2014 TORC Season Opens
The Off-Road Championship Series Presented by AMSOIL, better known as TORC, kicked off the 2014 season April 5th & 6th right where it left off in 2013...Primm, Nevada. The opening round took place on Saturday, racing three series: Pro Lights, Pro 2 (2WD) and Pro 4 (4WD) trucks. The second round followed on Sunday with the same divisions running. Both days were beautiful for racing, with clear skies and warm temperatures. The series had exciting new additions for the 2014 season. Arie Luyendyk, Jr. son of the two-time Indy 500 champion from the Netherlands and former Indy Lights racer, was beginning his first full season in the TORC series Pro 2 division. Luyendyk’s presence has increased the popularity of TORC, not only because of his famous name, but also his celebratory status as a reality TV star. Another big name entering the TORC series was Nitto Tire. This would not only be Nitto’s first race with TORC, but also their first short course off-road race. The tire company that won this year’s King of the Hammers is now the primary sponsor on the truck of Ross Hoek, who is entering his second season as a driver in the Pro-4 division. Hoek moved up to the Pro-4 division for the 2013 season and had been the Pro-2 Champion in 2008. He began his career in Pro-2 the previous year.
If you’re not familiar with off-road short-course truck racing, the main difference between a Pro-2 and Pro-4 truck is the drivelines. A Pro-2 truck is 2WD and Pro-4 is 4WD. Also, the Pro-4 trucks have a minimum weight of 4,300 pounds, vs. 3,400 lbs. for the Pro-2 division. Pro Light trucks are compact 2-wheel-drive trucks with much less horsepower (250 hp vs. 850 for the big boys) but weigh only 2800 lbs. Because they are less expensive to build and repair, the division is usually the one with the most, and youngest, competitors.
Saturday saw 27 drivers take the green flag and 24 trucks were able to race again on Sunday in the Pro Lights division. Drivers as young as 15 race competitively in this division. In fact, it was 16 year-old Jerett Brooks who won Sunday’s race in commanding fashion. Combined with his third place finish on Saturday, he is tied for the points lead with Saturday’s winner, C.J. Greaves, who finished third Sunday behind Brooks and Brooks’ teammate, 15 year-old Kyle Hart. Doug Mittag finished in second on Saturday. Greaves and Brooks are now tied for the points lead heading into the Charlotte race. Mittag and Hart, who each had a fifth place finish to go with their runner-up spots, are tied for third behind them.
From a scoring perspective, the Pro-2 race was extremely uneventful. Chad Hord earned the pole position in qualifying and never relinquished it. Unfortunately, it was making for a very eventful race. Following a competition caution, the field bunched up for a restart. All trucks seemed to come out of the first turn well, with Hord opening up a huge lead over the competition. But Marty Hart and Jeff Seifert began to get squirrely while battling for second. The field bunched up behind them. That’s when the fourth place truck of Arie Luyendyk Jr. crossed in front of Mike Jenkins’ rig in the rhythm section and was tipped over by the contact. The Gunk truck barrel rolled five times, landing on its wheels in the hot pit. Fortunately, those in the truck’s path scrambled to safety before it could slowly roll on top of them, but Arie was unconscious. Friends, teams, USAC officials, competitor Jarit Johnson (brother of past off-road and reigning NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson) and others gathered behind Arie's truck as safety crews and race teams cut the roll cage away to extract him. Although it seemed like forever, the crew had him out of the truck in about half an hour. As they put him on the stretcher, those of us who were right there saw him wave his right arm to let us know he was okay (although the ambulance worker had told him to remain perfectly still). As scary as it was, Arie made it back to the track the following morning. He told me that he had a broken (left) clavicle and no spinal injuries or concussion. The brand new truck will need a lot of work (the steering column snapped off and had to be steered by vice grips), but the young driver will be back as soon as his injury heals. Hart and Jenkins joined Hord on the podium. Sunday’s Pro-2 event was exciting for all the right reasons. C.J. Greaves, whose truck broke in qualifying Saturday and only made a cameo in that race, plowed his way through the field over the first half of the race, but was still a distant third when the competition caution flew at the midpoint of the event. Greaves was able to catch up to the leaders and quickly made his way to second after the caution. But Hord wasn’t going to give up his lead easily. On the occasions when Greaves took the lead, Hord battled back. In the end, it was Greaves by a trucklength over Hord in a very enjoyable race. Patrick Clark drove a great race to eke out a third place finish over Mike Jenkins.
The Pro-4 division was dominated by two trucks this weekend: The Ford of Adrian Cenni and the Toyota of Johnny Greaves. Saturday’s race started ominously for Greaves, as he hit a rut on the first lap and rolled his rig onto it's side. Looking much like the Keystone Kops, the safety crew, while attempting to right him, ended up putting the truck on its roof. Eventually, they rolled it onto its wheels and, being a tough racing truck, fired right back up and headed back to the field. Greaves was still racing his way back to the rest of the trucks when they took the green. The extra momentum helped him blow past three trucks before exiting the second turn. With two laps to go, he took over the lead from Cenni, but Cenni was determined and regained the lead on the final lap and took the win over Greaves, Mark Kvamme and Ross Hoek, driving his first race on Nitto Tires. On Sunday, I asked Johnny what he thought happened with the rollover; he said he knew that the rut was there, but he just miscalculated. He went on to explain that the crew stated that rolling him on his roof was revenge for hitting their generator last year. They probably were smiling when they told him that, just as he was when he reiterated the story to me. You could see in his eyes, though, that he was highly dissatisfied with the second place finish and was determined to make up for it shortly. He did. From his third starting position, he quickly made his way to the lead, but Cenni wasn’t there to roll over and quit. The two combatants took their battle all the way to the final lap, but this time Greaves prevailed. The race for third between Mike Jenkins and Scott Douglas was just as epic, with the master, Douglas, taking the final podium position. Overall, the Greaves family, despite a few opening-weekend miscues, had a pretty terrific start to the season. By the time the teams get to their next race weekend, April 25-26 at the Dirt Track at Charlotte (N.C.), all of these teams should have their first-race gremlins figured out and there may be even more amazing battles in the three divisions. For tickets to the Charlotte race, visit TORC's page. NBC Sports televised the weekend’s events and it can be seen on TORC’s YouTube channel.