Elk River, Minn. ~ The AMSOIL Championship Off-Road series hit its midpoint on Saturday as a massive field of trucks scattered across sixteen classes went bar-to-bar at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minn. Four five rounds, the racing has excited fans and showcased exceptional racing as drivers jockeyed for early positioning in the overall standings.
On Saturday, the reality of the second-half of the season, and how the schedule turns from a marathon to a sprint, came into reality. While it might still be too early to say the gloves are officially off, the level of competition was on a heightened alert status as drivers realize, now more than ever, that every lap counts, and every point is a crucial from this point forward.
Greaves With the Win as LeDuc Goes on a Wild Ride
CJ Greaves and Kyle LeDuc split the opening weekends of Pro 4 racing, with Greaves sweeping both rundowns in Antigo and LeDuc responding with a pair of wins in Crandon. On Friday at ERX, LeDuc found his groove, taking his third straight win and picking away at Greaves overall points lead. On Saturday, Greaves evened things up in the win column.
The early show was one that involved Greaves but left LeDuc looking from the middle of the pack. Greaves and RJ Anderson were locked into an old school, back-and-forth rundown. Anderson controlled the early lead, but Greaves took it back on lap two. But Anderson was on a mission, taking the point and holding off Greaves for the next ten laps. But with two to go, Greaves found a way around Anderson and didn’t look back, finding the right lines as he picked up his third win of the year.
“We worked really hard at the set up today and threw some stuff at it that we didn’t know it was gonna workout,” said Greaves. “It was kind of in-between as it definitely did some things better and things that we liked and definitely did some things that we didn’t like. It was a super fun race. Probably the most fun Pro 4 race I’ve ever been in.”
Anderson’s stay in second didn’t hold up for the final laps, as LeDuc had made his way back into podium position and was charging for his fourth straight win. LeDuc set a blistering pace as the final laps ticked down, including a sub-53-second lap late in the race. Despite an over rotation in the 180-degree hair-pin, he was still able to get around Anderson on the last lap for second, his fourth straight podium.
Third would go to Anderson, who picked up his first podium of the season and found a bit of redemption after the Crandon Cup winner was unable to finish in the top five during Friday’s action. Anderson went door-to-door with LeDuc for most of the last two, jaw-dropping laps, which also included pressure from Adrian Cenni (fourth) and Jimmy Henderson (fifth) as the final two podium spots came down to just a few turns and four different options.
Leighton Leads from Start-to-Finish in Pro 2
Trevor Leighton has put a lot of laps in at ERX Motor Park. On the snocross track.
The former top pro rider on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross series has been a full-time off-road racer the past few years on the West Coast. His success has drawn him to Champ Off-Road and a full-time Pro 2 program. A mixed bag of results have met the former snocross to start the season, but Leighton has shown the speed and staying power to be a contender. On Saturday at ERX, he was flawless. The first half of the race saw him hold off the entire field, and continually pull away from the pack. After the restart, the story didn’t change as he stayed in control, finishing off his first win in commanding fashion.
“We’re feeling great,” said Leighton. “The boys worked their butts off last night and this morning. We were struggling with some steering issues, but we got those figured out. We’ve been fighting it all year long but finally figured those out Monday after Crandon. I had my spotter in my ears telling me ‘You got one. Clear by one, clear by three, clear by 10’ and I’m like what the heck did I just do!”
Kyle Kleiman’s climb up the leaderboard wasn’t as clean as Leighton’s win. The defending champion finished second, his best finish since round one, but his trips around the ERX circuit resembled a mosh pit as he was banged around lap after lap. In his customary style, Kleiman was fastest at the end, getting into a podium spot on lap eleven and taking the runner-up spot on the last lap for his second trip to the winner’s circle in 2021.
Ricky Gutierrez was looking for a bounce back weekend after a rough round four in Crandon. He got it at ERX, posting a pair of podiums over the weekend. He and Leighton were the pace-setters on Saturday as Gutierrez tried everything to get past the race leader. Some last lap pressure from Kleiman dropped Gutierrez down to third, but his podium finish was his third in the last four rounds.
Cory Winner finished fourth and Keegan Kincaid rounded out the top five.
Great Run by Greaves Nets Second Pro Lite Victory
Brock Heger has five wins in six races. The only other Pro Lite driver to find the top of the box has been Kyle Greaves, who won in Crandon three weeks ago. Thanks to a great run by Greaves on Saturday, that gap has closed up a bit.
Greaves was able to start on the front row, and he took advantage by finding clean air right away. After a tough day of racing in round five, Greaves and his team had the truck dialed in. He had some pressure from Heger just after the mandatory caution, but Greaves had the right set-up on Saturday.
“Compared to yesterday, where there was a lot of carnage going on, and we just had to go back and regroup,” said Greaves. “We wrecked a transmission yesterday and everybody was working, trying to get things right. We knew today we had to get it done cause this was our best opportunity today to get it.”
Heger got past Dillon Pointon early and went after Greaves. He was hitting big air and looking for multiple lines trying to catch the leader. After the restart, he was door-to-door with Greaves, but settled in and cruised to his sixth podium of the season.
Mason Prater picked up the third position when Pointon fell off the pace. He would over rotate with two laps to go, putting Carson Parrish into third. Then a half lap later, Parrish went around, giving the spot back to Prater. But all of that back and forth gave Johnny Holtger an opportunity and he made the move stick for his first podium of the season.
Carlson Sweeps Pro Mod
Andrew Carlson put on a clinic on how to get around the nearly one-mile ERX Motor Park track on Saturday, winning the Pro Mod SXS class in convincing fashion.
Carlson, whose race shop sits adjacent to ERX, obviously knows the track better than anyone. But he also has more than enough speed to win round six, and also the ability to get through tight traffic by using calculated passes to push the envelope rather than wait for someone else to make a mistake. Carlson used several skillful moves early in the race to gain position, and a lead he would not relinquish on his way to his third win of the season and a weekend sweep.
“I knew if I could get by Robert clean and let him keep running good, we could both be up here one-two and that’s the way it was,” said Carlson. “I’ve never swept a class on a weekend, so it’s super fun to be able to do it this weekend and it’s just been a long time coming. This car is so fast out here. I knew if I just had a couple car length lead, I could run it home. So, I just tried to keep the pace steady and not do anything crazy but just bring it home.”
Robert Loire held the early lead before Carlson got by, but Loire continued to keep pressure on the race leader, including a last lap push, before finishing second. Owen VanEperen had to work from an eighth place start to find his second straight podium. He set the fastest lap in the process, but still needed to get around Gray Leadbetter inside of two laps to capture third.
Heger Counters with Pro Stock SXS Win
The see-saw battle between Brock Heger and CJ Greaves will only intensify as 2021 progresses, but at the season’s midpoint, the showdown is on full tilt.
Greaves got a big boost with the combination of Friday’s win and Heger finishing down the leaderboard after a flat tire. But Heger had won three Pro Stock SXS races heading into ERX, and he found the top spot on the podium for a fourth time with a sensational drive on Saturday.
It took Heger a few laps to get around Jacob Rosales, but once he found clean air it was going to be tough for anyone in the deep field of Pro Stock to catch him. He ran the fastest lap of the race on lap eight and nearly matched it on the second to last lap.
“When racing CJ, it’s just trying to get out front early,” said Heger. “I always try to beat him, say to turn two and hopefully get up in the lead and try not to make any mistakes. I was driving the heck out of it and overall, I am happy with it after yesterday’s run.”
Greaves had to work through traffic to get back to the podium on Saturday. He started fifth and didn’t get behind Heger until lap seven. Greaves had the speed to stay with Heger, running similar lap times, and just missing fast lap by .001 of a second. Greaves continues to hold the overall points lead over Heger, and he has yet to miss the podium in 2021.
Owen VanEperen backed up his second place finish on Friday with a third on Saturday. VanEperen made a last lap pass on Dallas Nord for the final podium spot.
PRO BUGGY: Michael Meister used some more late race magic to jump from fourth to the lead in just three turns, securing a weekend sweep at ERX.
As Meister was setting the fastest lap time out front, Michael Hester overcame a seventh place start to finish second. While it was Dave Van Den Elzen holding down the lead for the first half of the race, it was Chris Van Den Elzen who found the podium, getting past a pair of buggies with two laps to go to take over third.
PRO AM SXS: Dylan Parsons didn’t waste any time off the start, moving from his second starting position to the lead in just two turns. From there, Parsons was never seriously challenged by the field as he cruised to his first win of the season.
Dylan Marquardt found a ton of second-half speed on his way to a second place finish. He was in eighth on lap three and was able to catch the lead pack with three laps to go. He got past Bill Berger before the white flag came out and then was able to move into second when Friday winner Jake Kosmecki developed a flat rear tire. Berger was also able to close the gap on Kosmecki, taking the final podium spot away at the line but less than the length of a bumper.
1600 LIGHT BUGGY: The Schulz family run of supremacy in the 1600 Light Buggy class this season came to an end on Saturday thanks to a near perfect run by Tyler Tizzle Wians.
Wians was the race leader right from the start and was able to hold a hard charging Colin Schulz at bay late in the race. It was Wians first win of the season, and the first time neither Schulz brother (Colin or Connor) would stand on the top of the box.
Colin Schulz did finish second, ahead of defending champion Billy Buth who picked up his second straight podium.
STOCK TRUCK: It was an intense battle between Stan Wood and Eric Senkowski for a majority of Saturday’s Stock Truck race, as the two swap spots for the lead. But a late push by Corey Holtger mixed up the final running order.
Wood held the lead early, but Senkowski was able to take the lead with just under two minutes left on the clock. A late restart would bunch them up and put Holtger and Diesel Shanek in the mix. With Senkowski out front, Holtger found a fast line through the split lane to get past Wood.
Holtger then tried to make a late pass on Senkowski but ran out of real estate at the line. Wood rounded out the podium in third.
SHORT COURSE KARTS: Round five winner and hometown driver Tristian Hinton got the pole position and the early lead as he made it a weekend sweep in Short Course Karts. Hinton led all laps but one, and that was on the last lap when Wesley Vande Voort was able to get a brief lead on the white-flag lap before having to pull off the track.
Hinton took the win, ahead of Reed LeDuc (son of Pro 4’s Kyle LeDuc), who started sixth and worked his way into second on the final lap. That was his first career Short Course Kart podium. Points leader Ava Lawrence overcame a spin-out to claw her way back to third, her fourth straight podium finish.
MOD KARTS: Michael Funk used several inside-outside moves to set up his pass on Easton Sleaper to take over the lead in round six of the Mod Karts. Funk got the lead on lap five and stretched his lead out over the field as he cruised to his second win of the year. Sleaper, the defending class champion, picked up his sixth straight podium in 2021. Round five winner Antonio Inglese notched his fourth straight podium by finishing third.
1600 SINGLE BUGGY: Tom Trelstad had some home-state magic happening at ERX on Saturday as the Minnesotan moved patiently through traffic and held off veteran John Fitzgerald over the final laps to pick up his first 1600 Single Buggy win of the season.
Fitzgerald had to work his way up from the back of the pack to his second place finishing position. His podium moves him into the points lead over Tony Keepers, who finished 12th. Dylan Parsons finished third for the second straight race.
SPORTSMAN SXS: Colin Kernz had to fight through some thick traffic to notch his second Sportsman SXS win of the season. Kernz started sixth on the first lap, but continued to push towards the front, finally catching opening race leader Dustin DeGrand on lap nine, with just two laps to go.
DeGrand didn’t give up the spot easily as it took Kernz several attempts to get around the round four winner. A last lap yellow and consequential restart would drop DeGrand down to third on the final tally as Friday’s race winner Jake Jorgenson timed his restart perfectly to get behind Kernz and finish in the runner-up spot.
SUPER STOCK TRUCK: The seventeen truck field of Super Stock Truck has not disappointed race fans over the past few seasons, and that was no different during round six on Saturday.
Points leader Joey Maciosek and Kyle Cooper paced the field early, but the race was decided after the mandatory caution, when Nick Byng used a great jump off the restart to put in himself in position to pass his way up from third to the lead. He would hold on for the rest of the way for his third podium of the season.
Maciosek continued his podium streak by finishing second and making it on the box in all six rounds in 2021. Trey Beauchamp kept the 803-truck moving forward throughout the race, scratching his way to his first podium finish of 2021 in third.
170 SXS: Kody Krantz is now on a winning streak, picking up his second straight 170 SXS victory with a dominant win at ERX on Saturday. Grant Dresel worked his way towards the front to finish second, his second podium in a row. Corbyn Wassenberg was right behind Dresel at the line to finish third. Points leader Ray Deininger finished fourth and Wyatt Olson was fifth.
570 SXS: Chase Braun moved into the lead before the first lap was done and then put the hammer down to take home the 570 SXS on Saturday. It marked Braun’s third win of the season as he extended his overall points lead.
Ellah Holtger ran the race’s fastest lap, finishing second. Carter Nordrum finished third, his first trip to the podium in 2021.
AMSOIL Championship Off-Road heads to Lena, Wis. and the Dirt City Motorplex on July 31 and August 1, 2021. Each Championship Off-Road event will be live-streamed at Champoffroad.com or on Flo Sports.