Off Road

Gray Leadbetter becomes first female Championship Off-Road Pro winner

2 Mins read
Credit: Ryan Beat Motorsports

17-year-old Gray Leadbetter has enjoyed a fast (literally and figuratively) rise in the motorsport world, having raced in disciplines from rallycross to sprint cars. This past weekend, she began her first full-time year in short course off-road truck racing with a bang as she won the Championship Off-Road Pro Spec season opener at Antigo Lions Roaring Raceway to become the series’ first female professional class winner.

The Pro Spec class, which consists of two-wheel-drive mid-size Chevrolet trucks with many components being frozen from modification, has only four full entries including Leadbetter, though it is a new division that was just introduced in 2021. After Easton Sleaper took the early Race #1 lead but retired for a transmission problem, Nick Visser led much of the first half until he lost his serpentine belt and dropped out on lap five. The two DNFs shuffled the top spot to Chris Van Den Elzen, and Leadbetter pursued Van Den Elzen until the leader over-rotated his truck which allowed Leadbetter to clear him on lap eight. Leadbetter then held off Van Den Elzen for the final five laps to secure the win.

While “a little rough” early on, Leadbetter told FloRacing/CBS that “it was a great race. My only goal was to finish, especially with as rough as this track has been to people, but it came together and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.”

A weekend sweep was prevented by Visser winning on Sunday, though Leadbetter still concluded the round by finishing runner-up. Van Den Elzen joined them on the podium. With a first and second, Leadbetter exits Antigo as the Pro Spec standings leader with ninety-nine points, three more than Van Den Elzen.

Leadbetter is no stranger to success in COR. In September 2020, she won the final Sportsman SxS race of the season at Crandon International Raceway; at the age of fifteen, she was both the first woman and youngest driver to win a COR side-by-side round. She continued racing in the SxS classes in 2021 before joining Ryan Beat Motorsports for the following year’s Pro Spec season. R/BM, whose eponymous owner competes in Pro 2, is fielding five entries in 2022 though Leadbetter is the lone Pro Spec truck.

“The first female to win a Professional @champoffroad race has been checked off the list,” wrote Beat on social media. “I couldn’t be more proud of the effort, determination, and the performance she put in. The icing on the cake is with this same win I received my first win as a car (truck) owner/team owner as well! Congrats on your first ‘professional’ truck win!”

Prior to COR, Leadbetter was the youngest driver to compete in the Americas Rallycross Championship at fourteen years. Driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, she finished fifth in the 2019 ARX2 standings before the series folded. She has also raced in World of Outlaws and the Chili Bowl Nationals.

The second round of the 2022 COR season is the Forest County Potawatomi Brush Run at Crandon on 25/26 June. The Brush Run, one of two COR races at Crandon, was the site of Leadbetter’s 2020 SxS victory.

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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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