For Andrew Carlson, Kyle Kleiman and many fans in attendance, the fourth annual ERX Off-Road National was unforgettable. These talented young guns notched their first Pro wins in the second round of the Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League (LOMSCL) at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota, on July 12th and 13th. Kleiman scored back-to-back Pro 2 final victories while Carlson battled through mechanical failures and racing incidents to nail down his inaugural Pro 4 win on Saturday night.
A full slate of professional and amateur racing was on tap over the two-day event, and it produced no shortage of drama. In Pro Lite, Christopher Polvoorde kept his perfect season going with four wins in four finals. Kyle Chaney dominated Pro Mod SXS, scoring two wins while CJ Greaves claimed victory in both Pro Stock SXS finals and took the Pro 4 win on Friday.
A Course of Many Challenges
For this year’s race, track leadership made some substantial course changes to improve competition and allow passing virtually anywhere on the track. Spectators were treated to inspired drives, fierce battles, and bold passes at this sprawling and updated ERX Motor Park track, which received wide praise from many drivers and fans.
Track owners Chris Carlson and Todd Plaisted have in a sense created a motorsports mecca at the 400-acre ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota, which is located 40 miles north of Minneapolis. The Midwest Off-Road National is the track’s crown jewel event, but the year-round multi-use facility also hosts snowmobile racing, bomber stock racing, horse competitions, a craft beer festival, concerts, a 5K obstacle course race, and corporate and dealer shows as well. Beyond the sizable investment in the ERX facility, the Carlson family also fields the top-tier Pro 2 and Pro 4 truck racing effort under the Carlson Motorsports banner for Andrew Carlson.
The new improvements included a split lane from Turn 2 to 3 and a whoop section that demanded increased driver skill for passing. The course also featured sweeping turns, a massive fade-away jump, and a tabletop. In addition, the track featured a varied and changing surface that contained sand, clay, and different soils.
During races, lines constantly changed, holes would develop and drivers were consistently challenged to adapt. While the top drivers battled at the front of the field, each race produced remarkable race action, inspired drives, and wheel-to-wheel racing.
Kyle Chaney Dominates Pro Mod UTV
After claiming two Pro Mod final wins at Crandon, Wisconsin, Kyle Chaney aboard the Can-Am XPS Maverick X3 came into the weekend as the racer to beat. On Friday, he laid down the fastest qualifying time and set the bar for the weekend.
From the green flag of Friday’s final, he grabbed the lead, chose quick lines, and steadily pulled away from the pursuing pack to capture the win. Rodney Van Eperen piloted a Yamaha YXZ1000R to a second-place finish while Thomas Reihner in the Bak40 Motorsports Can-Am Maverick nabbed third.
Chaney thoroughly dominated the previous day’s final, so most wondered if other Pro Mod drivers could find the pace to stick with him driver in Saturday’s final. While Ricky Henderson held the lead in the opening laps of the final, Chaney, starting on the second row, eventually made the pass on the split-lane straight off of Turn 2.
Once through to the lead, he did another disappearing act and pulled clear of the field. And after the competition caution, Chaney again reeled off a few quick laps and pulled clear of his fellow competitors to take the victory. Jimmy Henderson captured second while Rodney Van Eperen rounded out the podium in third.
CJ Greaves Impeccable Race Management In Pro Stock SXS
As the reigning Pro Stock SXS Champion, CJ Greaves has set the standard in the class and had scored back-to-back Pro Stock final wins at Crandon. Once again, he demonstrated superior race management skills and took Pro Stock SXS final victories on Friday and Saturday.
In Friday’s final, CJ in the put in a savvy, measured and methodical drive to take the lead. Before the competition caution, the Monster Energy Yamaha YXZ1000R driver ran in the top three and bided his time.
After the competition caution, CJ upped his pace, hammered through the whoop section and steamed to the front of the pack where he remained unchallenged for the rest of the race. Cousin Kyle Greaves, driving another Yamaha YXZ1000R, captured the second position. Both jubilantly celebrated after the race in the winner’s circle.
CJ Greaves applied the same approach in Saturday’s final as he patiently waited for the race to come to him as he steadily worked his way into the lead. Fellow Yamaha YXZ1000R pilot Ryan Mulder led the race while Greaves sat in the second position. After several crashes were cleared, the final was restarted and CJ pulled away from the pack. Zac Zakowski, driving a Wildcat, gave a valiant chase and wound up second while Kyle Greaves secured third position at the checkered flag.
Polvoorde Goes 4 For 4 In Pro-Lite
Steel-It/General Tire driver Christopher Polvoorde stamped his dominance on the Pro Lite class after posting two wins in Pro Lite class at the previous round in Crandon. Driving the No. 94 Pro-Lite machine, he set the fastest lap time in qualifying at ERX and gave notice that he would be a threat to win both finals.
At the start of Friday’s race, Cody Kleiman swept into the early lead, but it was short-lived, as he suffered a flat rear tire and fell back in the pack. Polvoorde and defending Pro Lite Champion Ryan Beat soon established themselves at the front of the pack and battled for supremacy.
Polvoorde set a torrid pace and was clearly faster on certain sections of the track and pulling off 150-jumps on the back straight. Beat aggressively challenge his fellow Californian at the restart after competition caution, but Polvorde pulled out some distance and then sealed the win. Beat came home second with Chad Rayford third.
In Race 2 on Saturday, Polvoorde had to battle from the sixth position and chased down early leader Beat. In order to make up ground, Polvoorde was fiercely driving the truck and got it up on two wheels at one point while Beat defended the top position. With two laps to go, Polvorde overhauled Beat down the split lane straight and held on to take the victory while Beat took second and Cody Kleiman nabbed third.
Kyle Kleiman Prevails in Pro 2
Traxxas Ford driver Keegan Kincaid entered the race weekend as the Pro 2 points leader after securing two final wins at the first LOMSCL round in Crandon. Kyle Kleiman in the Ponsse truck took second and fourth place finishes behind first-round winner Kincaid at Crandon. When the green flag dropped, Kincaid, Kleiman, Cory Winner, and Andrew Carlson fought for the lead. Carlson ran in the second position and challenged for the lead. A mechanical issue took him out of the running and his stranded truck resulted in a yellow flag.
After the restart, Cory Winner in the Fabtech Ford-powered into the lead through the split lane portion of the track. But Kleiman and Kincaid were in hot pursuit. Kleiman got a better driver of the Turn 2 and overtook Winner on the inside of the split lane.
Then Kincaid bolted past Winner as the two leaders separated themselves from the rest of the field. Kincaid was ready to pounce if Kleiman made a mistake. But Kyle drove smooth lines, covered the passing lanes and protected the bottom of the track, so Keegan could not pass. After the race, Kleiman carried a contagious smile in winner’s circle.
In Saturday’s final, the familiar cast of frontrunners banged and battled for top honors. Kincaid grabbed the holeshot and briefly held the lead. A determined Kleiman charged to the front on Lap One while Kincaid stayed close in second.
At about mid-distance, Kevin Hanegaaf and Scott Voge aggressively fought for position as they flew off the fade-away jump on the back straight. With no quarter asked or given, the two trucks touched in the air on the downhill side of the jump. The ensuing collision caused Vogue’s truck to cartwheel down the hill and came to rest against the inside fence.
After the restart, Kleiman pulled into the lead and Carlson moved up to battle with the rising Pro 2 star. While chasing Kleiman, Carlson lost momentum in a turn trying to execute a pass. Cory Winner capitalized on this bobble and took over second while Carlson was shuffled back to fourth.
Over the final lap, Carlson mounted a challenge for second and desperately searched for an opportunity to pass Winner. Carlson stalked Winner over the final two laps. He stuffed the nose under the rear quarter panel of Winner’s an put in a valiant effort to retake second place over the last lap but came up just short. Kleiman posted another win while Winner took second and Carlson third.
Carlson and Greaves Battle for Supremacy in Pro 4
The father and son duo of Johnny and CJ Greaves have dominated Pro 4 racing in the Midwest for more a decade. In fact, CJ Greaves has been the reigning Pro 4 Midwest champion for the past four years and led the Pro 4 points standings heading into ERX. The Carlson Motosport team and family held high hopes on Carlson to prevail over the competition in Pro 4 and score a win at the home track.
In Friday’s race, Ross Hoek in the Hoek Racing Toyota Tundra grabbed the early lead. As he entered Turn 3, his right rear wheel sheared off the truck. He lost steering control and slammed into Johnny Greaves, taking both of them out of the race. After the restart, Carlson in the FXR Racing Pro 4 Ford slotted in third and quickly moved into the lead.
CJ Greaves, piloting the Monster Energy Toyota Tundra, clawed back Carlson’s lead and searched for the opportunity to make a pass for the lead. With a few laps to go, Greaves capitalized an opportunity. As the leading pair launched off the finish line jump, Carlson protected the inside line in Turn 1 when Greaves made his move.
The 24- year-old off-road star tapped Carlson’s rear quarter at the exit of the corner and Carlson spun out. Greaves swept into the lead and Jimmy Henderson moved up to second while Carlson dropped to the back of the pack. CJ solidified the lead and took the checkered flag while Carlson rejoined the race and claimed third and the last podium spot.
At the start of Saturday’s final, Henderson bolted into the lead followed closely by Johnny Greaves and Carlson. When Henderson went way wide on the Turn 2, Johnny seized the lead with Carlson moved into the second position. The Elk River native was hot on the heels of Greaves for the next lap.
When Johnny got loose over the front straight jump, Carlson dove to the inside to claim the lead. The elder Greaves had suffered a flat tire and dove into the hot pits for a quick tire change. He rejoined the race at the back of the pack but on the lead lap for the competition caution period.
When the caution period concluded, CJ Greaves sat in second, poised to challenge Carlson for the lead. Many pondered if this Pro 4 would have a similar outcome as Friday’s race. Carlson was determined to protect the inside line while CJ sought to make an outside pass for the lead. The Toyota Tundra had an excellent drive up the back straight, but he did not have a clean line to execute the pass, so he had to back out of the throttle.
That was enough for Andrew Carlson to pull out several truck lengths as he took his first Pro 4 win in front of his hometown crowd. In the winner’s circle proud father Chris Carlson gave him a bear hug and congratulated his son on a fine race performance.
That was all from ERX Motor Park for the second round of the LOMSCL. Next, the series heads to Bark River International Raceway in Bark River, Michigan for the Bark River Off Road Rumble in the U.P. August 9th to 11th.