The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series opened the 2017 National Series with Rounds 1 and 2 held on April 22nd and 23rd at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona. Under unseasonably warm Arizona skies, the battle lines were drawn in the National Series which features some of the biggest names in all off road racing. Also, several story lines were developed heading into the new 2017 LOORRS race season and there were many questions raised that begged to be answered.
How was Bryce Menzies going to perform after his eight month recovery from knee and shoulder injuries? How was Carl Renezeder going to start off his final year in Pro4 to cap his stellar career? Will the re-introduction of the UTV Class in the national series be successful and who will take an early lead in that growing racing class? Finally, who is going to emerge and set themselves apart as the guy, or girl, to watch and challenge for dominance? Rounds 1 and 2 certainly set the stage for the upcoming Estero Beach Rounds 3 and 4 to be held on May 20-21.
Pro 2 Class
Saturday’s Round 1 race brought a pleasant surprise to Jerrett Brooks, who had never won at the Pro2 level. After a qualifying round where the top ten were separated by one second, Brooks ended up at the pole after an inversion.
In the main event, Brooks was door-to-door with a hungry Bryce Menzies, until he was able to take advantage of a Menzies’ mistake (with help from a Brooks’ nudge under the rear end), and hold on to edged out Rob MacCachren for his first win ever in Pro 2.
On Sunday, after qualifying up front, RJ Anderson looked like he might outpace Rockstar teammate, Rob MacCachren. But ultimately the veteran RobMac found a way to take back his lead. Anderson hung close but made a mistake which allowed Bryce Menzies an opportunity that he took to finish second. RJ Anderson held on to finish third.
Pro 4 Class
Going into the start of the 2017 season, Bryce Menzies hadn’t raced for about eight months, recouping from knee and shoulder injuries, and surgeries, after a bad crash in August. After some painful rehab, Menzies finally returned and he needed to check his mental and physical readiness to compete against the best short course racers on the planet. Well, Menzies is back.
Carl Renezeder was motivated as he was opening his final season, and Kyle Leduc wanted to push his new truck and repeat as series Champion. Round 1 proved to be redemption for Menzies as he battled to a win, after which he became emotional with his fans, sponsors and family. Renezeder took second after a race where he just could not get beyond Menzies’ bumper.
In round 2, Carl Renezeder was able to hold off Bryce Menzies from start to finish and take the victory. The always-dangerous Rob MacCachren finished in third place.
Two great stories of emerged out of Opening weekend in the Prolite Class. First, remember the name, Brock Heger. The rising 17-year-old broke the seal and earned not only his first win in Prolite in Round 1, but he swept the weekend, taking Round 2 after a late-lap miscue by Jerrett Brooks.
Heger seems to be hitting his stride this season. He is undefeated as a rookie in Class 1000 Best in the Desert Series, coming off back-to-back wins in the Parker 425 and Mint 400.
The other great story that emerged out of the Opening Rounds in Prolite is Hailie Deegan, the Dirt Princess. After placing fourth in Round 1, she took the pole in qualifying for Round 2 and ended the weekend with a second place finish in her first Prolite racing event, ever. Deegan flashing her dirt track racing pedigree is showing that she, like Heger, will be a force at Estero Beach, and all season.
Pro Buggy Class
Elliot Watson, another 17-year old phenom and close friend of Bock Heger, not only swept both qualifying rounds, but he swept both Rounds 1 and 2 over reigning Champion, Darren Hardesty Jr. On Saturday, Kyle Aarup got on the podium in third.
On Sunday, Bud Ward was able to podium in third place behind Watson and Hardesty Jr. Sweeps were abound in the Prolite, Pro Buggy and in the largest class, UTV Production 1000.
UTV Production 1000 Class
This year marks the return of the UTV Production 1000 Class to the LOORRS National Series and the class showed why the UTV is back. The class boasted the most entries with 24 racers from various backgrounds, including Regional short course, desert racers, ModKart and ProLites. Teams were evenly divided between those racing the Yamaha YXZ1000R, and those running with the popular Polaris RZR 1000.
In Round 1, George Hammel got off in the lead with Myles Cheek, and former UTV World Champ, Mitch Guthrie Jr., on his tailpipe. Brandon Arthur and Brock Heger, ProLite racers, were also tight behind the leaders along with Ronnie Anderson, RJ’s little brother.
Brandon Arthur maneuvered to the front of the fray and held on to win in his Yamaha. Polaris driver Myles Cheek podiumed in second with Dustin Nelson (Yamaha) taking third place. Jason Weller and Brock Heger rounded out the top five.
In Round 2, Arthur just missed out on qualifying for the pole slot, so he started second behind top qualifier, Paul O’Brien, a LOORRS Regional Series racer. O’Brien could not hold off Brandon Arthur who ended the weekend with a sweep of the UTV Class. O’Brien did finish second ahead of Brock Heger in third, capping off a Round 2 sweep for Yamaha. Ronnie Anderson and Keith Brooks rounded out the top five.
For the weekend, Brandon Arthur solidified himself as the man to beat in what appears to be a very popular and growing UTV Production Class. It will be interesting to see who emerges to challenge Arthur at Estero Beach and later in the series. Also, it will be interesting to see if Yamaha continues to “dominate” Polaris in the National Series.
Brody Eggleston took the pole and lead early in Round 1, but surrendered his lead to Cole Keatts who snuck by on the inside on lap 2. Trey Gibbs, Mia Chapman, and Ricky Gutierrez challenged. Caden Fluegge, Chris Nunes and Connor Barry got involved in the lead pack mid-race but it was Eggleston and Keatts ultimately leading the way.
Jaden Uribe and Braden Sorensen got tangled in a spectacular rollover crash. Eggleston won the opening round with Keatts taking second, Gibbs third, Barry fourth, and Nunes fifth.
Cole Keatts and Eggleston switched positions in Round 2 with Keatts getting his first win with Brody Eggleston finishing second. Third through fifth places also stayed the same with Barry third, Nunes fourth and Gibbs finishing fifth. There looks to be a solid rivalry growing in the ModKarts with Keatts and Eggleston on top, and three others in contention as the series moves to Estero Beach.
What To Expect At Estero Beach
Going into Estero Beach for Rounds 3 and 4, there are more than a few rising stars that should be watched. First, just accept that Bryce Menzies is back and he looks eager to continue to make up for lost track time. He has to figure in every race he starts whether he takes the pole or not.
Second, Carl Renezeder is putting it down so he goes out on top. He is going be in contention in every race he starts, so long as he can hold off Rob MacCachren and Kyle Leduc.
Third, Brock Heger is absolutely on fire and he may just keep winning every race he starts, whether it is BITD or LOORRS. Heger can flat-out drive it. Fourth, watch for the Hailie Deegan to keep the pressure on Heger in Prolite all year long as she just needs one break to get a win.
Also, it is hard to ignore that Elliot Watson swept Hardesty in Rounds 1 and 2, but look for last year’s Champ in the Pro Buggy to get his fair share of wins. Finally, Brandon Arthur may have had the best opening rounds of everyone. He swept the largest class racing which is impressive and bodes well for him going forward to Estero Beach.
Off Road Xtreme will continue to cover the Lucas Off Road Racing Series all season long, beginning with coverage from Estero Beach on May 20-21, 2017.