San Bernardino, CA
After taking his first pro class win in round 7 and a second place podium in round 8 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series in Tooele, Utah, Darren “HotSauce” Hardesty Jr. was anxious to get back on the track. The series returned to Southern California for two more rounds of racing at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. SoCal is known for sunshine but HotSauce and his fellow competitors got torrential rains instead. He got a few laps of practice before a huge storm blew in that soaked the track and left standing water. Round 9 had to be rescheduled for the following morning. The day was already slated for round 10 to be run in the afternoon so the plan was to run both rounds on the same day.
Because qualifying was rained out, starting positions were determined by the points standings; HotSauce started 6th. “The track was in perfect shape considering all the rain we had; the Lucas Oil crew did a great job,” said HotSauce, “We were waiting until the last minute to make our tire choice before the race. We had some mud tires but I like my usual Mickey Thompson tires so much we decided to go with them; they work perfectly with my driving style. I had moved my seat around during practice and did not move it back. It made the shocks feel stiff and took away some of my forward bite. I got a pretty good start but I was busy grabbing tear-offs.” (Tear-offs are thin plastic sheets drivers put on their helmet visors. When they get muddy, the driver pulls them off one at a time to give them clear vision).
The truck classes in the Lucas Oil series are like American muscle cars. They are big, heavy and can stand some fender bashing. Darren’s Competitive Metals, Bilstein, ORW, Mickey Thompson Tires, ReplayXD, SPY, Lucas Oil, Bink Designs, Alumi Craft Pro Buggy is the formula one car. It’s lightweight and very responsive and with exposed wheels and delicate suspension parts, contact usually ends badly. Car set-up is critical. Slight changes can make a huge difference.
“I had a great battle going with Dave Mason,” said HotSauce, “I was stuck to his bumper going into turn 2 when he started to over-rotate. I gave a flick to the steering wheel and drove around him. It felt great to dodge him and make the pass without losing any momentum in the corner. Because the shocks were not working with the seat position, my back tires were not planted like usual; I was losing time to the leaders. If we had a caution, I could have closed up and maybe had a shot. We ran caution free to the end; I finished 4th.”
After the race, Darren knew exactly what his car needed for the next round. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance. Another storm blew in; round 10 was cancelled. “I was in the trailer trying to relax before the next round,” said HotSauce, “I am usually so filled with adrenaline after the race I am shaking. I could not rest so I went for a walk. The skies were clear and sunny when all of a sudden, it turned dark and cloudy. The rain and winds were back and the round was called. We are now concentrating on Estero Beach.”
The next rounds of racing are right around the corner as the Lucas Oil Series heads south of the border for rounds 11 and 12 and possibly 10? On August 1st and 2nd the Lucas Oil Series will be in Ensenada, Baja Mexico for the Baja International Short Course race at the beautiful Estero Beach. The course layout looks challenging. The new track means every team will be starting from a blank sheet of paper. HotSauce will feel right at home eating tacos and drawing energy from the legendary race fans of Mexico. Come on down to watch him race or go to: http://darrenhardestyjr.com/ for the latest news and information about Darren’s racing program.
Photography By: Bink Designs