After his championship winning season in 2016, and 4 straight podiums to start 2017, Darren “HotSauce” Hardesty Jr. has become accustomed to running up front. He knows what it takes to put together a winning effort; hard work and determination. Darren and his crew brought exactly that to rounds 5 and 6 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, (LOORRS) at Utah Motorsports Campus in Tooele, UT. During qualifying for round 5 on Saturday morning, HotSauce ran the quickest time to take the pole. He was the only Pro Buggy to crack a 45 second lap, laying down a blistering 44.973 second time.
“We had a good plan coming into this race,” said Hardesty, “I spent some time finding the fastest lines during practice on Friday. We made some minor adjustments to our Bilstein shocks for qualifying, and it was just what we needed. My spotter Matt told me to drive it like I stole it. The entire team puts 100% effort towards winning so we were all buzzing after qualifying. We love to win, and we owe it to our sponsors Bilstein, Off Road Warehouse, Mickey Thompson Tires, Impact, Lucas Oil Products, Champion Spark Plugs, Bink Designs, Alumi Craft Race Cars, Black Rhino, RacerX, and USA Wheels for their support.”
The inversion drawn for the round 5 was a 2, so Darren started on the outside of row 1. After the green flag, he slipped into line behind Ward who started inside and settled into a steady pace. The top five all ran in the same order until the competition yellow flew on lap 7. On lap 11, Darren got a little too sideways off a jump and landed on the rear tire. The hard-packed clay and deep ruts conspired to rip the tire right off the wheel. “The track was slick in some areas and super tacky in others,” said HotSauce, “My Mickey Thompson Tires stuck so well, the tire came off the rim. I had to stop in the hot pits to change it. My crew did a great job but the whole field was running under green and we got a lap down. We went from a possible win to finishing 9th; it wasn’t what we wanted but I told the crew we would have to come out swinging on Sunday.” After coming out of the hot pits for lap 12, Darren ran the fastest lap of the race in an effort to get back to the front. His amazing 40.662 was the second fastest lap in any class for the whole weekend; only Kyle LeDuc ran faster. Kyle posted a 40.541 second lap on his way to the Pro-4 win in round 5.
The inversion drawn for Saturday’s race was a zero, so HotSauce would have to work his way through the pack. After the green flag, he quickly picked off 3rd place and chased after the leaders. The track conditions were much different than they were the previous day. It was heavily watered, super slick, and loaded with mud. “I was super pumped and ready to get it on,” said HotSauce, “I was in third but ran out of tear-offs. The mud was so bad that you could not see anything if you were close behind another car. At one point I had to slow down to get out of the roost coming from Watson’s car; I was blinded by mud. I did not want to risk crashing into a tire or running into anyone, so I held my position and finished 3rd.”
Darren started 3rd after the inversion on Sunday, and took advantage of other’s mistakes to take the lead on lap 4. He banked the points for leading at the half-way point of the race and went on to win. “Once I got out front I just ran my own race,” says HotSauce, “Sterling Cling came up and poked his nose in there but that was it. It was pretty fun out front but we worked really hard to have the fastest car. I’m very proud of our team.”
The 9th place finish was a hit to Darren’s championship points standings, (he is now in second), but the season is still young and there are plenty of laps to be run. We all saw what he did last year when it came down to the final round of racing and he performed flawlessly under pressure. Rounds 7 and 8 are on Jul 22 – 23 at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, MO. A first time venue for the LOORRS series, each team will be starting from scratch with no experience on the track.
For the latest news and information about Darren’s racing in Wheatland and every other race, go to: http://darrenhardestyjr.com/ where you will find fan information, race reports, photos, videos and much more.
Photography By: Bink Designs