The 2010 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is upon us! After a last-minute change of venues, the drivers and crews have assembled at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Rounds 1 and 2 of the new season. The paddock is brimming with new teams, new vehicles, and countless drivers just waiting for the chance to break it loose on the new dirt of this new track for the first time. An interesting track layout filled with banked turns, significant elevation change, and jumps of all sizes would favor those drivers with great technical ability, and all drivers were eager to grab the pole position for the first race as qualifying got underway on Friday afternoon.
Unlimited 2 Pro
Unlimited 2 Pro was one of several classes to benefit from the addition of several new LOORRS competitors, and today’s qualifying was all about new LOORRS driver Jeremy McGrath. No stranger to off-road action, the ex-motorcycle superstar put his skill to great use from the word go. This year’s new qualifying allows drivers 10 minutes to run as many, or as few, laps as they want, and McGrath came flying out of the gates as soon as the track went green. McGrath the pace with a 1:12.103 on his first lap in the #15 Monster Energy/Fox Racing Shox Toyota, then bettered his time twice, running 1:11.360 on his third lap and 1:11.049 to take the pole on his sixth lap. Rob MacCachren took second with a 1:11.254 in the #21 Rockstar/MasterCraft Safety Ford, ahead of Rodrigo Ampudia in the #36 Papas & Beer/Tecate Ford, who took third with a 1:11.785. Fourth went to Ricky Johnson in the #48 Red Bull/Bosch Ford in a 1:11.899, and Todd LeDuc rounded out the top five with a 1:12.123 in his #8 Rockstar/Makita Ford.
Unlimited 4 Pro
Thanks to a big influx of new LOORRS racers, Unlimited 4 Pro qualifying was a feast for the ears thanks to the addition of the screaming Toyotas of Rick Huseman and Johnny Greaves. Just as McGrath had done in U2, Huseman ran rampant in Unlimited 4 qualifying, taking the top time from the outset and only being bettered by his own improvements. Huseman ran a 1:09.591 in his first lap in his #36 Monster Energy/Traxxas Toyota, then dropped to a 1:08.656 on the next lap, before taking the pole in 1:08.388 on his fifth lap. Kyle LeDuc was second best with a 1:08.753 in his #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford, and was followed by Scott Douglas’ 1:09.245 in the #27 Kumho Tires/Sycuan Casino Ford. Johnny Greaves wound up fourth in the #16 Monster/Forest County Potawatomi Toyota with a 1:09.729, and fifth was Steve Barlow in the #2 Red Bull/Bosch Ford with a time of 1:09.756.
Unlimited Lite Pro
With hot shoe Robert Naughton moving up to the Unlimited 2 ranks, one might think that Brian Deegan and Chris Brandt, the only two drivers besides Naughton to win a race in Unlimited Lite last season, might have an easy go of it this year. This wasn’t to be, however, as two other drivers grabbed the spotlight in Friday’s qualifying. Marty Hart got off to a ripping start, running laps of 1:16.907 and 1:16.611 to take the lead in the early going in his #15 ReadyLift/Stronghold Motorsports Ford. Rodrigo Ampudia then took over at the front, running laps of 1:16.579, 1:16.445, and 1:16.041, the third of which clinched the pole for his #36 Lucas Oil Ford. Last year’s class champion Deegan came home in second in his #38 Maxxis Tires/Rockstar Ford with a 1:16.331. Brandt, runner-up to Deegan in the championship, was third with a 1:16.399 in his mavTV/Hart and Huntington Toyota, ahead of #15 Hart, 1:16.611, and #33 Jimmy Stephensen in the Racin’ Dirty Nissan, who clocked a 1:17.740.
Only five drivers were able to contest Friday’s SuperLite qualifying session. Brian Deegan got off to a quick start in his #38 Rockstar/Metal Mulisha truck, running a 1:22.651 on his first lap. Deegan then crashed himself out on the second lap, and Brandon Ward moved his #92 to the top of the time sheets on his fourth lap. Ward’s 1:21.445 was good enough to secure the pole, and Dawson Kirchner’s 1:21.681 in the #16 Speed Technologies truck was also good enough to beat Deegan, who still wound up third despite only getting one full lap in. Fourth was #7 Brandon Bailey in the Lamb Energy/ReadyLift machine with a 1:23.709, and fifth went to #21 Brent Fouch with a 1:29.755. The remaining drivers will start behind these five qualifiers in Saturday’s race.
Pro Buggy Unlimited
Ripping onto the track next was a storm of 19 Pro Buggies, and qualifying was dominated by the #996 Fortin Racing/BFGoodrich Tires buggy of Doug Fortin. Fortin took the lead on the first lap with a 1:15.763, then took the pole on lap three with a 1:14.702. Second went to #947 Joe Masek in a time of 1:14.784, while third went to last year’s points champion Chuck Cheek in the #957 Stronghold Motorsports Alumicraft, who ran a 1:15.185. Jerry Whelchel took fourth in the #901 Foddrill Motorsports buggy with a 1:15.231, and fifth went to the #994 Freeman’s Carpet Service Racer Engineering buggy of Cody Freeman, who ran a 1:15.409.
For the competitors in Limited Buggy, 2010 kicked off right where 2009 left off. Most all the name players were back, and the top five finishers were of no surprise to anyone. Points champion Bruce Fraley came out on top of this heap in his #312 BFGoodrich/Freeman’s Carpet Service machine, taking the early lead with a 1:21.152 on his opening lap, then setting the pole time at 1:18.941 on his third lap. #392 Curt Geer, the newest member of the Green Army team, came in second with a 1:19.102, while third was a 1:19.228 by Justin Smith in the #399 Menzies Motorsports buggy. Kyle Quinn, who briefly sat atop the time sheets in the early going, came home fourth with the 1:20.491 he set on his second lap in the #311 Wilson Motorsports machine, and John Fitzgerald rounded out the top five with a 1:19.568 in his #314 General Tires/mavTV buggy.
The big news in the UTV ranks is the addition of the new SR1 class. Developed by Jason and Corry Weller of Weller Racing, the class features Yamaha Rhinos powered by the engine from a Yamaha R1 street bike. Five of these new rip-roaring machines lined up with the Unlimited UTV racers for a combined qualifying session, but the classes will be scored separately in combined competition. For future reference, Unlimited UTVs are designated by numbers starting with 6, while SR1s start with 8.
Unlimited UTV points champion Chad George took the early qualifying lead in his #642 Monster Energy/Funco Kawasaki, with a time of 1:21.277 on the opening lap. George then went better on the next lap with a 1:20.705, before fellow Unlimited UTV runner Austin Kimbrell took over at the top with a 1:20.269 in his #607 Monster Energy Kawasaki. Kimbrell then made a big jump, dropping to a 1:18.723 and then a 1:18.171 to take the pole and the fastest time of the combined session. RJ Anderson came in second in the #637 Walker Evans Racing Wheels Polaris with a 1:19.168 on the last lap, while George’s best time of 1:19.637 was good enough for third. Tyler Herzog was the first SR1 runner, taking a 1:20.164 in his #844, while Tyler Winbury was fourth in the Unlimited UTVs, fifth overall with a 1:20.412 in his #694 Funco Kawasaki. John Dempsey was fifth in Unlimited UTV, sixth overall in his #655 with a 1:21.664, Corry Weller was second in SR1, seventh overall in the #801 with a 1:21.964, and Doug Mittag was third in SR1 with a 1:22.892 in his #848 SR1. Fourth and fifth in the SR1 ranks went to #802 Gary Thompson and #800 Josh Stechnij, with times of 1:23.076 and 1:27.286, respectively.