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Round 1 LOORRS: First Blood for Championship Hopefuls

Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series – Round 1
After nearly three months of off-season, it was time to catch air, sling mud, and spit flames all over again. Yes, Saturday marked the opening of the 2010 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, and all the drivers here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were anxious to have a crack it this brand new track. With qualifying all finished up, there was nothing left but to race, and everyone wanted to be a winner in the first race of the season. Eleven drivers came out on top in their respective classes, each picking up valuable points in their quests to become 2010 champions.

Modified Kart
First onto the track were the Modified Karts, and was Mitchell DeJong who led the first lap of the 2010 season in his #524 Speed Technologies machine. Behind DeJong ran Jarde Brooks, Connor Pankratz, Wyatt Kirchner, and Anthony Busnardo. As DeJong ran in a class of his own out in front, Pankratz moved to second in his #511 Dickerson Motorsports kart, with Bradley Morris taking over fourth in the #504 BME Motorsports machine and Blake Lenk taking over fifth in the #521 Missing Lenk Motorsports kart. Brooks then re-took second in his #527 Synergy Electric machine, but still trailed DeJong at the competition yellow. Pankratz ran third, Morris fourth, and Lenk fifth. Pankratz dropped out after the restart, allowing JR Guthrie into fifth. Up front, DeJong was driving a masterful race, setting the fast lap of the race at  43.549 seconds, and taking the win after leading wire to wire. Brooks took second, Morris third, Lenk fourth, and Zachary Hunt finished fifth in the #534.

Junior 2 Kart
Reigning Junior 1 Kart champion Sheldon Creed has moved up to the Junior 2 division, and he’s brought his winning ways with him. Creed jumped to the early lead in his #422 A.M. Ortega/Team Associated kart, ahead of Chad Winkler, Chad Graham, Shelby Anderson, and Paige Porter.  Eddie Tafoya Jr. then moved up to fifth in his #451 Specialty Fasteners machine, joining a great four-way battle for second between himself, Winkler, Anderson, and Graham. Creed was running well up front, ahead of Anderson in the #405 Walker Evans Racing machine, Winkler in the #460 Metal Mulisha kart, the #410 Bulletproof Suspensions/Cornwell Tools kart of Graham, and Tafoya Jr. as the competition yellow waved. Tafoya Jr. moved up to fourth after the restart, and the order seemed to be all but settled until the final lap. With just a few turns left, Winkler spun out and dropped back, while in a separate incident, Graham and Tafoya Jr. got tangled up and allowed other drivers to get by. Creed was clear of all this chaos, and took a wire to wire win, with Anderson taking second, the best finish yet for a girl in LOORRS history. Graham rounded out the podium, Porter (another girl!) took fourth in the #462 Redline Performance kart, and Winkler came home fifth. Anderson’s second place wasn’t her only accomplishment; she also set fast lap at 49.696 seconds.

Junior 1 Kart
The final kart race of the day was that of the Junior 1 division. Newcomer Preston Roben took the early lead, followed by the #212 CMI kart of Brock Heger, Cole Mamer in the #235 machine, Jack Yeiser, and Trevor Doherty. After a close battle in the early going, Heger took over the lead from Roben’s #210 Duggins Construction kart, while a valiant Doherty had finally been passed by young hot shoe Jack Grabowski.  At the competition yellow, it was Heger, Roben, Mamer, Yeiser in the #244 Sway-A-Way Race Runner Shocks machine, and Grabowski in the #227 ProAm kart. Grabowski was able to pass Yeiser after the re-start, but then pulled off the track and out of the race. Up front, Heger and Roben were well clear of the field, and crossed the line in first and second places. Mamer came in third, Yeiser fourth, and Doherty’s #297 rounded out the top five. Fast lap of the race went to Heger, who’s penultimate lap was a 49.215, fastest of all drivers in both classes for the un-modified karts.

First onto the full-length track (all karts run a shorter track) were the UTVs, and with neither an inversion nor a separation of the two UTV classes (Unlimited UTV and SR1), the drivers would start in the same order they qualified in as a group on Friday. With the SR1s having a big horsepower advantage, the Unlimited UTVs would have to rely on their four wheel drive to level the playing field, even though they are scored as separate classes (remember that Unlimited UTVs have numbers starting with 6, while SR1s start with 8).

Austin Kimbrell jumped to an early lead in the #607 Monster Energy Kawasaki, followed by Chad George, RJ Anderson, John Dempsey, and Dan Kelly, all in Unlimited UTVs. #848 Doug Mittag was the leading SR1, lying sixth. Dempsey moved up to third in his #655 Simpson machine, before rolling and bringing out a yellow flag which doubled as the competition yellow. At this time, Kimbrell was running well up front, with George second in the #642 Monster Energy/Funco Kawasaki, Anderson third in the #637 Walker Evans Racing Polaris, Kelly fourth in the #624 Muzzys Kawasaki, and #802 Gary Thompson fifth in the K&N Yamaha.

After the restart, Anderson was the only driver who had anything for Kimbrell. After passing George (who dropped out in the late going), Anderson was pushing to stay on Kimbrell’s back bumper when Kimbrell slowed to a stop, handing Anderson the lead and the win. Tyler Herzog, who’d been spun off track at the start, came all the way back to take the inaugural SR1 class win and second overall in the #844 Ivy Trucking machine. Third went to an undoubtedly frustrated Kimbrell, with Thompson taking fourth and #800 Josh Stechnij rounding out the top five.  Anderson said he’d found some lines that worked well for him in the late running, and added that it was Kimbrell’s trouble that handed him the lead. “I’m excited to get a win and start the season off strong,” Anderson said.

Limited Buggy
After a red flag and full restart of the race thanks to multiple incidents, Justin Smith took the lead in his #399 Menzies Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires buggy on the restart. Following Smith were John Fitzgerald, Curt Geer, Bruce Fraley, and Jeff Richards, with Kenny Freeman taking over the fifth spot soon afterwards. Fraley fell back after tangling with Geer in turn five, which got Geer black flagged and dropped him well back. Smith still led over Fitzgerald, with Freeman in the #302 Freeman’s Carpet Service buggy sitting third, Jeff Knupp in the #354 General Tire/Volkspower Racing fourth, and Dave Mason Jr., who’s moved up from the Modified Kart class, running fifth in the #365 Western Motorsports buggy. The order remained the same through the competition yellow, with Smith and Fitzgerald way out in front. After bunching back up under yellow, Kyle Lucas moved into fifth on the restart lap. With three laps to go, Fitzgerald moved his #314 Lucas Oil/mavTV buggy into first place, where he stayed until the checkered flag. Smith, who’d set the fast lap early on with a 1:17.485, had to settle for second, while Knupp was a happy man after a long-awaited return to the podium in third. Mason Jr. took a great fourth place finish, and Ricky Gutierrez rounded out the top five in his #393 G Brothers/Yokohama Tires buggy. Fitzgerald’s win is all the more impressive when one considers that after the red flag of the first start, he had to borrow a tire from the Freeman team that wasn’t the same size as his own tire, just to replace a flat he’d gotten in the mayhem of the first start and make the restart!

With usual frontrunner Ricky James out with a concussion following a shunt in practice on Saturday morning, it was Brian Deegan in the #38 Rockstar/Metal Mulisha machine who took the lead and never relinquished it. Deegan pulled out a gap early, and was followed by Brandon Ward, Brandon Bailey, Chad George, and Brent Fouch. Chad Leising soon moved into the top five in his #5 Hart and Huntington/Lucas Oil truck, and at the competition yellow, it was still Deegan up front, ahead of Ward in the #92 Troy Lee Designs truck, Bailey in the #7 Lamb Energy/Stronghold Motorsports machine, George in the #42 Monster Energy truck, and Leising. Ward rolled with just over one lap to go, allowing Leising into fourth and Fouch to fifth in the #21. Meanwhile, George was really putting the pressure on Bailey, and got by him on the final lap to grab second. Nobody, however, could catch Deegan, who took the win in his first SuperLite start, ahead of George, Bailey, Leising, and Fouch.

Pro 4 Unlimited
With a field that was nearly twice the size of any LOORRS Pro 4 Unlimited field in 2009, the action was thick and fast in today’s Pro 4 Unlimited main event. Many off-road veterans who’d been competing in the TORC series last year were back to face their old foes, and it was Scott Douglas who took the early lead in his #27 AMSOIL/Kumho Tires Ford. Slotting in just behind were Johnny Greaves in the #16 Monster Energy/Method Race Wheels Toyota, Kyle LeDuc in the #99 Rockstar/Makita Ford, Carl Renezeder in the #1 Lucas Oil/General Tires Ford, and Rick Huseman in the #36 Monster Energy/Traxxas Toyota. Everyone was racing incredibly quick and very clean despite some jockeying for position. Huseman took over fourth, and LeDuc moved into second before rolling in turn one. LeDuc was able to carry on in sixth place, one spot behind the #11 Atrium/BFGoodrich Tires Chevrolet of Adrian Cenni. With the competition yellow out, Douglas still led over Greaves, Huseman, Renezeder, and Cenni.
A near spin by Huseman on the restart lap caused Renezeder to check up in an awkward way, and he dropped back to ninth place in the process. This allowed Kyle LeDuc into fourth, and LeDuc’s dad Curt into fifth in the other Rockstar/Makita Ford, #43. Up front, Douglas and Greaves were battling well for the lead, with Huseman and Kyle LeDuc locked in their own battle for third just behind. Greaves dropped out, and after moving clear of Huseman, LeDuc had his sights set on Douglas. Putting the entire crowd on the edge of its collective seat, LeDuc charged hard, setting fastest lap at a 1:08.652 and getting as close as half a truck length from first, but he could manage no better as Douglas held on for a wire to wire win. Kyle LeDuc took second, Renezeder was third, and Curt LeDuc beat out Huseman (who had a shredded rear tire) in a mad jump to the finish to take fourth.

Pro Lite Unlimited
Starts had been tough on these large race fields, and the Pro Lite Unlimited trucks fell victim to the tight turn one as well. A massive pile up led to a full restart of the race, and Chris Brandt took full advantage of this to lead in his #82 mavTV/BFGoodrich Tires Toyota after the first lap on the restart. In second ran Marty Hart in the Stronghold Motorsports/Kolpin Ford #15, ahead of Brian Deegan in the #38 Metal Mulisha/Maxxis Tires Ford, Rodrigo Ampudia in the #36 Lucas Oil/Fox Racing Shox Ford, and Jimmy Stephensen in the #33 Racin’ Dirty/Yokohama Tires Nissan. Brandt and Hart battled well for the lead for many laps, and although Hart briefly held the lead on several occasions, it was Brandt who held the lead at competition yellow. Hart was still second, Deegan third, Ampudia fourth, and Stephensen fifth. Adam Wik moved up to fifth in his #11 Wik’s Racing Engines Chevrolet on the restart lap, but bobbled soon afterwards to allow Casey Currie’s #2 Monster Energy/Magnaflow Exhaust machine into fifth. Up front, Brandt finally pulled clear of Hart, running alone to the finish line where he took the win and the fastest lap, a 1:15.343. Hart fell back a bit but managed to conserve second place, while Deegan was third, Ampudia fourth, and Currie fifth.

Pro 2 Unlimited
With anticipation almost palpable in the air, a 24-strong field of Pro 2 Unlimited trucks came to the start line for the penultimate race of the day. Ricky Johnson charged hard out of the gates to take the lead in his #48 Red Bull/Kumho Tires Ford, with the #21 Rockstar/MasterCraft Safety Ford of Rob MacCachren in hot pursuit. Bryce Menzies sat in third, while Todd LeDuc ran fourth and Robby Woods ran fifth after the first lap. Rodrigo Ampudia moved up to fifth in the #36 Papas & Beer/Tecate Ford as Woods fell to seventh, then to fourth as LeDuc slowed to a near crawl with what looked like a cooling issue. LeDuc’s misfortune also allowed Jeff Kincaid to move up, and his #4 Traxxas/AMSOIL Ford now ran fifth. Johnson still led at the competition yellow, ahead of MacCachren, Menzies in the #7 Blanco Basura/Bully Dog Ford, Ampudia, and Kincaid.
After the restart, Kincaid took advantage of in-fighting between Menzies and Ampudia to move up to fourth. A spin by Menzies then allowed Woods’ #99 Lucas Slick Mist/General Tires Chevrolet back up to fifth. Up front, Johnson did a masterful job to hold off MacCachren. The crowd was screaming in delight as these two ripped through the final lap, with MacCachren taking the fast lap at a 1:11.745, just two thousandths of a second better than Johnson- on the same lap! That one lap wasn’t enough, however, as Johnson drove a flawless race to take the win over MacCachren, with a resilient Ampudia rounding out the podium. Woods wound up fourth, and Kevin Probst came home fifth in the #9 E3 Spark Plugs/Goodyear Tires Chevrolet.

Pro Buggy Unlimited
As dark clouds were settling over Las Vegas Motor Speedway, all those in attendance were hoping the rain would hold off long enough to allow for a rain-free last race of the day. 22 Pro Buggy Unlimiteds took the start, with 2009 Points Champion Chuck Cheek taking the early lead in the #957 Stronghold Motorsports/Lucas Oil AlumiCraft. Doug Fortin, Rich Ronco, Cody Freeman, and Joe Morgan ran in spots two through five, but a bobble in turn one by Morgan allowed CJ Greaves into fifth place. Greaves then spun out, allowing Cameron Steele to take over fifth spot. Up front, Cheek pulled off the track, handing the lead to Fortin in the #996 Fortin Racing/Fox Racing Shox buggy. Randy Minnier had moved up to fifth, only to relinquish the position to Larry Job by the competition yellow. At this point, it was now Freeman in the lead in his #994 FCS Flooring/Wik’s Racing Engines Racer Engineering buggy, with Fortin second in another Racer Engineering buggy, Ronco third in the #999 Tatum Motorsports Tatum buggy, Steele fourth in the #916 Metal Mulisha/Menzies Motorsports AlumiCraft, and Job fifth in the #907 BFGoodrich Tires/Menzies Motorsports AlumiCraft.
After the restart, Steele grabbed third, while up front, Fortin re-gained the lead and checked out from the rest of the field. Fortin ran the fast lap of the race at a 1:14.906, and took the win well ahead of Freeman, Steele, Ronco, and Job. Fortin said of his day today, “The track was a lot of fun. The car ran great, and the guys running this series are really good.”

Look for more coverage following Sunday’s racing action, right here on Better yet, come out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway to see it in person.

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

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