Darren “HotSauce” Hardesty Jr. was very fast from the moment he unloaded at the brand new offroad track constructed at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri. Rounds 7 and 8 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series would take place on this unique new track that is unlike any other on the circuit. The track is large; measuring 1.2 miles in length. It has huge table-top jumps, a tunnel where the course crosses, and a challenging whoops section that puts the suspension and shocks to a test.
Most importantly, it has 9 corners that vary from a wide-open Talladega style turn to a tight s-turn where the cars have to funnel down to single file. Since nobody had raced on the track, it was a crap shoot as to what type of set-up to run on their cars.
“The track is challenging,” says Darren, “I almost crashed a couple times during practice but my Bilstein, Off Road Warehouse, Mickey Thompson Tires, Alumi Craft was fast during all three practice sessions.” In fact, during practice session 3, HotSauce was nearly a full second faster than the next fastest car. During round 7 on Saturday, he pushed hard to test the limits.
“When the green flag dropped I kept the car in second gear,” said HotSauce, “The track was really slick and I spun out. I was super upset with myself. I made some crazy passes but I had so much confidence in the car; I could put it anywhere I wanted to. I drove the whole race on the absolute limit; climbing back up to finish 2nd.”
Many drivers would be content with having a great car and a podium finish, but Darren is constantly driven. He spends hours watching footage from the race; analyzing how to go faster, and studying his competition. During round 8 on Sunday, he would need that drive as the rest of the field upped their game considerably.
HotSauce qualified on the pole for round 8 and the inversion drawn was a 2. He got the holeshot and was leading at the end of the first lap. In what was a precursor of things to come, another competitor received a black flag for rough driving; on the first lap! On lap 2, Elliot Watson made a move on Darren and took over the lead. That would set up a dogfight between both drivers until the checkered flag flew.
“I was bumper to bumper with Watson the whole race,” said HotSauce, “It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. On the second to last lap, I made the pass for the lead. I knew he would dive inside me in the next turn but I didn’t expect him to make wheel to wheel contact and push me wide. Going off the big table-top jump I gave him a nudge to let him know I was still there and not happy. I finished 2nd place again, but after the race, the officials pulled us aside for a chat. Both of us were guilty of some bumping, but they said you cannot move another car off line to gain a position. They gave Watson the black flag; moving us up to the top spot. I was still pumping with adrenaline after the race and said some things on the podium I regret. Looking back at it, I was disrespectful of the Watson team and said some things that were uncalled for in the heat of the moment. I apologize to their team; they are great competitors. We are friends off the track but as soon as the green flag drops; we are there to win. We are now only separated by a single point in the championship standings. I am so thankful for my team and my sponsors, Bilstein, Off Road Warehouse, Mickey Thompson Tires, Impact, Lucas Oil, Bink Designs, Champion Spark Plugs, Alumi Craft Race Cars, Black Rhino, RacerX, and USA Wheels for giving me the fastest car out there!”
The fans came to Wheatland from all over the country and were treated to some intense racing action. They lined up all weekend to get a selfie, autographs and posters from HotSauce.
Photography By: Bink Designs