Bark River International Raceway always provides top-quality racing action and 2017’s first day was no exception. Storm clouds once again threatened to interrupt the TORC Series action in progress, but this time the racing program proceeded smoothly.
Thousands of fans were treated to edge-of-your-seat action across the board with nary a chance to blink, and when the dust settled, repeat winners stood tall in every PRO class—with one huge exception.
Johnny Greaves Stays Ahead of PRO 4 Mayhem
Round 7’s PRO 4 feature was one of the most hectic races in recent memory. The calamity started just after the green flag, as defending class champion CJ Greaves got tied up with Chad Hord in the opening turns and fell nearly a half lap behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Ross Hoek (the recent holeshot guru) tried to hold off a wildly aggressive Keegan Kincaid as Johnny Greaves and Scott Douglas traded paint behind them.
Keegan Kincaid, racing a PRO 4 for the first time at Bark River International Raceway, made it around Ross Hoek on the opening lap to seize the early lead. But, before the huge Upper Michigan crowd could get used to the new leader, Keegan slowed momentarily with a mechanical issue and dropped to fourth. Scott Douglas took the lead with Johnny Greaves in tow. Kincaid had to work around Hoek once again as the action continued.
Scott Douglas settled into the lead and held off Johnny until lap three, when Johnny took the long way around in the infamous “Cemetery Corner” to power his way to the front. Johnny would never trail again, but the action behind him was far from over. Keegan over-rotated in lap four attempting to pass Douglas, and Ross Hoek had nowhere to go. Hoek slammed into Kincaid and broke a left rear suspension part in the process, taking him out of the race. Unfortunately, Scott Douglas’ strong run came to an early end as well, as he left the race at the halfway point.
The halfway mandatory caution allowed Chad Hord and CJ Greaves to catch up to the leaders and return to action. Kincaid was very fast, but struggled to rotate his truck correctly in the second half, and he eventually dropped to fourth. Right before the white flag, CJ Greaves used every inch of a highly banked corner to power past Hord and began a last-lap charge for the lead. Hungry for a last-to-first storybook race, CJ inched closer and closer to his father. With his last-ditch effort, CJ threw his truck into the final corner with everything he had – but it was too much. CJ slammed into the cement wall hard, but came out more or less in one piece, salvaging a second-place finish in a tumultuous race. Chad Hord scored his second straight podium coming in third.
“That was a handful,” said Johnny, who extended his points lead with his second straight win. “I knew CJ was coming. [My spotter was] like, ‘holy crap, he’s on you, last turn,’ and I’m like ‘not this again!’ But I didn’t give up the last turn this time.”
Carlson Stuns in PRO 2 Debut
Elk River, MN based driver Andrew Carlson made his PRO 2 debut in Round 7, starting on the pole in Keegan Kincaid’s former truck. Carlson jumped out to an early lead as Eric Ruppel held off class favorites Brad Lovell and Luke Johnson for several laps. Lovell’s mistake on lap two allowed Johnson to speed by, and the top qualifier soon got around Ruppel as well. But by that point, Carlson had gapped out to a huge lead. Lovell, who had been plagued by overheating issues through practice and qualifying, dropped out and attempted to salvage some championship points.
The halfway mandatory caution brought Johnson right up to Carlson’s bumper, and most race fans expected the more experienced racer to pass the rookie quickly. But, lap after lap passed by, and Carlson held on to the lead, turning the Michigan fans and online viewers around the world into believers in the process. Johnson had a couple chances at the lead, but Carlson kept his composure and held the hard charger off to win his first PRO 2 race in storybook fashion.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into the class. To get out and get the green flag all the way to checkered is awesome for me, because I could just run,” an emotional Carlson explained. “I’ve never run this truck behind anyone, ever, so I didn’t know what the PRO 2 roost was like. I was having a blast. This thing is so fun to drive.”
Carlson was also named the “Bad MoFo by Vision Wheel" of the day for his courageous debut performance. Luke Johnson, though disappointed with his second-place finish, came out of Saturday a big winner in the championship points race, jumping from third place to first due to mechanical struggles by the previous leaders.
Kleiman Brothers Shine at Hometown Track
Chad Rayford, fresh off a spectacular rollover in Round 6, started strong on the pole. Cam Reimers occupied the second spot early but a brief slowdown sent him to back to fourth place. Reimers would draw the line in the sand there, making contact with Shawn Morris as he stepped on the gas. Chad Rayford held a strong lead until lap four, when he got sideways over the finish line tabletop. Cody Kleiman pounced on the mistake and pushed past Rayford through the back section of the course. Cody’s brother Kyle followed suit and the Kleiman Brothers occupied first and second. The two PONSSE trucks mirrored each other until just before the halfway point, when Kyle swooped to the inside and took the lead. Kyle never looked back on his way to a fifth straight victory.
“It was intense trying to move up and pick people off,” said Kyle Kleiman after his victory. “It was good, clean racing—that’s why I like this class so much.”
The race was far from over behind Kyle. Cody Kleiman had to hold off a hard-charging Cam Reimers, who had one of the fastest trucks on the track. Reimers worked Cody for several laps, but everything changed when Reimers’ truck started smoking. Shawn Morris saw the smoke from his fourth-place position and smelled blood in the water. Morris kicked up the aggression by several notches, but just as he pulled up to make the pass, Reimers’ truck exploded into pouring smoke. Morris appeared momentarily lost in the cloud of smoke and had to check up. By the time the smoke cleared, the race was over. Cody Kleiman finished second and Cam Reimers survived for third.
Van Eperen Edges Chaney in Mod UTV Nail-biter
PRO Mod UTV once again thrilled the crowd with entries from three manufacturers competing for the podium. Rodney Van Eperen proved once again he knows how to make the machines he sells go fast: the Yamaha dealership owner extended his win streak to four, edging out Kyle Chaney in a last-lap defensive effort. Chaney, the championship points leader, continued his excellent yet frustrating season, finishing second for the sixth straight time. Jason Luburgh started on the front row in his Bikeman Performance-backed Polaris RZR and valiantly held off Kyle Chaney for several laps despite losing radio contact with his spotter. He made it to the halfway point in second place but lost positions after the restart. Zach Zakowski was the race’s biggest mover, gunning his way from tenth to third for his best finish of the year and the fastest lap of the race.
CJ Greaves Leads Wire-to-Wire over Surprise Challenger in PRO Stock UTV
Factory Yamaha driver and TORC Champion CJ Greaves extended his UTV winning streak to six, leading the PRO Stock UTV race from start to finish. Greaves qualified fastest over a stacked field of 25 entries, and never looked back from his starting position. The surprise of the race was Adam Reek, who got around racing hot-shoe Kenny Masch on lap three and battled for the front in just his second TORC main event appearance. Greaves wasn’t surprised to see Reek in his rearview: Reek and Greaves have been racing each other in motocross since they were five years old, and now Reek is racing a Greaves-built Yamaha YXZ. The daring move of the race belonged to third-place finisher Zach Martin, who soared past Kenny Masch over a tabletop jump after a tense multi-lap battle.