The 2023 Championship Off-Road season opener at Antigo Lions Roaring Raceway did not start as the Greaves family hoped when patriarch Johnny Greaves broke six ribs and his shoulder in a practice crash on Friday. Fortunately, his son C.J. Greaves and nephew Kyle Greaves were more than motivated to turn up the heat in his place.
Kyle replaced Johnny in the #22 Pro 4, making his début in the top level as the reigning Pro Lite champion. While his title defence also started on a strong note as he won the Saturday race, he quickly made a splash in Pro 4 too by finishing third in both races. He also placed third in the second Pro Lite event as Brody Eggleston claimed his first win.
Ahead of Kyle, C.J. was the brightest star in Antigo with a near-perfect weekend. The 2022 Pro 4 titlist swept the weekend in the class, did the same in Pro Turbo SxS, and almost achieved a triple in Pro Stock SxS when he won on Saturday. However, a suddenly mechanical issue ten laps into the Sunday race prevented that from happening, and Owen VanEperen capitalised to take the win.
The first Pro 4 race saw Greaves slip by a sideways Cole Mamer, who took the lead into the first corner before spinning and triggering a crash that also collected Kyle Chaney and Jimmy Henderson; Greaves then held off Adrian Cenni for the win. Cenni spun early into Race #2 and Greaves battled a resurgent Mamer until the latter broke his left front suspension. This left Chaney to chase down Greaves, which he briefly succeeded on the ensuing restart only for Greaves to get past him.
“It was fun getting out there to run with my cousin and my good friend Kyle Chaney, and just have fun,” said C.J. Greaves after Race #2. “Not very often do you get to come out and just battle with each other and just go to work on the track.”
Besides Johnny, multiple Pro 4 drivers were absent for the races as 2022 runner-up Kyle LeDuc is battling cancer, though he was present in spirit as he designed the new Antigo track configuration. Andrew Carlson and Scottie Lawrence were caught up in accidents in qualifying, the latter injuring his neck in the process which necessitated an airlift to hospital like the older Greaves. Only half the grid also finished Race #1 after the others were tangled in Mamer’s wreck. Henderson also flipped in Race #2, leading to a red flag.
Pro 2 driver Ryan Beat began 2023 by winning the West Coast’s Great American Shortcourse sesason opener at King of the Hammers, and repeated that feat in the Midwest with a Saturday triumph. The victory was his first in Championship Off-Road since 2021. While he came up short of sweeping the weekend, Beat still recorded a second on Sunday after barely holding off Cory Winner coming to the finish.
“Last year was the lowest of lows, then to the highest of highs this year,” Beat stated. “We’re starting the season off with two wins. I won King of the Hammers and now here.”
Pro SPEC, which featured a much larger grid of nine from the four in 2022, began 2023 with last year’s runner-up Nick Visser and Chad Rayford winning. Rayford, who held off defending champion Gray Leadbetter for the Race #2 victory, was among six rookies in the class alongside The Checkered Flag interviewee Dylan Parsons, who finished eighth and fifth, and Tony Keepers, a graduate from 1600 Single Buggy like Parsons who placed third in both rounds.
The second Pro Buggy race was marred by a wet race course, causing Saturday winner Mark Steinhardt to spin while leading. 2022 champ Michael Meister took the win as a result.
In the Pro Am SxS, Kolton Krajicek‘s snowy exploits in AMSOIL Championship Snocross quickly translated to dirt as he swept the weekend. Porter Inglese also won both his races in Mod Kart, while twin brothers Connor and Colin Schulz split 1600 Light Buggy.
|Pro Turbo SxS
|Pro Stock SxS
|Pro Am SxS
|Super Stock Truck
|1600 Single Buggy
|Short Course Kart
|1600 Light Buggy