Champions get crowned in Crandon, and while the official World Championship race is set for Labor Day weekend, the Big House was full of championship contenders as rounds three and four of the 2021 AMSOIL Championship Off-Road season invaded Crandon International Raceway this weekend.
On Saturday, the stars came out and flexed their championship contending chops. From current title holders to past winners, the opening day of Spring Crandon allowed fellow racers and fans remember who sits atop the Champ Off Road throne.
LeDuc Tops in Talented Pro 4 Field
Kyle LeDuc had to regroup after a challenging opening weekend in Antigo that saw the defending Pro 4 champion fail to finish both races. But LeDuc regrouped and returned for round three determined to right the ship.
First, LeDuc would have to get around a resurgent Adrian Cenni, who found the lead after mastering the land rush start and coming through turn one clean. LeDuc kept up the pressure and on lap four he secured the lead. He went unchecked for the remainder of the race, picking up his first win of the year and his third Crandon victory in the past four attempts.
“So much rides on that start,” said LeDuc. “We got a great snap off the start, got some contact with RJ (Anderson) and then I saw Cenni up front. I tried to go for it early, but I tried to be smart and picked him off. The track was so slippery. You guys (the fans), I wish you could go stand in turn three, you would be on your butt in two seconds. And we are hitting it at 80 MPH. I got past Cenni clean and then just put the truck on sail.”
For the next several laps, Cenni held a firm grip on the runner-up spot, even with pressure from points leader CJ Greaves. On lap nine, Cenni was forced to pull off the racetrack, putting Greaves in second. He was unable to track down LeDuc but was able to hold off his father and teammate Johnny Greaves
The elder Greaves’ race to the podium started by getting caught up in a first lap incident, but he was on a mission after that. He moved up at least one spot each lap after starting 13th before gaining control of the final podium spot with three laps to go.
Kincaid Cranks Out Another Crandon Win
It’s usually a good bet that Keegan Kincaid will find success at Crandon, especially during the annual Forest County Potowatomi Brush Run held each June. With his race shop just a few miles down the road, the homegrown product has been winning races at the Big House for nearly a decade. He found a way to win again on Saturday.
Mickey Thomas jumped out in front with a big hole shot coming off the land rush start and turn one. He was in control for the first few laps, leading a field of 24 Pro 2’s around the speed Crandon track. Two minutes into the race, however, Thomas was forced to retire with a mechanical.
That put Trevor Leighton momentarily into the lead, with Kincaid and former West Coast champion Jerett Brooks into third. Two laps later, Kincaid would move out front, and with nothing but clean air, the 2019 champ was on cruise control as he drove to his third straight win to start the new season.
“I drew an eight (on the inversion) and I wasn’t very happy with that,” said Kincaid. “The car started way out there, but the Cooper Tires hooked up and gave us a great hole shot. It reminded me of my dad, back in the day, riding that outside wall. I worked my way to the lead before half-way and actually ran out of tear-offs, but it was fortunate that I was out front. Basically, just took it from there and got the win.”
Leighton would prove his fast start wasn’t a fluke as he pressured Kincaid before getting into a battle with Brooks, Ricky Gutierrez and Cory Winner. Leighton held off the swarm through the mandatory caution, but contact gave the former snocross racer a flat rear tire and allowed Brooks to move past. But in the same move that allowed Brooks to go into second, Gutierrez made an aggressive pass on both Leighton and Brooks. With only a few laps left, Gutierrez held off Brooks for second.
Winner worked his way up from seventh to finish fourth. Ryan Beat, who is running a Pro Spec truck this season, worked his way up from tenth to fifth.
Greaves Gets it Done in Pro Lite
Kyle Greaves championship hopes in 2020 were dashed due to an average finishing position of ninth at the three rounds held at Crandon International Raceway. On Saturday, Greaves reversed his struggling trend in convincing fashion.
Dillon Pointon held the early edge as he led the field through turn one, but Greaves didn’t let him keep it as he took the top position by railing the outside line of the big, sweeping gravel pit turn. Through the mandatory caution and another late race caution that momentarily stopped the race, Greaves held the fastest truck in the Pro Lite. His first class win at Crandon was a relief as they now look forward to future success at the Big House.
“Crandon has been getting the best of me for years,” said Greaves,” and we finally beat Crandon. So, from here on out, it’s moving forward and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow.”
Round two winner Brock Heger did everything he could to catch, and try to pass Greaves. He was close to the eventual race winner with two laps to go before the final caution flag came out. Despite a leaking rear tire, Heger was able to keep Greaves close for second, even with a flat-out charge from Madix Bailey over the last several laps.
With Bailey in third, Pointon came through in fourth and Ronnie Anderson rounded out the top five.
Father-Son Fill Up Pro Mod Podium
Early in Saturday’s Pro Mod SXS race it looked like CanAm’s Kyle Chaney was going to cruise to a second straight win, but six laps in, Chaney was forced to pull off the track. That allowed a pair of Yamaha’s to battle it out for the win, and bragging rights at the dinner table.
Behind Chaney sat the father-son combination of Rodney and Owen VanEperen. The two were nose-to-tail as they tried to chase down the race leader. When the leader pulled off, the race between familiar foes took on a whole new meaning, but it was held at the same intensity as if the two were fighting for last. Each time around, Rodney kept his son in check, even though there was less than a car length of separation most of the time. In the end, the elder VanEperen took the win, with the kid finishing second, saying his dad ran a perfect race in the post-race interview.
“It didn’t feel perfect,” said Rodney VanEperen. “We chose a tire that was really grooved, but it really had tons of grip, and every corner we were hucking it in and sliding. I was on pins and needles the whole time out there.”
Round one winner Andrew Carlson (Polaris) put in another spirited run to the podium, finishing third. Brian Waszak secured another top five finish in fourth, with Robert Loire rounding out the top five.
Heger Holds Of Greaves in Pro Stock SXS
It’s going to be a season-long slugfest for Pro Stock SXS supremacy between CJ Greaves and Brock Heger. The two Yamaha-backed drivers came into Crandon 1-2 in points after they split the season opening weekend in Antigo. In Crandon, it was another close finish between the frontrunners, this time with Heger holding off a hard-charging Greaves for his second straight win.
Coming out of turn one, Heger and Greaves keeping track of one another in fourth and fifth. Two laps in, Greaves made a series of moves that moved him from third to first, but Heger was in tow, gaining second. For the next few laps, the pair would swap spots, but Greaves kept the lead at the finish line jump.
But Greaves found a couple of ruts that put him up on two wheels, and Heger got the lead. Greaves put in continuous attempts, picking different ways to get around Heger, who held his advances at bay. Every time Heger got a little breathing room, Greaves would close the gap. By the time the clock ran out, Heger had win number two, and Greaves was in second, less than a half-second back.
“I wanted to get CJ early and kinda let him tag along with me,” said Heger. “But he was up there for a little bit, then he pushed wide a little and I capitalized. My spotter told me he was one-car, two cars behind me the whole time.”
Johnny Holtger kept pushing through traffic as he worked his way up from a mid-pack start to finish third. Jack LeTourneau (fourth) and Matt Wood (fifth) rounded out the top five.
PRO BUGGY: Mark Steinhardt led eight laps in round two but wasn’t able to close the deal as Michael Meister took the win and an opening weekend sweep. Steinhardt didn’t let that happen again as he led from start-to-finish at Crandon for his first win of the year.
Meister was in control of second, but a few issues in the second half of the race opened the door for Paul Hayward to secure the second spot and his first podium of the season. Meister pushed through the finish in third.
SHORT COURSE KARTS: The podium was full of brand-new faces for round three of Short Course Karts on Saturday. After a full field restart, Ava Lawrence got out front and led for the majority of the race. But with just two turns left, Lawrence drifted high coming out of the gravel turn corner, and Tristian Hinton was able to find enough traction in the lower part of the turn, which was robbing drivers speed for much of the race. Hinton would power through the last two turns on his way to his first win of the season. Wes Vende Voort was also able to make the inside work coming out of the gravel pit to finish second. Lawrence kept charging to finish third.
570 SXS: Chase Braun ran a near perfect race on his way to winning the 570 SxS race, his second win in three tries in 2021. Round two winner Andy Johnson made it two straight podiums with a runner-up effort on Saturday. Collin Paitl rounded out the podium in third, followed by Connor LaCasse and Ethan Dresel.
170 SXS: Ellah Holtger picked up a big win, her first of the year, by going flag-to-flag in the 170 SxS racer. Holtger extended her race lead over points leader Raymond Deininger, who would finish second. Jayden Dickman finished third, followed by Madisyn Winistorfer in fourth and Wyatt Olson in fifth.
MOD KARTS: Three rounds in and three separate winners in the highly competitive Mod Kart class. Saturday at Crandon belonged to Antonio Inglese as the Felch, Mich. native went wire-to-wire for his first win of the season.
Defending champion and opening round winner Easton Sleaper kept the pressure on the leader for the win, but came up just short to finish second. Round two winner and current points leader (after two rounds) Porter Ingleses kept the pressure on Sleaper, crossing the line in third.
SPORTSMAN SXS: Twenty-nine Sportsman Side-X-Side’s came through Crandon’s famous Turn One, but it was a battle between the top two finishers that would tell the story on Saturday.
Points leader Derek Tilkens, who opened the season with a pair of wins in Antigo, would be bar-to-bar with Derek Liebergen. Liebergen got the early position, but Tilkens made a mid-race pass on Liebergen for the lead. Late race cautions kept it tight, but Tilkens was able to hold Liebergen off for the win. Colin Kernz used the cautions and a late race push to move up to third.
SUPER STOCK TRUCK: The rain that fell on the Single Buggy race picked up leading into the Super Stock Truck showdown. Running in clean air and keeping a clean truck was Matt Pyburn, who didn’t miss a mark on his way to his first career win in the class.
Joe Maciosek found his second podium of the season by keeping a handful of mud-packed trucks in his roost. A double-winner in Antigo, Nick Byng made a last lap pass on Ben Holtger to round out the podium.
PRO AM SXS: Dylan Marquardt controlled the Pro AM SXS class in Antigo, but his brother kept winning the Pro AM SXS class a family thing on Saturday. Josh Bayer got the early lead before Marquardt took over the lead with five laps left. Bill Berger was able to move in behind Marquardt, but it was Tyson Marquardt taking the win. Berger followed in second and Dylan Marquardt kept his podium streak alive with a third.
1600 LIGHT BUGGY: Colin Schulz took the opening two rounds of 1600 Light Buggy in Antigo. In Crandon, his brother Connor kept the race wins in the family on Saturday.
Schulz came out of turn one clean and in the lead. He was in clean air for the entire race, despite heavy pressure from class veteran Greg Stingle, who finished in the runner-up spot behind Schulz.
Taylor Roloff made an impressive move just before the white flag came out. He found a perfect line on the inside of the gravel pit to slip past two cars, going from fifth to third. He would hold the spot on the final lap to pick up his first Light Buggy podium finish.
STOCK TRUCK: Tires made a major impact on the outcome of Saturday’s Stock Truck race. Early race leader Cory Holtger lost a right front tire just three minutes in, giving Stan Wood the lead. But just two minutes later, Wood lost the bead on the left rear. Diesel Shanak was able to keep all four wheels intact and notched his first win and third straight podium of the season.
Eric Senkowski collected his first podium of the year by finishing second. Jason Pflugradt also notched his first career class podium by finishing third.
1600 SINGLE BUGGY: Spring Crandon means there’s a good chance of rain in the forecast and while the first few races of the day were dry, the 1600 Single Buggies had to deal with the beginning of Saturday’s wet weather.
That didn’t seem to bother Dylan Parsons, who came through Turn One door-to-door with Tony Keepers, with Parsons getting the early edge. The round one winner would remain the only clean-looking buggy on the track as he led wire-to-wire for the win.
Keepers would finish in tow for his second straight podium. Third place finisher John Fitzgerald got some late help on his way to the podium when Billy Buth spun out with two laps to go while trying to make a move into second.
Round four of AMSOIL Championship Off-Road will be held on Sunday, June 27, also in Crandon, Wis. and the Crandon International Raceway. Each Championship Off-Road event will be live-streamed on Championship Off-Road’s website or on Flo Sports.