After eight rounds of racing across four weekends, the inaugural Great American Shortcourse season came to an end with a pair of races at Glen Helen Raceway. Fifteen classes from the junior divisions to Pro 2 trucks had champions crowned at the San Bernardino, California track in the newest attempt to cultivate short course off-road racing on the West Coast.
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Pro 2: Consistency and strong finale rewards Mason
The top-flight Pro 2 class was won by Dave Mason Jr. as he enjoys his maiden short course title. The longtime desert racer, who is set to run the upcoming Baja 1000 in Mexico, began his Pro 2 exploits in 2019 in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (GAS’ predecessor in Western short course racing). He won his first career Pro 2 event in the second race at SBC Fairgrounds in Victorville, California in April. While wins were split between multiple drivers as the year progressed, with Ricky Gutierrez breaking out by winning his first three career starts, consistency kept Mason atop the point standings ahead of Erik Jacobus.
Entering Sunday’s finale, Mason held a 43-point advantage over Jacobus. On a slick race track, Mason dominated by leading every lap, holding off challenges from Gutierrez who was hindered by a pair of miscues as he over-rotated his truck in corners. Jacobus only completed one lap before retiring with a mechanical issue, enabling Mason to win the Pro 2 title with 408 points to his 357.
“It’s great to have some good competitors out here like Ricky G to keep me honest,” Mason said on the podium. “He smoked me yesterday so it felt really good to get some feedback and really have him as a marker today and make it happen.
“It feels so good to be the champion, especially for my awesome sponsors like eBay Motors, Maxxis Tires, Baja Designs, Tri State General Contractors, as well as my whole team. It’s been a long year. A long season we’ve gone through here and nobody’s given up the entire way.”
|1||Dave Mason Jr.||408|
Pro Lite: Polvoorde triumphs after Bailey’s misfortune
The 2021 GAS Pro Lite division was the Christopher Polvoorde and Madix Bailey Show as the two finished on the podium in the first seven races. Although Bailey swept the SBC Fairgrounds April weekend to have the early advantage, Polvoorde was on a roll at the halfway point as he won both SBC October races.
The two took their fight to the final weekend, where Polvoorde won the pole before engaging in a wild battle with Bailey for the win in the Saturday event. Polvoorde held him off on the final lap to have the upper hand entering Sunday’s race. Unfortunately for Bailey, despite taking the early lead, his last chance at a championship virtually evaporated when he entered a corner too deep and rolled his truck. Although he was flipped back onto his wheels and attempted to rejoin the race, the damage resulted in his retirement after five laps.
With his rival out of the picture, Polvoorde led the rest of the race to win his fourth straight round. It is his third Pro Lite title after winning the Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League and Crandon World Championship in 2019.
“Me and Madix have gone at it all year and it came down here to the wire,” stated Polvoorde. “I’m just stoked. We put together a good team, they put in a lot of hard work, and I just couldn’t be up here without them. They give me a faster truck every time we hit the track, like you think it can’t be any faster and it just keeps going faster. It’s so much fun to drive this Ford Ranger.
“I’m just happy to be here. It’s fun. The beginning of the year, we didn’t know what was going on, so to get here and win a championship, and top it off with a win, can’t be that.
The 21-year-old Polvoorde was one of two drivers in the Pro Lite grid (and GAS as a whole) with experience in the Stadium Super Trucks alongside John Holtger. Both drivers débuted in SST together at Road America in 2019, with Polvoorde scoring a podium during the weekend. SST and GAS initially had plans to hold a championship weekend together at Lake Elsinore Diamond, though they fell through.
|18||Hugo Reyes III||38|
Mini Stock, Open V8/ULTRA4: Csuzi, Mickels win
Considering their individual field sizes, Open V8/ULTRA4 and Mini Stock typically hold combination races together, often also joined by divisions like Class 11 and Mini Open which concluded their seasons at the SBC Fairgrounds in October. Class 11’s title was won by Ryan Rodriguez, who triumphed in all six rounds, while Ryan Venegas was the lone Mini Open racer and scored four overall race wins.
Open V8/ULTRA4 was featured in the first three races before returning at Glen Helen. Kipp Mickels, who the 2018 LOORRS Pro 2 Rookie of the Year and piloting an old Pro 4 truck, was the lone truck in the class and started at the back of the four-driver grid in both races before working by the Mini Open members to win. Aaron Bruno was his only class competition, though he ran just the season opener.
“It’s always challenging to get by anybody, so it’s good practice to race them clean because they’re racing for a championship as well,” commented Mickels on the Mini Open drivers. “It was a good time.”
In Mini Open, Anthony Csuzi swept the weekend to beat siblings Jaden and Aubree Wardrip for the championship. The Wardrips struggled with mechanical problems during their final race, with Aubree failing to finish after her truck lost power while Jaden had overheating issues throughout the weekend.
Csuzi, a driving instructor at Dream Racing in Las Vegas by trade, commented, “It’s been a rough year. These trucks are not the most expensive to take care of, but when you got to put work in it, you’re in there three weeks in the garage. Trying to get the rear end dialled in, transmission, engine, everything, just to come out here and three laps in, it’s back to where I was three weeks ago. That being said, we got to buckle up, get ready for next season. I have a feeling a few new faces are gonna be showing up, so we got to show them what this is about.”
Pro Buggy: Title battle capped off with dramatic finish
The duel for the So Cal Fleet Services Pro Buggy championship quite literally came down to the final corner when Trey Gibbs and Trevor Briska collided as they approached the finish. As Matt Brister slipped by to win his third race of the year, Gibbs barely escaped with the title by just two points.
Despite not winning a race, Gibbs was consistent with podium finishes in all but two races. On the other hand, Briska was a true case of “all or nothing” as he won five times but failed to podium in the other three rounds. This stark contrast in results led to the two being tied atop the standings entering Sunday’s race. Gibbs held the lead with Briska on his tail when they entered the final corner, where Briska attempted to make his move on the inside but instead collided with Gibbs. Brister, who was running third, remained on the inside and cleared the two to win.
As Zachary Drapkin and Lorenzo Bonacci drove by to join Brister on the podium, Gibbs was able to salvage his run by placing fourth ahead of Briska, securing the championship with 395 points to 393.
At the evening awards ceremony, Gibbs described 2021 as “a long, long, long season. A whole bunch of ups and downs, ins and outs. I just want to give a huge congrats to all these guys. It was a gnarly year. It was battling left and right, inside and outside. It’s awesome to come out here and race this series.”
“It’s not where we wanted to be at the end of the year, but I’m proud of what we accomplished this year,” said Briska. “Can’t thank these guys enough, racing clean the whole way through. Huge props to Trey, congrats on the championship. Bummed with the result today, but definitely nothing against Trey. He can’t black flag himself.”
Limited Buggy/1600 Desert Buggy: Knott leads combination races, Smith pulls away
The buggy battle of the Limited and 1600 Desert Buggy classes saw identical podiums in both races with the former’s Kyle Knott leading fellow Limited contenders Evan Bradford and L.J. Kennedy.
Knott, who started on the pole in both Glen Helen races, dominated the Limited season with six wins including the last five rounds. Kennedy, who did not make a class start until Glen Helen, essentially played spoiler in the battle for second as his two third-place finishes prevented Shane Prescott from making the podium and potentially compete for points runner-up with Bradford. Knott commented, “The track was super fun. Wasn’t real ruddy, it was nice, just ran clean up front and kept the suit and the car clean.”
Bradford commended Knott in his interview, calling him “super fast, clean, consistent, and a really good driver. That was the goal of the weekend, was to end up on the box, chase him down, try to win. He’s a good driver, he got it, congrats to him, but I’m happy with second place.”
In the 1600 Buggies, Carson Smith held a 27-point advantage over Joe Whiteley for the points lead entering the final race; on the other hand, Whiteley was only six points ahead of Kevin Streety for second. Smith, who enjoyed a similar campaign to Knott with a class win at the SBC April weekend followed by five straight to wrap up the year, finished fourth overall in the last event.
Streety finished ahead of Whiteley in both races, though the points allocation (48 for second, 46 for third) meant Whiteley held on to second. Whiteley, whose buggy was plagued by motor trouble on Sunday that resulted in him having just two cylinders, won the 1600 class in 2015.
Production 1000 UTV: Nord overcomes Race 1 DNF, comes out on top
Dallas Nord was the top dog for much of the Production 1000 UTV season, winning all but one of the first six rounds (Braden Chiaramonte was the exception at SBC April Race #2). However, he could not make much of an impact on Saturday when he was eliminated in an accident after just one lap on a chaotic restart set up by Joe Collinsworth flipping on the opening circuit. Karaston Hernandez took her maiden class win while Cody Hodgson and Billy Nichols joined her on the podium to narrow the gap to Nord in the standings.
Nord spent much of Race #2 in fifth while Nichols and Hodgson ran ahead with Cody Vanderveer leading. Hodgson shot to the lead after the competition caution, and Nord ascending through the order to reach second on the penultimate lap but could not catch the leader due to damage to his car. Nichols finished third to end his season in second behind Nord by 31 points. Hodgson commented, “I’m so stoked. We started this year, we barely qualified fourth or fifth. I made some mistakes the first round that took us out of contention both days just driving too hard to try and keep up with the front guys and that was on me. It ruined any chance of a championship so all year has just been about building our programme, getting better and better and better. Now, we’re setting quick time, we’ve got a couple poles under us, podiums, and we finished the year off with a win. Couldn’t have gone any better this weekend for us.”
“Today was just all about holding it together,” explained Nord after the second race. “We come in yesterday, we were almost a full race ahead, and then you end up on the lid in turn one and you’re like, ‘Here we are.’ […] Today, the car’s still bent. It’s barely working. I knew these guys—I watched the race yesterday, they were all on top of each other—and I was just waiting for a gift. I tried to push it a little bit with Billy and we had contact so I backed it off even more. I told Lori (Larsen, spotter), I said, ‘We’ll just wait until after the yellow and take them as they come.'”
Despite the defeat, Nichols was gracious about the points battle: “I didn’t really want to beat Dallas on a technicality after the super rough weekend he’s had. You know, when it comes down to it, Dallas has been the dominant driver of this entire series. He’s earned his stripes and he’s worked hard to get where he’s at, and if anything deserves it, it’s this guy. […]
“We started and we had a pretty decent start and we were trying to hold everyone off. I just didn’t have the speed today. Coming off the jump after turn one, my car got a little upset and preloaded and launched me in front of Dallas and we came together. I was like, ‘Man, that’s the last thing I want to do.’ Dallas is one of my best friends, Cody is one of my best friends. I like to race clean and I’m glad that nothing happened to his car. He secured the championship. Happy for him.”
Production Turbo UTV: Haugen triumphs in Turbo
Chance Haugen began the Production Turbo UTV season with four straight wins and not finishing lower than second across the first six rounds. Dan Kelly inserted himself into the conversation by winning Saturday’s race by Haugen finished outside the podium, and was leading much of the Sunday event before suddenly exiting on lap eight. As Kelly retired, Haugen finished second behind James Maki.
“Me and Dan were battling there for a little bit. We lost the front dip and then we had a flat tyre so it was all over the place,” commented Haugen. “It was a pretty cool race. I’d like to thank my mom, my dad, pretty cool to have all three of our cars that we build on the podium.”
SR1 UTV: Jason Weller wins duel of spouses
The SR1 UTV class was created in 2009 by Weller Racing, so it is perhaps expected that the company’s operators and married couple Jason and Corry Weller were the class of the field in 2021. Jason won five races, including sweeping Glen Helen, while Corry notched five runner-up finishes. Although Corry tried to narrow the gap to her husband, Jason won the title by forty points.
Corry, who won the LOORRS SR1 UTV championship in 2011, quipped she “locked up first loser in the championship”, which she considered a success after years away from the discipline.
“I was just running turn one in my head like a million times like, ‘I wonder if Paul’s gonna get it and I’ll follow him or if I’m gonna take Corry out,'” remarked Jason. “There’s all these things and thank God Paul just went wide in one and left me a window right in the inside and I was like, ‘Alright, I got this now.’
“Thanks to Paul for sharing. That could have a been a lot more battling between Corry and I and a lot better for you guys, but that was really good for me in the championship.”
Matt Land, the only other driver to win an SR1 race in 2021, finished third. Dustin Nelson won the opener at SBC, but that was his only weekend with the class.
In RTL Traffic Junior 2 Karts, Brodie Martin beat Chaden Zane Minder by 18 points, ending the year with three wins. AM Ortega Junior 1 Karts featured an even closer battle as Travis Jones‘ third-place finish in the final race enabled him to edge out Chase Berry for the championship by just two points. Connor Barry won the Mod Karts crown in a five-win campaign.
“I had a lot of pressure when I was waiting. I was like, ‘Why won’t it go away?’ I was just hoping that I would at least get third,” said Jones.
George Llamosas dominated the RZR 170 UTV season as he won all eight races en route to the championship. He previously won the class title in LOORRS in 2019. Finishing a distant second was Dexter Warren with 346 points to Llamosas’ 432.
Drake Mittag went on a tear in the Youth UTV class to kick off the 2021 season, sweeping the two races at the SBC Fairgrounds in April followed by the first race at Glen Helen in May. The son of Championship Off-Road Pro 4 driver Doug Mittag, the younger Mittag piloted his RS1 to another weekend sweep at Glen Helen, enabling him to win the Youth UTV title by forty-one points over Minder.
|2||Chaden Zane Minder||361|
|21||Chris Collinsworth Jr.||46|
RZR 170 UTV
|2||Chaden Zane Minder||389|