Lucas Oil Off-Road Season Opener Is A Hit In AZ

Who will get the first win of the season? Who’s luck will change for the better in 2011? Who’s dreams will be dashed? The time for questions is over: it’s time to go racing. The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by Geico Powersports, is back at Firebird International Raceway in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, AZ, and everyone here has been enjoying a great combination of pleasant breezes, warm temperatures and clear blue skies. Paired with the excitement on track and the added drama of a season’s opening, and we’ve had a recipe for good times here in the Arizona desert. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the day’s events.

Junior 2 Karts
The first race of the 2011 season was that of the Junior 2 Karts. Brock Heger and Maxwell Ries started on the front row, with Heger leading the field past the stripe in his #411 Hoosier/Signpros kart at the end of lap one. Ries ran second in his #474 ProAm/Kartek truck, ahead of Preston Roben in the #414 DCI Duggins Construction/Racer X Motorsports entry, Myles Cheek in the #457 CMI/Jammin Performance RC Cars kart, and Chad Graham and his #410 Hart and Huntington/MavTV truck in the top five. Cheek and Roben swapped spots on lap two, while Shelby Anderson moved up to fifth in the #405 Walker Evans Racing/Anderson’s Nu Power kart. The top two had opened a bit of a gap on the field in the opening laps, but Cheek was quickly closing that down to become a real threat for the lead. However, it was Ries and Anderson who took full advantage of the briefest of bobbles by Heger, taking over first and second in the same corner. Once Ries had the lead, he was off like a rocket, and had a sizeable lead at the competition yellow. Luck wasn’t on Ries’ side, though, as he stopped on track under yellow; a mechanical malfunction ended his charge for the win. Anderson inherited the lead, and was followed by Heger, Cheek, Roben, and Riley Herbst in the #419 Terrible Herbst/Ball Park entry as the field returned to green flag racing. Graham found his way back up to fifth soon afterwards, and was just behind an intense four-way battle for the lead. The pressure must have gotten to Anderson a bit in the late going, as she slid wide in turn four and gave up thelead to Cheek. Graham also moved up on this lap, taking over third, with Weston Schuck now fourth in his #404 NTV machine, and Jeremy Davis fifth in the #485 Green Army/Simpson kart. As the field passed the start/finish to begin their final lap, Davis slowed to a stop on the front straight, handing fifth to Heger. Up front, Cheek held tough to take the win, with Anderson taking second, Graham third, Schuck fourth, and Heger fifth.

Junior 1 Karts
Next up were the Junior 1 Kart kids, with Travis PeCoy and Preston Roben taking the start from row one. After some anxious driving at the drop of the green flag led to a full restart, it was Elliot Watson who got away best of the field to take the early lead in his #203 machine. In second it was PeCoy in the #211 Hoosier/Canidae entry, ahead of Dean Duro and his #222 Hart and Huntington/General Tire truck, Roben in the #210 DCI Duggins Construction/Mad Graphix kart, and Darren Hardesty in the #231 King Shocks/Sunoco machine. Roben jumped up to third on lap two, Sammy Gutierrez moved his #278 G Brothers/Lone Kid Racing truck up to fifth on lap three, and on lap four, a bicycle out of turn one and a rollover in turn four dropped Duro well back. This promoted Gutierrez to fourth and Hardesty back to fifth, and the top five held their places for a few laps. Conner McMullen and Dylan Winbury then took over fourth and fifth spots, just ahead of the competition yellow. Shortly after the restart, McMullen moved his #288 Monster Energy/ truck past Gutierrez to take over third, and despite several incidents going on with drivers further down the order, track officials worked quickly to maintain green flag racing, and the top five drivers kept their composure through the chaos as they held their positions to the end of the race. Watson took the win after leading wire to wire, ahead of Roben, McMullen, Gutierrez, and Winbury in the #299 Magnum Off Road/Deviate Films truck.

Modified Karts
Third to take to the track today were the crowd-thrilling Modified Karts, and it was reigning champion Mitchell DeJong who started his #1 Speed Technologies/Fast Aid kart from pole position, alongside the #555K&N/ truck of Mitch Guthrie Jr. Guthrie Jr. grabbed the early lead over DeJong, with Jerett Brooks slotting in third in his #527 Synergy Electric Racing/Comfort Mechanical entry, Bradley Morris fourth in the #504 K&N/DH Graphics machine, and Trent Williams fifth in the #525 Victory Race Cars/DASA kart. DeJong used the low line in the either/or section to full effect, closing the gap to Guthrie Jr. on lap two before sliding into the lead as the lines came back together on lap three. Guthrie Jr. did his best to fight back, and briefly re-took the lead on lap four, but DeJong was locked in today, and snagged the lead right back on the same lap. Guthrie Jr. and Brooks then tangled in turn four, which allowed Chad Graham, making his Modified Kart debut in the #510 MavTV/ machine, to take over second spot. Morris moved up to third, with Williams now fourth, and Jeff Hoffman, also a first-time Modified Kart racer, now running fifth in the #547 BRT Signs/Cactus Asphalt truck. Williams moved past Morris, with Morris then spinning out in turn four and falling well down the order. At the competition yellow, DeJong still led, with Williams now second, Hoffman third, Graham fourth, and Connor Pankratz fifth in the #511 Brock Heger Racing/MasterCraft Safety truck. Significant shuffling went on throughout the field after the restart, but the top five remained relatively unchanged, aside from Brooks moving back up to fourth. The order was now DeJong, Williams, Hoffman, Brooks, and Pankratz in the top five with just a handful of laps left, and this was when the race seemed to go a bit sideways for Williams. He dropped two spots to fourth on lap twelve, and one more spot by the white flag, leaving the order of DeJong, Hoffman, Brooks, Pankratz, and Williams in the top five. The order here stayed the same through race’s end, with DeJong kicking off his title defense in the best way possible: a full 51 points (of 51 possible today) for winning and leading at halfway. Hoffman had a fine Modified Kart debut as he took second, with Brooks third, Pankratz fourth, and Williams fifth.

First out onto the full-length track were the UTVs, and with the usual mixed field of Unlimited UTVs and SR1s running together today, it was only appropriate to have one of each taking the start from the front row. Corry Weller started from pole in her #810 Tilted Kilt/Lucas Oil Yamaha, alongside the #1 Monster Energy/Funco Kawasaki of Chad George, and it was George who took the early lead. Weller ran in second, with Robert Vanbeekum third in his #664 Monster Energy/Muzzys Kawasaki, Doug Mittag fourth, and Tyler Winbury fifth. Weller used her SR1’s bigger motor to power by George and take the lead on lap two. Vanbeekum then ran into a bit of trouble as he slid into the outside wall at the exit of turn four, which caused him to stop for a moment, costing him several places. Vanbeekum’s misfortune was a welcome break for Mittag, John Dempsey, and Winbury, who moved up to third, fourth, and fifth. Up front, Weller was opening a comfortable lead over those behind as the competition yellow came out, and as the field stacked up behind the pace truck, it was Weller, George, Mittag in the #848 Custom Off Road Design/ Yamaha, Vanbeekum, and John Dempsey in the top five. Mittag almost seemed to be waiting for the second half of the race, as if he had something more to challenge those ahead of him, and once green flag racing resumed, he did just that. He first out-motored George down the straight between turns one and two to take over second, then became the first driver in the field to clear the step-up jump into turn four today, leaping past Weller to grab the lead. Mittag had really come to life, and it was up to Weller to fight back. Weller did just that on the following lap, driving a perfect line through turn three to re-take the lead with relative ease, driving smoothly but quickly to fast lap of the field. From there on in, Weller was simply hooked in, and the Chandler local stayed up front to take the SR1 and overall wins. Mittag finished second, with George third, first in Unlimited UTV. Fourth outright and second in Unlimited UTV was Vanbeekum, with Winbury fifth overall, third in Unlimited UTV in the #694 4130 Clothing/ Kawasaki, and Dempsey sixth overall, third in SR1 in his #855 Dempsey Construction Inc/747 Ink Kawasaki.

Limited Buggy
Next up were the Limited Buggies, and the front row was made up of the #389 Gear One/General Tire buggy of Kevin McCullough and the 377 Fat Performance/McKenzies entry of Quentin Tucker. After a collision landed Zac Hunt’s buggy halfway atop Dave Mason’s car on the opening lap, a full restart was called for, and after the drivers took the green flag for start number two, it was Tucker who grabbed the lead. Bruce Fraley slotted in second in his #312 MSD Ignition/Kartek Fraley, with Curt Geer third in his #385 Tires Lothringer, John Fitzgerald fourth in his #314 Wik’s Racing Engines/Makita buggy, and McCullough fifth. Geer, Fitzgerald, and McCullough each picked up a spot as Fraley dropped to fifth on lap two, with Bradley Morris then nabbing Fraley’s fifth spot on the following lap. Tucker slowed briefly coming out of turn four on lap four, which cost him three spots as he dropped to fourth, handing the lead to Fitzgerald. The order was now Fitzgerald, Geer, McCullough, Morris, and Tucker in the top five, with Fitzgerald holding a sizeable lead by the competition yellow. Once the green flag re-appeared, the running order up front remained the same for a couple of laps, but a big wreck changed the race for most everyone further back. As the mid-pack drivers came onto the front straight, Fraley was hit in mid-air by another driver, which sent him careening towards the wall. A series of barrel rolls ripped off a rear wheel, and when Fraley’s car came to rest, most of the field had nowhere to go but straight into a pileup as they tried to avoid hitting him. Several cars received heavy damage, but fortunately, all drivers seemed to be alright. The race was temporarily red flagged to clear up the carnage, and when action resumed, it was still Fitzgerald out front, followed by Geer, McCullough, Morris, and Tucker. Mason then moved up to fifth in his #365 VP Racing Fuels/Eleven Western Builders AlumiCraft, while Morris, making a great debut in the adult ranks after a successful couple of seasons in Modified Kart, made a pass on McCullough to take over third in his #304 Lucas Oil/K&N buggy. From there on in, the top five drivers held their positions, with Fitzgerald taking a dominant win over Geer, Morris, McCullough, and Mason.

Pro 4 Unlimited
After Opening Ceremonies had taken place, it was time to return to racing with Pro 4 Unlimited. Todd LeDuc has joined his brother Kyle and his dad Curt in the Pro 4 Unlimited ranks this season, and he started his #4 Rockstar/Makita Ford alongside Carl Renezeder and his #17 Lucas Oil/General Tire Ford on the front row. Renezeder grabbed the early lead, with Johnny Greaves filing in second in his #16 Monster Energy/Maxxis Toyota. In third it was Adrian Cenni in the #11 Atrium Payroll/MasterCraft Safety Chevrolet, with Rick Huseman fourth in the #36 Monster Energy/E3 Spark Plugs Toyota, and Todd LeDuc fifth. Greaves appeared to be much quicker in the low lines of turns two and three, and used this to full advantage as he drove right down the inside of Renezeder to take the lead in turn three. Cenni then found his way around Renezeder to take over second, while further back, Steve Barlow moved up to fifth in the #83 Metal Mulisha/Roush Yates Ford. The race progressed at a quick, clean pace, until a spin and some help by Cenni forced Greaves to the inside of turn three. Cenni inherited the lead, but his lead was short-lived, as he pulled off the track with a mechanical issue less than a lap later, which gave the lead back to Renezeder, who now had his mirrors full of Huseman. Renezeder was just managing to hold off Huseman, but a pass seemed almost inevitable, and soon it became a reality. Huseman out-jumped Renezeder past the start/finish line, and carried his momentum into turn one to take the lead. Huseman still held the lead at the competition yellow, with Renezeder second, and the LeDucs, Todd, Kyle, and Curt, in third through fifth.

After the restart, Kyle LeDuc had a tremendous rollover as he came out of turn five, and this brought out a full-course yellow. LeDuc had his bell rung, but was deemed ok after a routine check by the medical crew. As the racing action resumed, it was now Huseman, Renezeder, Todd LeDuc, Curt LeDuc, and Barlow in the top five, but as Renezeder and Todd LeDuc hit side to side as they went off the double jump into turn four, LeDuc was sent to the right and into Barlow. The collision forced Barlow into the wall, ending his day through no real fault of his own. Meanwhile, Travis Coyne had already gotten around Curt LeDuc, and Coyne’s #5 ProComp/Team Associated Ford was now up to fourth, just ahead of Curt LeDuc in the #43 Rockstar/Makita Ford. Todd LeDuc then developed a right rear flat, and with just a couple laps to go, had no better option than to drive around on it and hope for the best as he was passed by most of the field before, finally pulling into the hot pits. Up front, it was Huseman who started his title defense off right, taking the maximum 52 available points for Round 1 (he was also yesterday’s fastest qualifier, and the leader at the halfway mark today). In second it was Renezeder, followed by Coyne, Curt LeDuc, and Aaron Daugherty in the #24 Tuff Country EZ-Ride Suspension/Racin’ Dirty Chevrolet.

Pro Buggy Unlimited
An impressive field of Pro Buggy Unlimiteds was up next, and it was Mike Porter and Doug Fortin who started from row one. Porter led the pack past the stripe at the end of lap one in his #8 Redline Performance/Speed Energy AlumiCraft, and was followed by Fortin, Justin Davis, Rich Ronco, and Justin Smith. Smith and Ronco swapped places on lap two, and after that, the top five remained in thesame order for several laps, with a very close race developing between the top three. On lap eight, Jerry Whelchel moved up to fifth in the #5 BFGoodrich Tires/ProAm Foddrill, just ahead of the competition yellow. As the field lined up behind the Blanco Basura Toyota Tacoma pace truck, it was Porter in first, the #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./Custom Decals Racer of Doug Fortin in second, Davis third in the #85 Green Army/Hoosier Racer, Smith fourth in the #19 Metal Mulisha/Competitive Metals AlumiCraft, and Whelchel fifth. The top five held their positions for a few laps after the restart, but as the pressure of holding off Fortin and Davis finally seemed to get to Porter, he slid wide into the wall at the exit of turn four, allowing Fortin and Davis to sneak by. Davis then hit even bigger misfortune, as he lost his motor and coasted to a stop in turn three. Porter looked poised to challenge Fortin for the lead again, but his right rear tire came of its bead with only a few laps left, ending any chance of a good finish. With only a couple laps left to run, it was Fortin running in the clear up front, followed by Smith, Whelchel, Steven Greinke in the #23 SC Fuels Racer, and Phil Bollman in the #65 Toyo Tires/PB Plumbing AlumiCraft. The order up front remained the same through race’s end, with Fortin carrying the momentum from his Challenge Cup win back in December right through to another win today. In second it was Smith, who made a great debut in this class following his championship-winning season in Limited Buggy last year. Third went to Whelchel, fourth to Greinke, and Bollman rounded out the top five.

Super Lite
Austin Kimbrell and Dawson Kirchner led the field from the front row in the Super Lite race, but it was yesterday’s top qualifier, RJ Anderson, who took the lead on lap one in his #37 So Cal Super Trucks/Walker Evans Racing machine. Behind Anderson, it was Brent Fouch second in the #21 Forgiven Energy/ truck, Pat Clark third in the #25 Method Race Wheels/BFGoodrich Tires entry, Kirchner fourth in the #16 General Tire/Speed Technologies machine, and CJ Greaves fifth in the #33 Torchmate/Maxxis truck. Greaves moved up to fourth on lap two, with Jacob Person slotting in just behind in fifth in his #29 Quick Lane/Majerle’s Sports Grill entry. Greaves got by Clark to take over third on lap six, and at the competition yellow, it was Anderson, Fouch, Greaves, Clark, and Person in the top five. On the restart lap, Greaves was caught out by contact, which dropped him to the back of the pack, and shuffled the order significantly up front. Anderson still led, ahead of Clark, Fouch, Chad George in the #42 Kawasaki/Yokohama truck, and Person. George moved up to third on the next lap, with Wyatt Kirchner taking over fifth in his #26 MoTec/Exotic Engines machine. After that, the order in the top five remained unchanged, and it was Anderson who held off a hard-charging Clark to take his maiden win in the Super Lite category. In second it was Clark, who is showing serious promise after only joining the class very late last season. Third went to George, fourth to a much-improved Fouch, and fifth to Wyatt Kirchner, who made a great debut in this class after running in the kart ranks last year.

Pro Lite Unlimited
The penultimate race of the day was that of the Pro Lite Unlimiteds, and the addition of big names Cameron Steele and Casey Currie, as well as UTV sensation Ryan Beat, have brought big excitement to this class. Beat started his #51 Black Rhino/Fiberwerx Ford alongside Corey Sisler and his #19 BFGoodrich/Skin Ford on the front row, but it was “The General,” Brian Deegan, who appeared to have been shot from a cannon as he leapt into the lead in his #38 Rockstar/Metal Mulisha Ford. Sisler and Beat ran second and third, with Rodrigo Ampudia fourth in the #36 Papas & Beer/Lucas Oil Ford, and Matt Loiodice fifth in the #20 Impact!/Maxxis Ford. Ampudia and Beat swapped spots on lap two, with Chris Brandt moving up to fifth in his #82 National Concrete Cutting/Simpson Toyota. Brandt then made his way past Beat to take over fourth place, while up front, Deegan was steadily pulling away from the rest of the pack. Ampudia managed to close right down on Sisler and muscle his way by out of turn three, picking up second spot in the process. Brandt then also got around Sisler, and at the competition yellow, it was still Deegan out front, followed by Ampudia, Brandt, Sisler, and Beat. Beat slowed with motor troubles after the restart, which allowed Jimmy Stephensen to take over fifth in the #33 Discount Tire/Ironclad Nissan. Ampudia then spun in turn two, and combined with Sisler’s pulling off the track and out of the race, it was now Brandt, Stephensen, Jacob Person in the #92 San Tan Ford/VP Racing Fuels Ford, and Currie in the #2 Monster Energy/General Tire Nissan running second through fifth, with Deegan still in the lead. Ampudia moved into the top five again on the next lap, but big contact between himself, Currie, Loiodice, and others on the lap after that helped re-shuffle the order. Person briefly ran in third, but soon dropped back with crash damage, and the running order was now Deegan, Brandt, Stephensen, Kyle LeDuc in the #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and Ampudia. From there on in, the top five drivers held their positions, with Deegan taking a dominant win. Second went to Brandt, third to Stephensen, fourth to LeDuc, and fifth to Ampudia.

Pro 2 Unlimited
The final race of the afternoon was a real doozy. Pro 2 Unlimited saw a massive field take to the track, and with the addition of Pro Lite Unlimited Champion Marty Hart and Supercross legend Jeremy McGrath, the race was sure to be a good one. Brian Deegan, driving the #38 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and Bryce Menzies, driving the #7 Red Bull/AMSOil Ford, started from row one, and Deegan took the early lead ahead of Menzies, Carl Renezeder in the #17 Lucas Oil/Team Associated Ford, Rob MacCachren in the #1 Rockstar/MasterCraft Safety Ford, and Greg Adler in the #10 4 Wheel Parts/Airaid Ford. Despite a lot of shuffling further back, as well as some chaotically-fast driving up front, the top five actually stayed in order through the competition yellow. Once action resumed, Robby Woods was finally able to break the stranglehold that the first five had on their positions, moving his #99 Lucas Slick Mist/SuperChips Chevrolet up to fifth. Up front, Menzies had been the most consistent threat to Deegan’s lead, and driving like he had when he actually managed to re-take positions from Pro 4 Unlimited drivers in last year’s Challenge Cup while in his own Pro 2 Unlimited, he finally put the moves on Deegan and grabbed the lead. On the next lap, Renezeder followed suit and slotted into second, and was soon hounding Menzies for the lead. A few laps later, MacCachren also found his way by Deegan, while just ahead, Renezeder got a bit squirrelly out of turn five, thus giving Menzies just a little bit of breathing room. On the final lap, Deegan came into turn three pretty hot, hitting MacCachren and muscling his way by to re-take third. With just two turns to go, Deegan then went a little wide into turn four, and in an incident that was tough to decipher, MacCachren got into Deegan’s side, causing Deegan to spin. MacCachren was back up to third, with Woods and Adler also getting by Deegan. Up front, Menzies was clear of all the goings-on behind him as he took a fantastic win. Second went to Renezeder, with MacCachren crossing the line third. After the race, MacCachren was given a black flag penalty for his collision with Deegan in turn four, making him the last finisher on the lead lap. This moved Woods up to third place, Adler to fourth, and Deegan to fifth.

That wraps up Round 1 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series from here at Firebird. Be sure to check back with for more coverage of this weekend’s events, as Round 2 is still to come. Better yet, get yourself out to Firebird to see the action in person; it’ll be Sunday, the last day of racing for the weekend, and the drivers won’t be holding anything back! Plus, you can always walk through the pits, see your favorite drivers, grab an autograph or two, and see these unbelievable machines up close and personal. Gates open to the public at 9 am, and racing starts at 11 am. If you can’t be here, check out our friends at; they’re broadcasting this weekend’s action, so there’s no excuse to miss it!

About the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series:
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is the evolution of the long standing support of short course racing by Forrest Lucas and Lucas Oil Products. Steeped in the Midwest tradition of short course off road racing infused with a West Coast influence, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing brings intense four wheel door to door action to challenging, fan friendly tracks. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course. For more information please visit

Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series

About the Author

Mike Lasher is a true Off Road enthusiast down to the core, Growing up in the back seat of a jeep exploring the deserts of Arizona and Nevada, as a kid, as so many of us did. Today Mike spends his free time on the trails with his family and friends in his Kawasaki Teryx or Jeep Wrangler. He also regularly competes in the Best in the Desert series and was second in points in 2009. For more information on mike you can visit

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