On the weekend of March 20th, the fuse was lit on the 2015 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in Lake Elsinore, California. Carl Renezeder was there, ready and eager to etch his name ever deeper into the record books and racing immortality. In a sport where it’s not uncommon for some racers to set the track ablaze for a few seasons and then fizzle away into obscurity, the peak-performing Renezeder, the winningest driver in short-course history (115 wins), started his remarkable 17th year of racing.
Renezeder has remained at the forefront for three decades, helping to elevate off-road racing, in particular short-course truck racing, from an ultra-niche market into dare we say – the mainstream. The LOORRS, which is contested on a closed course less than a mile long and on tracks similar to a Supercross or motocross event, features Pro 2 and Pro 4 vehicles that reach up to 100 mph and launch drivers several stories into the air over massive crowd pleasing jumps.
Each season, enthusiasts show their passionate approval as the fanbase continues to grow exponentially. With the sport now being carried on NBC, CBS Sports, Speed, and MavTV, and thanks to corporate sponsorship and large money purses, the LOORRS is currently near the pinnacle of the most frequently televised motorsports in the nation. In fact, it’s second only to NASCAR.
Over his illustrious career, the Laguna Beach, California resident hasn’t only won over legions of fans – he’s earned his position as the poster-boy for representing a racer’s racer. Renezeder is highly skilled, awesomely resilient, and polished diamond tough by the pressures of racing, yet he places clean driving and teamwork above all. Attempt to get into his head about his historic winning record, and he’ll deflect the conversation to his team.
“The key to my consistency has always been my team members,” he insists. “They develop my race trucks with a focus on working with my marketing partners.” As an example of that consistency, between 2000 and 2002, Team Renezeder logged eight CORR (Championship Off Road Racing) wins, six in the Pro 2 class and two in the Pro 4 class.
The following year, in 2003, there was no letup for Team Renezeder. By season’s end, the team had accumulated another eight CORR wins, three in Pro 2 and five in Pro 4, which earned Renezeder his first Pro 4 Championship. To make matters even better, he finished second in the Pro 2 points chase that same year.
Renezeder cites 2007 as his most memorable season. It was the year he had the most single season wins. That year, Renezeder won the CORR Pro 4 Championship with eight Pro 4 wins, and finished third in the CORR Pro 2 points championship with seven Pro 2 wins. He also managed to ink three WSORR Pro 4X4 victories, three Pro 2X4 victories, and he won the 40th Annual SCORE Baja 1000 with Rivera Racing.
Overall, from 2003 to 2013, Renezeder has claimed nine national championships, six in Pro 4 and three in Pro 2. His 115 short-course victories break down to 50 Pro 2 wins and 65 Pro 4 wins, 39 of which came in LOORRS, 65 in CORR, 10 in WSORR, and one in RJORGP.
Pro 2 Versus Pro 4
Clearly from the outside, the Pro 4 and Pro 2 trucks appear similar in size and weight, but there are a few distinct differences that allow the Pro 4 trucks about a second a lap edge. The main distinction is that the Pro 4 class features four-wheel-drive, which really helps gain traction in the turns. At the same time, the Pro 2 class uses two-wheel-drive with similar power plants and chassis setups that require much more finesse to be consistent.
The horsepower range for both classes is the same, typically running between 700-900 hp. Trucks in both classes have 18-inches of front wheel travel set as the limit and 20-inches of rear wheel travel, also limited by the sanctioning body. They both share the same minimum wheelbase limit of 113-inches and a maximum wheelbase set at 122-inches, with a 93-inch maximum track width. However, the minimum weight limit including the driver for a Pro 4 truck is 4,000-pounds, while the Pro 2 minimum weight limit including the driver is set at 3,750-pounds.
Within those specific limits, Renezeder’s Pro 2 truck weighs in at 4,200-pounds with a 117-inch wheelbase and runs on General Tire Grabber SC rubber. His Nissan Titan engine puts out 850 hp with 650 lb-ft of torque, paired with an Xtrac transmission. Team Renezeder’s four-wheel-drive Pro 4 truck weighs the same as their Pro 2, but the wheelbase is an inch shorter and the engine, transmission, and overall output are the same as the Pro 2. Keeping both trucks as much alike as possible keeps Renezeder’s transition adjustments to a minimum moving from one class to another on race day.
We caught up with the father of four and husband to wife Kelly shortly after he and some of the best off-road racers once again tackled the wilds of Newry, Maine at the second annual 2015 Red Bull Frozen Rush. Last year’s inaugural Red Frozen Rush came with a weather related “Polar Vortex” twist, and we were quick to point out that despite how it sounded, it was not a slushy cocktail concoction mixed with the well-known energy drink. It is in fact the racing brainchild of Red Bull, who somehow convinced the folks at Sunday River Resort into letting them convert one of their ski runs into an off-road short course, complete with jumps.
At the start of the New Year, Renezeder, along with nine of the top off-road drivers in the world, raced their Pro 4 trucks through the snow and ice in an attempt to once more conquer nature. Renezeder said that he couldn’t wait to get back to the adrenaline rush and heart-pounding action of taking his Pro 4 to its limit on a surface so different from dirt.
“The Crew worked hard and made lots of changes to meet the challenges of racing in the cold and snow,” said Renezeder, “and I was excited to get out there.”
The course was upgraded this year and it lived up to its promise to be an exciting experience for the drivers. The track featured extreme jumps, eight-foot tall berms, obstacles, and 50-foot gaps, all while racing at top speed on snow. The drivers practiced on Wednesday, January 7th with qualifying taking place on Thursday, January 8th. The actual racing action went down on Friday, January 9th.
After the 2014 running of the Red Bull Frozen Rush, Renezeder commented, “I thought it would be fun to see the capabilities of my Pro 4 in a different environment, and to compete with other Pro 4 drivers to test my skills.” We started our conversation with Renezeder about the 2015 edition of the Red Bull Frozen Rush.
Off Road Xtreme: We did the story with you after the first Red Bull Frozen Rush last year, what are your thoughts about this year’s event and what was different?
Renezeder: “The best part about this year’s Red Bull Frozen Rush was the side-by-side racing format. It’s always more exciting to race one of your peers. It’s pretty incredible to race in the snow, but more track time would really be helpful in setting up the truck for the challenges and differences in racing in the snow versus dirt.”
ORX: After a challenging 2014 season, how important was it for you and the team to finish the year with a victory and a 3rd place in the last event?
CR: “It’s always a good day when you finish on the podium. We started 2014 out well, but just seemed to have a run of bad luck. We spent the race year fine-tuning the trucks to make them better. So when we finished the year out like we did, we knew we were on the right track with the trucks. It felt good to be back on top.”
ORX: In that last event, with one lap to go and battling Johnny Greaves, you suddenly went airborne like a rocket ship, what specifically caused your errant flight into the stratosphere?
CR: “I was battling with Johnny Greaves for 2nd over the first part of the step up jump. Johnny was checking up a bit and our wheels touched on the landing sending me over the top on the second part of the jump.”
ORX: As mentioned, last season presented some unusual demands on you and the team. Having covered you for a number of years now, how would you rate 2014, and what were you able to take away from it heading into this season?
CR: “The 2014 season was intense, exhausting, frustrating, and crazy, but this is what you expect in short-course off-road racing! I’ve have a lot of amazingly good years, 115 wins and nine Championships; you have to expect sometimes there will be challenges. Headed into this season, we’re committed to chasing more wins and championships.”
ORX: From a spectators’ view it seems as though the racing keeps getting more and more aggressive with each season. What does it feel like from your perspective, is there more contact now than there was a few years ago?
CR: “The Pro 2 and Pro 4 classes are pretty aggressive classes. You have big, heavy trucks battling it out on the track and it’s not easy to win. We have more young, talented and aggressive drivers moving up the ranks, and they want their share of podiums too. There is a lot of contact today, but if someone gets too aggressive with the contact, it doesn’t matter if you are a better driver or have a faster truck, they can still end your day.”
ORX: You’ve set records and accomplished things that may never be duplicated in your sport. What motivates you heading into the 2015 season?
CR: “My sponsors and fans motivate me. I couldn’t do what I do without them, and of course, my team. They put in the long hours, the hard work, and the changes that are necessary to give me the confidence to be dedicated to winning each race.”
ORX: Did you make any changes to either of your trucks that you’d care to talk about?
CR: “We’re always making changes because the trucks can always get better; keeping things the same is a sure way to fall behind. We have to be innovative with the trucks to stay competitive. We have incredible support from our sponsors so we’re able to stay ahead.”
“Changes for 2015 will depend on how testing goes during the off-season. During the off-season, we’ll review everything on both trucks to see how we can make them faster, more reliable and more drivable on the track. It’s an ongoing learning process.”
CR: “We are always ready for the season to start and we really enjoy the night racing at Elsinore. It’s close to home, and we have a lot of fans there – it’s a lot of fun. We’re ready to start the season opener on the podium.” (Editor’s Note: Renezeder finished 2nd and 8th on the weekend at the Lake Elsinore, California, 2015 LOORRS Pro 2 season opener. Pro 4 brought on even more success with 1st and 3rd place finishes respectively.)
Lucas Oil driver Renezeder and Monster Energy’s Kyle LeDuc have taken turns dominating the Pro 4 class in the series’ six seasons. Between the two of them, they have won five of the six championships (three by Renezeder) and 55 of the 87 points races. In addition, up until Renezeder struggled through a winless 2014 season, neither had been out of the top three when they had run a full season. If past history is any indication, the smart money is on Renezeder, as he will be looking to realign the racing stars into their proper order. If you consider yourself to be an off-road aficionado, then LOORRS is the spectacle to watch this season.