- Pro Lite's Ryan Beat. Images by RIchard S. James

Lucas Oil Off Road champions crowned

7w ago

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With a single points-paying race deciding the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series titles, the action at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park was certainly going to be heated. But in the end, the drivers that came into the final round with the points lead left as champions.

Rob MacCachren was in good enough position in Pro 2 over RJ Anderson that all he really had to do was start the race to clinch the championship. While in the early going he trailed Jerett Brooks for the lead, he began to slip back as Anderson moved forward. Anderson eventually took the lead and went on to win in the Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR Pro 2, but MacCachren’s sixth-place finish was more than enough to once again secure the title that in 2017 he missed for the first time in three years.

The points race in Pro Buggy was a bit closer, with only 13 points separating two-time defending champion Darren Hardesty Jr. and Eliott Watson. Knowing he needed to win, Watson jumped out front in the No. 3 Tom Watson Inc./BFGoodrich Tires Alumi Craft, but Hardesty was right behind. Ordinarily Hardesty would not have settled for second with Watson up front, but second was enough to win his third straight championship in the Bilstein Shock Absorbers/Steel-It Alumi Craft.

After a rough penultimate race at Glen Helen, Ryan Beat was back up front where he’s been all season in Pro Lite. That race at Glen Helen was the only race of 2018 he hadn’t finished on the podium; had he done so, he likely would have come into the final race in an unassailable position. As it was, his only title rival was injured and sitting the weekend out, with Kyle LeDuc filling in for him. Beat led the first half of the race in his No. 51 Bilstein Shock Absorbers/KMC Wheels Chevrolet until Brock Heger passed him just before the competition yellow. LeDuc fell out of the race, ending any shot Arthur had at the title, so it was going to be Beat’s no matter what. That proved to be a good thing, as Beat’s truck was clearly not up to par, and Heger rolled on to win in the No. 12 Maxxis Tires/Icon Vehicle Dynamics Ford while Beat claimed his first championship.

While RJ Anderson came into the finale in a good position to clinch the Pro 4 title, the only certainty was for the first time since 2013, there would not be a repeat champion. Kyle LeDuc was out of the title hunt, and it was down to Anderson and Doug Mittag. After qualifying, Anderson needed to finish within six spots of Mittag, and with only eight entries, that was all but certain. Anderson started in the back to play it safe and avoid Turn 1 carnage. Mittag, though, had nothing to lose and launched from the third row into the lead.

Pro 4’s RJ Anderson

But Mittag’s turn at the front was short-lived; he got up on two wheels and nosed into the wall, necessitating a trip to the hot pits under caution. LeDuc was now in the lead, and Mittag was behind Anderson. Mittag made another charge for the front until a mechanical problem ended his title chances. LeDuc won the race in his Monster Energy Drink/Toyo Tires Pro 4 to end a relatively rough season on a high note, and RJ Anderson is the 2018 Pro champion in his Rockstar Energy Drink/Polaris RZR Pro 4.

Following the final points-paying race, the tradition has become for the next day to be the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, races for each class that are no-holds-barred clashes for big money and bragging rights for the offseason. The highlight is the Pro 4 versus Pro 2 battle, where the Pro 4 racers are handicapped and start well behind the Pro 2s; usually, though, they charge through the field and win.

Both Pro Lite and Pro Buggy were flag-to-flag affairs, won by Heger and Watson, both winners the previous day. Production 1000 UTV, though, had a little more excitement. Saturday winner Jeremy Houle started up front and led for the first half. But Mickey Thomas was biding his time in third. After the halfway caution period, Thomas quickly passed Paul O’Brien for second. Another caution bunched the field, and Thomas was on Houle’s bumper at the restart. Thomas forced Houle wide in Turn 1 to get to the inside and take the lead in his HANSA ADA Racing/Crash Addict Yamaha and go on to take the win.

As usual, the Pro 4 field had a half-lap disadvantage at the start of the Pro 4 versus Pro 2 battle. In a new twist this year, both fields would take the green from a standing start – the Pro 4s wouldn’t be able to fudge the gap when the green waved for the Pro 2s. Of note, two drivers who could have chosen a Pro 2 or Pro 4 for battle, Anderson and Bradley Morris, raced their Pro 2s.

Brian Deegan jumped out to an early lead followed by Jeremy McGrath, Anderson and MacCachren, while Adrian Cenni, Greg Adler, LeDuc and Mittag led the Pro 4 field. Scott Douglas rolled and brought out a caution. In past years that would have put the Pro 4 field right on the tail of the Pro 2s; but this year, the gap that existed before the caution was maintained for the restart. That little change in the rules for this race might have made all the difference. Still, on lap 8 LeDuc was in the top five, and two laps later he was third behind Deegan and MacCachren. MacCachren biked and that let LeDuc into second; on lap 10 he moved around Deegan in Turn 3 to take the lead.

Mittag joined him up front shortly after, and took the lead on lap 14. LeDuc’s challenge ended when he half-spun and ended up in the infield on the penultimate lap, also ending any chance that a Pro 4 would win. Mittag now had clear sailing toward the finish, but suddenly lost power, leaving Deegan and MacCachren to battle it out for the $30,000 prize. MacCachren sent it on the final lap, landing on Deegan off the big ski jump, but couldn’t get past. Deegan came home the winner in the No. 38 Monster Energy/Mickey Thompson Toyota, with MacCachren second and Randy Minnier, who missed much of the season after a massive crash in Wheatland, coming home third as the first Pro 4.

2018 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Champions

Pro 4: RJ Anderson

Pro 2: Rob MacCachren

Pro Lite: Ryan Beat

Pro Buggy: Darren Hardesty Jr.

Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger

Turbo Production UTV: Corry Weller

Modified Kart: Brody Eggleston

Junior 2 Kart: Connor Barry

Junior 1 Kart: Jake Bollman

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, Wild Horse Pass; Chandler, AZ, Oct. 20, 2018

Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc

Pro 2: RJ Anderson

Pro Lite: Brock Heger

Pro Buggy: Eliott Watson

Production 1000 UTV: Jeremy Houle

Turbo Production UTV: Corry Weller

Modified Kart: Brody Eggleston

Junior 2 Kart: Karaston Hernandez

Junior 1 Kart: Jake Bollman

Lucas Oil Challenge Cup Races, Wild Horse Pass; Chandler, AZ, Oct. 21, 20

Pro 4 vs. Pro 2: Brian Deegan

Pro Lite: Brock Heger

Pro Buggy: Eliott Watson

Production 1000 UTV: Mickey Thomas

Turbo Production UTV: Paul O’Brien

Modified Kart: Bronsen Chiaramonte

Junior 2 Kart: Connor Barry

Junior 1 Kart: Kaylee Federwisch

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