Bark River, Mich. ~ Three weeks from now, the dust will have settled on the 2022 AMSOIL Championship Season. Every year there are pivotal moments that help define how titles are both won and lost. Bark River International Raceway has always been paramount for driver’s to either get after it or cede that the season belongs to someone else.
After two days of racing through rain, mud, sunshine and blue-groove, Bark River proved once again that success, or failure, at the big, looping Upper Michigan track will play key roles in deciding who will stand tallest once the racing wraps up in Crandon on Labor Day weekend.
Sunday in Bark River offered its annual go-for-broke racing. No championships were decided as of Sunday, and season-long points leads vanished as if someone turned off the lights.
LeDuc Digs Deep for Third Win
Kyle LeDuc has his 99 Monster Energy Pro 4 digging hard over the past few rounds. His two wins in Dirt City and his runner-up finish in Bark River on Saturday were flat out ambushes after the past class champion found early race setbacks before righting the ship and using every inch of every lap to get back into contention.
The speed was there, so was the determination as he has tried desperately to catch, and dethrone, current points leader CJ Greaves. On Sunday, there was no need for the theatrics as LeDuc sat on the front row for the start of the Pro 4 showdown. He quickly slipped past Adrian Cenni on the opening turns and was untouchable after that. LeDuc handily took home his fourth win of the season on a track that he hasn’t won on since 2009.
“I didn’t even think about that, how I haven’t won here in well over a decade, so I’m very excited,” said LeDuc. “That back corner, Cemetery Corner, was so sick to slide and drift into, and lug it coming out. But hats off to my crew. We’re a small team that works hard, so thank you for coming and watching and supporting what we do and there’s gonna be more. Crandon is going to get bonkers, for sure.”
While Leduc’s win was welcomed, he didn’t dig into CJ Greaves overall points lead like he might have liked. Greaves, who won on Saturday, only lost one point to LeDuc over the weekend. His effort on Sunday to finish second was a result of being patient and staying out of the carnage that was collecting trucks all around him. With only one round of Pro points racing remaining on the schedule, Greaves defense of his 2021 title could be nearing completion
The elder Greaves, Johnny, put in a wild ride on his way to finishing third on Sunday. He found contact on a few occasions, including on the first lap when Adrian Cenni spun out in front of him and nearly ripped off his left front tire. Despite a broken A-Arm, Greaves kept it moving forward for his fifth podium of the season.
Thomas Tally’s Fourth Win in Pro 2
For the first half of Sunday’s Pro 2 race, it was a cohesive dance as the top driver’s mixed and moved with an almost politeness. Out front for the dance was Mickey Thomas and his class leading three wins this season.
The second half of the race was a little more mosh-pit than ballet, but still out front was Thomas. He might have felt the pressure coming from Cory Winner, and he might have had a sense that things were getting a bit hectic behind that, but Thomas didn’t miss a beat. Even as his right rear tire began to lose air with just two laps to go. Winner saw the opportunity, but the tire held on just long enough, with just enough pressure to keep Thomas in the lead. The two would cross a truck length apart at the finish line, with Thomas taking home win number four.
“There were a lot of rocks out there, and I saw them on the pace lap,” said Thomas. “So, I was just trying to hit my marks and not make any mistakes. I knew these guys were fast behind me. Cory had a lot of pace today and I had a tire going down towards the end of the race. I was kind of nursing that but luckily that Maxxis tire held up and did its job and put us up on top of the box.”
Winner’s runner-up race helped him close the gap slightly on Jerett Brooks, who finished fourth behind Doug Mittag. Entering the day, Brooks held a seven-point lead over Winner for the title, but that is now down to just two points, with Thomas sitting 22 points behind them.
Gibbs Grabs Win in Pro Lite, Tightens Title Chase
One point separated Kyle Greaves and Brock Heger in the Pro Lite title chase. After Sunday, one point still separates the two drivers, but now they have company after a winning performance from Trey Gibbs.
The day looked promising for Matt Wood who was on a rail throughout the final. He grabbed the lead off the jump and skirted past Carson Parrish and let a tight battle between the two for the first several laps. Behind the leaders, several trucks were fighting for position, leaving a lot of wreckage in the wake of the leaders.
After a full-course yellow, Wood’s returned to the front, but Parrish had to pull aside, leaving the door open for Heger to challenge for the runner-up spot. Wood’s held until the last lap when the pair went door-to-door through turn one. Somewhere along the line, Heger developed a flat, and contact between the two leaders pushed them both off the track, with only Wood being able to return to the track in sixth.
That parted the sea wide-open for Trey Gibbs to jump from third to first. The fortuitous bounce gave Gibbs clean air for the first time all race as the round eight winner motored around the track with hardly a hint of sponsor logo in site due to the lack of fiberglass still attached to their brackets. Gibbs’ good fortune put him smack dab in the championship conversation heading into Crandon as he now sits three points behind Greaves and just two behind Heger. Both Greaves (10th) and Heger (9Th) finished off the pace.
It was an inaugural visit for the remainder of the Pro Lite podium. Jacob Rosales made it to the podium for the first time. After dropping as far back as 11th, Rosales kept the truck clear of the chaos and drove into his first career podium in second. Travis Milhausen, Jr., who rolled his truck earlier in the race and had to have a new tire put on, worked his way back through the field and into the top five and eventually into third after the leaders crashed.
Wait is Over for Greaves in Pro Turbo
CJ Greaves has had moments of success in the extremely competitive Pro Turbo SXS this season. A second in round three is the highlight for the former class champion. He has led several races and been in contention in several others this season, but entering Sunday, he had yet to break through the bad luck and unexplained.
On Sunday, Greaves put it altogether in his new Polaris ride. The nearly year-long development of the new program finally reached its goal, to win a Championship Off-Road race in 2022. Greaves’ victory was relatively clean as he pushed out front from the start. An early showdown with Rodney Van Eperen gave way to a later battle with Kyle Chaney. But Greaves pulled away over the last few laps for the win.
Chaney, who has won four times in Pro Turbo this season and sits second overall, finished second on Sunday, finishing ahead of Corry Weller. He was able to close the gap on points leader Hamish Kelsey, who finished off the pace. Chaney picked up 28 points on Kelsey on Sunday and no sits just 17 points out of first overall.
Heger Heads to Top Spot in Pro Stock SXS
Brock Heger put a pause on the recent charge by CJ Greaves to overtake him in the Pro Stock SXS standings. After a tough day on Saturday, Heger rebounded with a convincing win in round ten to stay atop the overall by more than 20 points.
Greaves held the early lead on Sunday, taking the first two laps with the lead. But Heger was lurking and found another gear as he sped past Greaves on lap three. With a class leading four wins coming into Bark River, Heger proved how tough he is to beat once he gets out front. He pulled away from the field for win number five, finishing more than six seconds ahead of the second place Greaves.
Owen VanEperen had to steer clear of the chaos throughout the race, finally putting himself into position with four laps to go. The round four winner now has seven podium finishes on the season and sits third overall.
PRO SPEC: Easton Sleaper led the Pro Spec field at the half-way point, but it was Nick Visser who returned to the top step and put himself into a tie for the points lead.
Sleaper took the lead from Gray Leadbetter on lap three, but Visser was able to wrestle it away after the mandatory caution restart. With Visser out front, Chris Van Den Elzen moved into the runner-up spot, and put forth a hard challenge on Visser. The two would cross the line 4/10ths of a second apart as Visser picked up his fourth win of the season. Visser and Leadbetter, who finished third, are now tied atop the overall standings.
SUPER BUGGY: There was a major shake-up in points after the completion of Sunday’s Super Buggy race.
Cory Fisher jumped off the start and into the lead, where he would hold point until lap four when points leader Billy Buth found wheel-to-wheel contact with Michael Hester, knocking Buth out of the race. When the race restarted, Fisher was not in the line-up, putting Mike Kirkham into the lead.
Kirkham took control of the race from that point on. Despite pressure from Michael Meister and Dale Ebberts, Kirkham was calm and controlled as he motored to his first win of the season.
Meister and Ebberts would dice-it-up for the runner-up spot, which would go to Meister. That finish coupled with Buth’s crash put Meister atop the overall standings as he now sits 13-points ahead of Mark Steinhardt. Buth dropped down to third, one point behind Steinhardt.
PRO AM SXS: Colin Kernz kept his championship hopes alive with a much-needed win in Pro AM SXS. Kernz has been consistent all season but has been shut out of the win column. That streak came to an end, and it also came at an opportune time.
Kernz went wire-to-wire on Sunday, grabbing the hole shot and utilizing the clean air to notch his first win. The win wasn’t without stress for Kernz as Jake Jorgenson laid heavy pressure on the race leader throughout the showdown. The two would cross the line 7/10ths of a second apart.
Mike LeTourneau put in a solid weekend of work in Bark River. He followed-up his fourth-place finish on Saturday with a third-place finish on Sunday. Bill Berger entered the day ahead of Kernz in the points chase, but his fourth-place finish pushed Kernz into a three-point lead with two rounds remaining.
1600 LIGHT BUGGY: While traction was vital in all classes on Sunday, maybe no race was left searching for it more than the 1600 Light Buggy final. As the first race of the day, the track was still saturated, and it helped and hindered several driver’s championship hopes.
Coming into the day, four drivers were separated by just 12 points. Two would finish well, while two others got caught up in the mud. Points leader Colin Schulz was the early race leader. A flat tire looked like he might need to pit, but he gambled on it staying together. The gamble paid off as he took home his fourth win of the season and increased his overall points lead.
Vincent Jaeger kept pace with Schulz, finishing on the podium for the first time this season. Jake Schilleman made a pass on Greg Stingle for third.
STOCK TRUCK: Cory Holtger has been the man to beat in Stock Truck all season long, and the muddy conditions didn’t change that narrative in Bark River on Sunday. Holtger, who entered the day with a 39-point lead over Diesel Shanak, was able to get around Shanak early before checking out over the second half of the race. It marked Holtger’s sixth win of the season.
Kyle Ambroziak put together a strong second-half of the race before finishing second. Round one winner Brian Peot kept in front of Shanak over the final few laps to finish third.
170 SXS: Tanner Thibeault rocketed off the 170 SXS start line and was never challenged as he drove to his first career win on Sunday. While Thibeault was running clean up front, it was more challenging for the runner-up spot. Raymond Deininger was smooth and able to hold off Kody Krantz over the final few circuits for his third trip to the podium this season. Krantz, who had won four in a row heading into round ten, rounded out the podium in third.
MOD KART: After a foot-surgery sidelined him for most of the year, Michael Funk finally started his Mod Kart season in Bark River this weekend. It was a good introduction to Champ Off Road in 2022 as Funk picked up the win on Sunday. Funk started last and took over the lead right after the mandatory caution re-start.
Points leader Porter Inglese was running in the top five when he suffered a broken wheel assembly. Inglese held a 38-point advantage over Zack Wirhanowicz, who led for the first half of the race before finishing second ahead of Chase Moeller. With Inglese out of the race, Wirhanowicz closed the gap to 22 points heading into two days of racing in Crandon left on the 2022 schedule.
1600 SINGLE BUGGY: With a 25-point lead over Dylan Parsons in the 1600 Single Buggy class standings,John Fitzgerald needs to drive safe and smart over the final three rounds, while Parson’s needs to add to his two-race winning streak.
Parson’s was in position for the first half of the race, trailing only Tony Keepers at the halfway point. Fitzgerald kept within striking distance and was able to move into third right before the mid-race caution. Two laps later, Parson’s drifted wide, opening the door for Fitzgerald to move into second.
But out front, Keepers was on point throughout the race until the final two turns. Keepers, who has two wins this season, drifted wide and slowed in the berm enough to allow Fitzgerald, and Parson’s, to squeak past. Fitzgerald would hold the advantage over the final two turns, with Parson’s in second and Keepers in third.
SHORT COURSE KARTS: For much of Sunday’s Short Course Kart race it looked like Race Visser was in-line for his third straight win. But the mud pulled that notion aside as Visser hit a chunk while trying to work through lapped traffic. That opened the door for Gavin Plummer who was able to pull away and nail down his third win of the season. Wesley Vande Voort crossed the line in second, just ahead of Finley Holtger.
SUPER STOCK TRUCK: A flat tire took away Braden Beauchamp’s early lead on Sunday, but that opened the door for Kyle Cooper and Nick Byng to put on a show for Super Stock Truck supremacy.
Turn after turn, Cooper was all over the rear bumper of Byng, but was unable to find an opening and make a pass stick. It was Byng’s first win of the season, as he held off Cooper by less than two feet at the line.
For Cooper he greatly increased his championship credentials, as points leader Ben Holtger (truck was driven by Cory Holtger on Sunday) left the track early with a mechanical issue. Holtger held a ten-point lead heading into the morning, but Cooper outscored Holtger by 34 points on Sunday, giving him the overall lead heading into Crandon.
SPORTSMAN SXS: Matt Vanderheyden proved for the fourth time this season that he knows how to finish off a win. Vanderheyden was fast, but Lucas Houle was a bit quicker for most of the race, leading Vanderheyden around the track for the first five laps. But Vanderheyden found his opportunity with four laps to go and passed for what would be the winning move.
Houle would come up 500 feet short of finishing in second as he came to a stop just short of the finish line. That put Joel Steinbrecher on the box in second, his first podium finish of the season. Round four winner Bryce Carlson made a last corner pass on current points leader Ben Berger to move into third.
570 SXS: After Saturday’s 570 SXS race, Ryker Remington and Chase Braun were tied atop the overall standings. After Sunday, Remington is now tied with Ethan Dresel for the overall lead.
That’s in part because Dylan Rohloff brought his A-Game to Bark River this weekend. Rohloff completed the weekend sweep by winning a tightly contested race on Sunday. A rare red flag came out with less than two laps remaining and Rohloff in the lead. Behind him were Dresel, Remington and Braun. While there was some swapping of spots over the next lap-plus, Rohloff held them all off, including a door-to-door finish with Dresel for the win. Remington took the final podium spot.