Glen Helen Raceway was host to off-road madness once more this past weekend. As the site of Round 9 and 10 of the 2018 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, racers came from all over to prove their skill in the Golden State Off Road Nationals. We were there to see the drama rise and action unfold.
The track at Glen Helen is one of the smaller ones in the LOORRS circuit, at just over a half-mile in length with every lap. Its signature features are its five turns, a big tabletop, and a three-jump straightaway. Racers told us that its width is also noticeably lesser than other tracks, making door-to-door action all but inevitable.
Between Pro Lite, Pro 2, and Pro 4, however, the track became alive with thunderous V8s and mud and dirt flying everywhere. As the penultimate racing weekend before Round 11 and 12 on October 20-21 in Chandler, Arizona, these were the races to see what the finale would look like in terms of points standings – who had a shot, and who was out of the game for 2018.
In a new rule brought to LOORRS in 2018, racers that had a top three finish in qualifying would be awarded a handful of points. For qualifying at Glen Helen, and it being this far into the 2018 season, it was a who’s-who of short-course fame that led the pack.
In Pro 2, Rob “RobMac” MacCachren was the man to beat. His driving around the course got tighter and tighter with every lap, and while he occasionally traded places with the likes of Brandon Arthur or Bradley Morris, he brought it home with a best time of 48.77, a hair faster than Jerett Brooks, who also had 48.77.
Pro Lite saw Ryan Beat, Hailie Deegan, and Brock Heger come out on top. Ronnie Anderson, little brother of Pro 4 and Pro 2 champion RJ Anderson, had to limp along due to an unseen issue. Cam Reimers in the #2 truck was towed away after the qualifying run was over.
Finally, in Pro 4, Kyle Leduc had an amazing time at 46.60 seconds as his best lap. In a showing that presaged the races that would follow, RJ Anderson was not far behind, at 46.97 seconds as his best time, as well as Doug Mittag at 47.02 seconds.
After the opening ceremony, the races began. Things kicked off with Pro 2 – the full-size, two-wheel-drive trucks that have become the stars of the short-course show. Kyle Hart #41 took a hard hit on Turn 3 and had to bow out of the competition after he got his truck rammed into the concrete barrier, but he walked away okay.
By lap eight, the top three were Brandon Arthur #6, Bryce Menzies #7, and Bradley Morris #24. A yellow flag came out and allowed the drivers to bunch up as everything slowed down. What followed afterward was anything but cool and calm.
Nearing the end, things were out of control. McGrath had smoke coming out of his driver front wheel well, Morris was spun out in turn 3, and #26 was on his side waiting for a recovery. The top three at this point were Anderson, Arthur, and Ampudia – AAA, if you will – and there were only four other trucks still in the running.
On the final lap, Ampudia apparently caused RobMac to take a tumble over the tabletop, causing a breathtaking crash that saw the winningest driver going end over end; he wound up walking away, as his truck got towed back to the pits. The AAA boys went on to take first, second, and third, respectively.
Over on the Pro Lite side of things, it was like Pro 2 all over again, but with even more trucks on the course at the same time. Leading the pack at the beginning were Cory Winner #67, Mickey Thomas #44, Cole Mamer #35, and Brock Heger #12. Winner gave way early on, and Thomas got out in front. Always on his six were Mamer and Heger, ready to pounce.
But Thomas never let them have the chance. He maintained his lead for the rest of the race, even after a yellow flag from Sarah Burgess #97 wiping out on Turn 4. When the dust settled, it was Thomas, Heger, and Beat taking first, second, and third place.
In Pro 4, Leduc was the man to beat. He and RJ Anderson came into the race with steeled determination to beat the other and show them who was boss. All the way until the eighth lap, the two of them were at each other’s necks, with RJ up front and Leduc staying consistent in the corners. Doug Mittag #81 hung back a ways, letting the titans have their struggle.
Then, on lap 9, Leduc managed to get around RJ and gain a comfortable lead. On lap 11, Mittag’s truck had a minor breakdown, causing a yellow flag to go up. Things slowed down and sped right back up again. All was looking good for Leduc at this point, until he got to Turn 1 and spun out! RJ, elated about his good fortune, got in first and kept it for a brief time. That was until Mittag overtook him and snagged the win.
With Friday under everyone’s belt, the racers now had a better idea of the feel of the track. Whatever they had been used to in Utah was now replaced with the quirks of Glen Helen, and changes to setups were made overnight to get ready for Round 10 on Saturday.
In Pro 2, all looked good for MacCachren, who made a good time on his first lap. He was back in the running despite his big crash the night before. At least, it seemed that way, until he bowed out after that one lap.
From that point on, the field was open for Deegan, RJ, Morris, Arthur, and McGrath, who all traded positions as number 1 on the scoreboard. By the end, it was Morris, McGrath, and Arthur on top.
Onto Pro Lite, it was Beat, Brandon Arthur (again), and Chris Poolvoorde #94 leading, but they gave way to Mamer, Thomas, and Heger before too long. We saw Kyle Knott #36 pull off after Turn 3 at some point, driving into the hot pits and looking to be on fire in the rear. Ryan Beat came back to stick his name in the third place qualifier, and in front on him were Mamer and Thomas.
Finally, Pro 4 came in to once again show what four-wheel-drive can do in mud and dirt. It was the usual suspects – RJ, Mittag, and Leduc – duking it out in the top three. RJ did his best to upset Leduc once or twice, but once Leduc had his rhythm going, his laps got tighter and tighter. He once again qualified first, as Mittag came second and RJ came third.
In Pro 2, RJ the wunderkind was in the lead. He started there and kept it, alongside Arthur and Morris. McGrath was there for a while, too, until he caught fire and had to call it a night.
Then it was Deegan and RJ going at it for first place. On lap 6, Deegan had had enough and made his move, successfully overtaking RJ – the young champion trailing “Bad Boy” Brian! We looked high and low to see where RobMac was, but he was nowhere to be found on the track.
As the laps continued, Deegan maintained a very healthy lead on RJ, with tons of space between him and the youngster. It was left that way when Deegan crossed the finish line to his second win of the season, with RJ and Brooks joining him at 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.
In Pro Lite, Mamer might as well have had a big “PASS ME” sign on the back of his truck, because that’s what all of his rivals were trying to do. But try as they might, Mamer would not let up.
A battle for second erupted between Beat, Thomas, and Heger, with Beat backing off and Heger moving up. Heger then overtook Thomas and had Mamer in his sights. After some more shenanigans and a massive dust cloud on Turn 3, a yellow came out to slow things down, but Mamer was still in first place. Heger lost second place to Arthur, who then lost it to Thomas. Blade Hildebrand #68 spun out, and Ronnie Anderson #52 seemed to be smoking. By the end of it all, it was still Mamer on top, with Heger and Arthur in second and third place, respectively.
Finally, it was Pro 4 time once more. With no inversion on their qualifying positions, Leduc took the lead against RJ and Mittag, and he knew it was now or never. He worked to make Mittag keep up with him, and later, on lap 6, RJ as well.
Over time, Mittag’s truck seemed to do worse and worse, losing places to other drivers, including Adler. The fight was still with RJ and Leduc, though, and Leduc unfortunately started to leak liquid toward the latter part of the race. He begrudgingly had to once again hand his precious lead over to RJ and bow out.
By lap 12, the finishers were taking form – RJ, Adler, and “Wild Man” Adrian Cenni #11. The race track was scarce, with only five trucks still in the running, dropping to four once Mittag tapped out on lap 14. As the checkered flag waved, it was RJ, Adler and Cenni in first, second, and third.
We’re waiting with bated breath to see how the season will close out for these contenders – can RobMac hold onto his lead in Pro 2? Is Ryan Beat due for a win in Pro Lite? And can Leduc shock the world and win Pro 4 for a fifth consecutive time? We’ll see how it all shakes out – October 20-21 at the Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona!