we also want to address the economic realities of short course racing by examining a blended rules package and lowering operating costs in the near future.”
“We are working to finalize all of the preliminary plans,” stated Ritchie Lewis of Lucas Oil. “This all came about very quickly and with a tremendous amount of welcomed cooperation between Lucas Oil, Crandon, Bark River and ERX. From the moment we were notified, our team has worked tirelessly to ensure that we do our part in keeping short course racing alive and well in the Midwest. We are excited to work with the Sportsman and Pro teams in a manner that does not prevent anyone from racing. We want every short course competitor in the country to feel welcome and come out and support these tracks and have a good time while racing under the Lucas Oil banner.”
There seems to be a dark cloud that hangs over the West Midwest unification. On June 15 2019 it was announced. The first-ever short course unification race set to pit the drivers of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series in a heads up match with the Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League had to be canceled due to extreme weather damaging the host track, Lucas Oil Speedway, in Wheatland, MO. At first it was announced LOORRS wanted to find an alternate facility for the event but later decided to cancel and make up the two races by adding onto two existing race weekends. Back-to-back racing for the OPTIMA Batteries Silver State Showdown will now take place on Friday July 26 and Saturday July 27 under the lights at the Wild West Motorsports Park. Two nights of racing for the Rockstar Energy State Off Road Nationals, presented by General Tire, are now set for Saturday October 5 and Sunday October 6 at Glen Helen Raceway.
Sept 14 2019 was the day the hammer dropped on short course unification. In a brief release from LOORRS, ‘It is with much regret that we must dissolve the Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League. Due to operational differences, we have chosen to focus our efforts on the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Many factors were part of this decision, which does not come lightly, or without fully analyzing all pertinent factors. It’s our belief that a common and focused vision, for the future of short course racing is the best way to provide our partners, racers and fans an exciting and healthy Series for many more years.”
Major change at Crandon International Raceway
A major change happened at the beginning of 2021 as Crandon International Raceway changed from a non-profit operation with new owner, Jamey Flannery, retaining the mindset that giving back to the community would remain.
Crandon, Wisconsin (November 17, 2020) When business entrepreneur Jamey Flannery officially takes possession of Crandon International Raceway on New Year’s Day, much more than the ownership will change. In fact, the entire way the historic racetrack does business will undergo a massive transformation.
Since its inception in 1970, off-road racing in Crandon has operated as a not-for-profit club created to help support many local and regional charities. It has been a highly symbiotic relationship for both sides, offering the 400-plus acre facility access to much needed volunteer labor during world-class race weekends in exchange for year-end financial contributions to a wide variety of local charities.
In fact, the largest purpose-built facility of its kind in the world has contributed millions of dollars in much needed support to the small city of Crandon and surrounding Forest County located deep in the Northwood’s of Wisconsin.
Crandon International Raceway is comprised of a 1.75-mile short-course off-road track, more than 2,100 designated grass camping sites, a modern grandstand and a hospitality facility, a designated off-road park, corporate hospitality suites, a trap range and a VIP center and office at the location’s original barn. The track plays host to two major race events each year, including June’s Forest County Potawatomi Brush Run and Labor Day’s massive Polaris World Championship Off-Road Races® and Crandon World Cup – an event which saw a record crowd of just over 70,000 people at its 50th anniversary running in 2019. Both the new Champ Off-Road and Ultra4 series are scheduled to run at the track as part of their 2021 race seasons.
Jamey Flannery’s vision for the future of Crandon International Raceway may be operationally different than the past, but his already well documented interest in helping locally based community programs will remain a cornerstone in moving forward.
“It’s important to honor the service of so many people and organizations that contributed to this track by carrying things forward in the future,” Flannery explained. “There will still be opportunity for volunteer organizations here at the track, and there always will be as far as I’m concerned.”
At the recent 27th Forest County Potawatomi race weekend the track and Jamey Flannery Trucking combined forces to contribute two new drug K9s to the Forest County Sheriff’s office. Flannery was also the driving force in kick-start the first annual “Crandon Rocks” concert with Kid Rock at the tracks 50th anniversary race in 2019.
Racing at Crandon began under the umbrella of the original “Wolfheads Sportsmen Club” umbrella, also a non-profit entity. In 1984 the group moved into its present home on US Highway 8, eventually reforming under the official name of Crandon International Off-Road Raceway Association, Inc.
Following Wisconsin state law and the bylaws stated in official documents, the dissolution of a 501 (c) (3) organization requires that Crandon pay all outstanding accounts payable and other debt before distributing the remaining balance to a list of similar local organizations approved by the Forest County Circuit Court. The current intention by Crandon International’s Board of Directors and President Cliff Flannery is that these contributions will be disbursed primarily in Crandon and the immediate surrounding area.
In keeping with a long-standing Crandon tradition (COVID restrictions not withstanding), next February track management will organize and host its annual Volunteer Party. Held at the local town hall. It’s a unique event to Crandon, a celebration that gathers more than 500 guests as an “official thank you” for their service to the track, with food, drinks, live music and a huge raffle for all to enjoy.
The evening also features the most important thing of all; the distribution of tens of thousands of dollars in financial support to worthy groups. While the overall structure of the track’s operation will change on January 1, 2021, both Jamey Flannery and the outgoing members of Crandon’s Board of Directors are united in a mindset that giving back to the community remains an important chapter to the overall story of Crandon International Raceway.
There you have the meat of changes effecting short course in the last few years. Of course there may have been other factors to consider but the main thing is short course racing is alive and flourishing.