TORC: The Off-Road Championship Midseason Report & Bark River Preview
The 2017 TORC Series circuit has lived up to the hype, offering high-octane racing and door-banging action from the get-go. The first two rounds in Chicago were hectic, as drivers dusted off the cobwebs fighting a tight track and unfamiliar competitors. The first of two Elk River, MN stops displayed the potential of the beautiful new facility before Mother Nature caused Round 4 to be delayed to the fall. Weather was once again a factor in Crandon, where changing track conditions kept drivers on their toes all weekend long. As the TORC Series season nears the halfway point, captivating storylines have started to unfold across the classes.
As has been the story in the past two seasons, the dynamic duo of Johnny and CJ Greaves sit atop the points in TORC’s premier class, PRO 4. Together, the father-and-son combo have won the past four PRO 4 championships, with Johnny winning in 2013-2014 and CJ taking the two more recent titles. The two heavyweights have once again been even all year long. Johnny got the better of his son in Crandon and now hangs on to a tiny four-point lead.
Meanwhile, a serious challenger to the Greaves empire has emerged: Keegan Kincaid. Kincaid made his PRO 4 program debut this season in a brand-new truck built by his father, racing legend Jeff Kincaid. The truck has proven to be extremely solid, as Keegan has avoided new-truck gremlins and finished on the podium in every race so far. Though he’s still looking for his first PRO 4 win this season, his consistency has put him right in the thick of the points race. He’s right on CJ’s tail, and with the new truck getting faster and more dialed-in every round, PRO 4 is a true three-way championship race in the making.
The revamped PRO 2 class had a hectic debut, with four different drivers winning the first four races. The dust has now settled somewhat after three series stops. At long last, AMSOIL driver Brad Lovell earned his first PRO 2 win and weekend sweep in Crandon. Lovell has emerged as the frontrunner in the championship race.
Class rookie Mitch Dorr sits in second place. He’s still looking for his first win, but the hard-working sportsman champion has put together a slew of solid performances in 2017, never finishing outside the top five. Breathing down his neck is Luke Johnson, the young PRO Light alumni who has been a top contender in every race, but has been hindered by a couple of unfortunate mechanical and on-track incidents thus far. Similarly, Eric Ruppel, who won in his season debut and has been fast all season, is in fourth after a number of on-track incidents have hurt his points total.
The PRO Light class has had eight different champions in eight years of TORC Series history, and Kyle Kleiman is looking to become the ninth. Kyle has emerged as the class favorite after a dominant start to the season, winning four out of five races so far (four in a row after a shaky start in Chicago). His is now leading by 25 points heading into Bark River.
The rest of the class, though full of competitors that can challenge Kyle for the win every round, has struggled with consistency. An unprecedented three-way tie has developed between Cam Reimers, Andrew Carlson, and Shawn Morris. Reimers has finished inside the top five every round, but will need to challenge for race wins in order to move up. Carlson has a very fast truck but needs to be more consistent to make a run. Morris has rebounded after a dreadful weekend in Chicago, and is on the rise after three consecutive podium finishes. All three will have their work cut out for them: Bark River is Kyle Kleiman’s home track, and he always does well in front of a huge Michigan cheering section.
After a limited run in 2016, TORC’s two UTV classes have exploded onto the scene as full-fledged racing categories in 2017 at every race weekend. Factory Yamaha racer CJ Greaves has won every round in PRO Stock, and remains unbeaten in his entire stock UTV racing career. Zach Martin and Dillon Pointon have remained within striking distance of CJ with solid outings. Kenny Masch had been right on CJ’s tail until an early crash at Crandon ended his weekend and dropped him to fourth in championship points.
In the PRO Mod UTVs, consistency has been the name of the game for points leader Kyle Chaney. He has finished in second place in all five races so far. Frustrating though it may be for Chaney, it has yielded a strong lead in the points chase. Rodney Van Eperen has four wins this season, but his one DNF has him playing catch-up in second. Tim Farr and Zac Zakowski have emerged as top-tier competitors as well. The modified category has featured vehicles from all three major manufacturers running together toward the front of the pack.
Heading into Bark River
All these stories will continue to unfold when TORC rolls into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula July 15-16. Kyle Kleiman and his brother Cody aren’t the only Michigan-based drivers hoping for a home-field advantage: Chad Hord, who’s fresh off a podium finish in his 2017 PRO 4 debut, has a huge fan base in Bark River. Fellow PRO 4 competitor Ross Hoek is also a Michigan native, along with Dan Baudoux, who’s looking to improve on his start in PRO 2.
2017 marks 42 consecutive years of off-road racing in Bark River. Originally the home of the “U.P. Off Road 100,” Bark River has been a staple of the short course racing world since the beginning. The iconic track is owned and operated by the Bark River Lions Club, which has donated over $500,000 to community projects since 2000. The legendary Bark River experience includes camping, music, community, and of course, the greatest racing on dirt. You won’t want to miss this year’s edition as TORC Series action continues!
Andrew Pfluger is a longtime race fan and writer for the TORC Series. To offer feedback or make suggestions for future content, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.