Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Mike Roth/Jeff Nemecek/
When the Traxxas TORC Series announced that it would be heading to Antelope Valley, California, for its final rounds of racing and the newly formed Rick Huseman Memorial Cup, controversy soon followed. Some saw it is an invasion of LOORRS home turf of Southern California and the West. Others claimed the Cup was a mere ploy to attract racers to the TORC series. Tempers flared vividly, both in public and behind the scenes.
None of the pre-race drama would matter though once the green flag dropped on the final points races of TORC’s 2012 season. The racers had come to claim championships and most of them had come right down to wire. For those with a mathematical shot at a season title, Antelope Valley was a do-or-die affair. One blown corner or transmission could easily cost the valuable points needed to come out on top after 14 rounds of brutal racing. Needless to say, the last two races of the season were absolutely nerve-wracking for drivers and fans alike. Some would have to go all out, racing as hard as they could to have any chance at a title, while others in better points positions simply prayed that they finished. In short-course, anything can happen so no one felt absolutely safe or assured of a win.
The result was some very hard and entertaining racing as drivers battled against each other for the right to call themselves class champions. Adding to the excitement was the fact that the racers were dealing with a new track with no previous data on setups or the best lines. After all the dust had settled, a chosen few rose to the top. We present the champions of the 2012 Traxxas TORC Series season, and our congratulations go out to all of them.
2012 TORC Series PRO 4X4 Champion: Ricky Johnson
For Ricky Johnson, the 2012 season was one of domination in TORC’s PRO 4X4 class. Johnson started off the year with four consecutive wins, taking the top spot on the podium at both Charlotte and Red Bud. It was a spot he would become very familiar with as the talented driver went on to visit it five more times throughout the season, putting him firmly in control of the points chase and his third straight championship. Johnson was quick to credit his team, saying, “We came out strong right from the get go. It is a team effort from our captain Steve Menzies to his wife Terri who lets him do this to his son Bryce who is an unbelievable talent. I am so proud of him for taking his second PRO 2WD championship. The crew is awesome. Our shock guy Jim Anderson worked with me at Team Honda in 1988 and 1989 and went on to work with Ganassi Racing and Jeremy McGrath so we brought him back and I love working with him. I won the 1998 CORR championship in Jimmy Johnson’s truck with Charlie Schlieve, and he is here. I got guys new and old, along with Mike Krahling and Jordan Hightshoe. These guys work tirelessly along with all our sponsors who are with us every weekend.”
Ricky Johnson’s Season at a Glance Charlotte Round 1-1st Charlotte Round 2-1st Red Bud Round 3-1st Red Bud Round 4-1st Crandon Round 5-2nd Crandon Round 6-8th Chicagoland Round 7-3rd Chicagoland Round 8-1st Bark River Round 9-1st Bark River Round 10-3rd Crandon Round 11-13th Crandon Round 12-1st Antelope Valley Round 13-1st Antelope Valley Round 14-1st Oakley Bomb Awards-7
2012 TORC Series PRO 2WD Champion: Bryce Menzies
Bryce Menzies proved his strong performance last year was no fluke by taking his second PRO 2WD championship in a row. However, unlike teammate Ricky Johnson’s domination, Menzies was locked in a bitter battle with rival Rob MacCachren for most of the year. The fight would last all the way until the final race, when MacCachren over-rotated in a corner, hitting a course barrier and breaking his rear suspension, giving a hard-fought victory to Bryce. “This championship and backing up that number one plate means a lot. There was a lot of pressure all year long,” reflected Bryce. “Everybody last year said that Rob got hurt and broke his collarbone so it wasn’t a fair fight. This year we battled all year long and it came down to the last race, which is what we want and the fans want. It was great racing out here at Antelope Valley. This is the first place I ever won an off-road race in my career, so it is great to come back here and get a championship. It is huge for my whole team and all my partners like Red Bull, RAM, BFGoodrich, KMC, Mopar and everybody that helps me out.”
Bryce Menzies’ Season at a Glance Charlotte Round 1-3rd Charlotte Round 2-1st Red Bud Round 3-8th Red Bud Round 4-1st Crandon Round 5-7th Crandon Round 6-9th Chicagoland Round 7-6th Chicagoland Round 8-3rd Bark River Round 9-1st Bark River Round 10-4th Crandon Round 11-1st Crandon Round 12-5th Antelope Valley Round 13-1st Antelope Valley Round 14-1st Oakley Bomb Awards-5
2012 TORC Series PRO Light Champion: Brad Lovell
For Brad Lovell this season was about proving himself as a driver to be reckoned with in TORC’s PRO Light class. Firmly standing in the way of that goal was last year’s champion, Andrew Caddell, who would take six wins throughout 2012. While Caddell was a constant threat, Lovell chipped away with consistent top-three finishes, forcing a shootout in the final two rounds where he eventually emerged victorious. Lovell made a quick transition from rock racing and in only his third season of short-course, took a well-earned championship. “Amsoil, BFGoodrich and Torchmate all took a huge gamble supporting us and getting us into this sport,” observed Brad. “That first year was extremely frustrating because the whole program was too late, but are you going to try and know that it is going to be rough or not try at all? To come from that frustrating season to now it just feels like redemption, it is awesome. It proves to everybody else and to myself that we can do this. We don’t have to prove anymore that we are capable of doing this because we are.”
Brad Lovell’s Season at a Glance Charlotte Round 1-2nd Charlotte Round 2-6th Red Bud Round 3-5th Red Bud Round 4-1st Crandon Round 5-1st Crandon Round 6-5th Chicagoland Round 7-3rd Chicagoland Round 8-4th Bark River Round 9-2nd Bark River Round 10-2nd Crandon Round 11-4th Crandon Round 12-3rd Antelope Valley Round 13-5th Antelope Valley Round 14-6th Oakley Bomb Awards-1
2012 TORC Series PRO Buggy Champion: Mitchell Dejong
For 14-year-old Mitchell Dejong, the last-minute decision to race in the TORC Series paid off huge. He quickly became the youngest driver ever to start and win a race in TORC, and was first to the checkered flag a total of six times throughout 2012. The strong performance also garnered enough points to make him the youngest racer ever to claim a TORC Championship. Amazingly, he is no stranger to victories, this being the ninth season title for the small family-based team. “I was really excited to run in a PRO class this year, and even more excited to win a championship. It has just been awesome,” enthused Mitchell. “You can’t win without a good team and a good car behind you. My dad and I have always worked on the car together. He is my spotter and does most of the prep work, and I help him when I can. My mom is always there doing everything else. It is a whole team effort, and we all motivate each other to keep each other going through all of the ups and downs of a season.”
Mitchell DeJong’s Season at a Glance Red Bud Round 1-3rd Red Bud Round 2-1st Crandon Round 3-4th Crandon Round 4-1st Antigo Round 5-1st Antigo Round 6-1st Chicagoland Round 7-9th Chicagoland Round 8-1st Bark River Round 9-1st Bark River Round 10-8th Crandon Round 11-2nd Crandon Round 12-7th
Rick Huseman Memorial Cup Winner Ricky Johnson
The Rick and Jeff Huseman Memorial Cups
Sunday was an emotional day as Rick Huseman’s #36 Toyota PRO 4X4, family and wife Michelle were on hand for the opening ceremonies and to help celebrate his life. For Rick, there would have been no better way to do that than some hard racing, and that is exactly what occured. And with a huge cash purse ($65,000 in the TORC PRO 4X4/PRO 2WD Rick Huseman Cup and $20,750 in the TORC PRO Light Jeff Huseman Cup), it was no surprise that drivers were going all out. The first race of the day was the Jeff Huseman Cup, in which Keegan Kincaid jumped out to the lead early and held it for majority of the race. Casey Currie would eventually climb into second and stalk Kincaid, with Andrew Caddell in third. CJ Greaves and RJ Anderson also charged through the field, but both eventually fell out with mechanical trouble. Kincaid looked to have the race in hand as there was no competition yellow and Currie was not able to reel him in completely. However, on the last lap Kincaid caught a rut and almost rolled. While he recovered quickly, the bobble allowed Currie to slip past and take the lead and the checkered flag along with the $15,000 prize.
Next came the Rick Huseman Cup pitting the PRO 4X4s against the PRO 2WDs. Lined up Le Mans style (but with the drivers inside the trucks), the PRO 2WDs were given a roughly 15-second head start before the PRO 4X4s were unleashed to hunt them down. On the tight and technical track, the PRO 2WDs were able to stay in the lead for a long time, with Chad Hord in first and Rob MacCachren following. Behind them, there was absolute chaos happening as the PRO 4X4s of Kyle LeDuc and Rick Johnson absolutely charged through the field while battling with each other. LeDuc punted Johnson, allowing him to pass, but then Johnson made a quick recovery and in the very next corner returned the favor, hitting LeDuc hard and taking back the position.
The move allowed Johnson to focus on Rob MacCachren, who he eventually passed, and then Chad Hord. With only a lap and a half to go, Johnson used the four-wheel drive to his advantage, passing Hord on the inside. He held on to the lead all the way to the finish, claiming the $36,000 first-place purse. “These cup races are like walking into a bar fight. You don’t know what is going to happen, and it usually either goes really well or really bad,” shared Johnson. “To be honest, I was in neutral and completely sleeping off the start. I got around some guys and then went to work. Kyle was there and we were dicing the whole time. It was awesome, he was setting up on me and I was setting up on him. He might have had me a little bit on speed, but I had a couple strong areas. I was really strong through the middle, and that is a testament to the Fox shocks, Jim Anderson and the engineering of my truck. He was faster in a couple other spots. He has a manual transmission, so he can match those gears. It was really tit for tat and great racing with him. He gave me a hard blast in the corner, sending me backwards, but I came right back and gave him a blast and got him backwards. I wasn’t trying to spin him, but if he was using his nose that hard I was going to too. It was no harm, no foul, and it’s a cup race, so it is checkers or wreckers. I am so honored to be the first name on the Rick Huseman Memorial Cup. It was right around this time last year that we lost Rick, and we lost a great driver. I hope that he and Jeff are up in heaven looking down at us and saying ‘damn boys you made us proud.’ I am honored to be a part of it.”
Jeff Huseman Memorial Cup Winner Casey Currie
Other 2012 Traxxas TORC Series Champions Super Truck-Bob Gremler Jr. Super Stock Truck-Danny Beauchamp Stock Truck-Matthew Ives Formula 4X4-Bradley Lamarche 1600 Buggy-Mark Steinhardt 1600 Light Buggy-Greg Stingle Classix-Dale Chestnut