Crandon, Wis. ~ Only two weeks ago, AMSOIL Championship Off-road, presented by the U.S. Air Force, opened its 2023 campaign in Antigo, Wis.
That occurred just 36 miles away from this weekend’s action in Crandon, where the Big House was well-prepped for a full slate of door-to-door, high-speed racing. But Crandon International Raceway always surprises, and race officials took a step back in time and unveiled a modified course that features a sweeping left-hand turn immediately after the Argonne Corner, bringing competitors right back onto the famed Turn One.
With the fans in full force for the 30th Annual Forest County Potawatomi Community Cup weekend, Crandon put on a terrific opening day of racing that leaned heavily on its biggest stars and future legends.
Henderson Uses Late Charge for First Pro 4 Win
CJ Greaves has 18 career Pro 4 wins at Crandon, including wins in five of the six races at the Big House in 2022. For the second half of the race, Greaves was in position to pick up number 19, but Jimmy Henderson had a strong desire to grab ahold of win number one.
Cole Mamer was wicked quick at Antigo, and his speed was expected to carry over to the faster track at Crandon. Mamer was fast on Saturday. The top qualifier grabbed the hole shot and led for the first seven laps. But Mamer put his Pro 4 on two wheels on lap eight and dropped the race leader down to third.
That put Greaves in his customary lead position, but it would only last for the next four laps. Henderson had plans to play the spoiler, pressuring Greaves for the entire second half of the race. He continued to find more and more speed as the race raged on, and his four fastest laps at the end of the race, including the race’s fastest lap on the final circuit.
Henderson’s setup was perfect, and the driver responded with the race of his life, beating the seven-time champ with a fantastic, textbook drive, his first career Pro 4 win.
“Man, I mean to get our first pro-four wins, it’s been so hard fought, and everybody knows the adversity we went through,” said Henderson. “but to do it here in Crandon, Wisconsin. At the Big House, to get this first number one means the world to me and means the world to my team.”
Greaves, who was missing fifth gear late in the race, grabbed his third straight podium in second and continues to lead the overall standings. Mamer was just a few truck lengths behind Greaves, finishing third.
Home Cooking for Kincaid in Pro 2
It was a trying year for Keegan Kincaid in 2022. The former class champion didn’t win a race and rarely found himself in a position to contend for the top spot on the podium. It was back to the drawing board for the hometown Crandon native. They built a new truck for their 2023 campaign and have been spending the past several weeks looking to get it right.
It was more than right on Saturday as Kincaid hammered home the holeshot, leading a hungry field of Pro 2’s through Crandon’s famed turned one. He led through the mandatory caution and didn’t lift during the race’s second half, picking up his first win since his title-clinching win at Fall Crandon 2021.
“Last year was not characteristic of this team and our sponsors,” said Kincaid. “We felt degraded and down. We’ve been working hard to get this truck going for me and build some confidence back up. It’s emotional. It’s like your first win again. Hopefully, we, you know, can keep this going.”
There was a lot of speed from the top five in Pro 2 on Saturday. Any early predictions on who would fill out the podium behind Kincaid would be wrong. In the second half of the race, Cory Winner and Mickey Thomas were door-to-door on nearly every turn, with Ryan Beat joining them three-wide on several of those rotations. A winner never gave Thomas an opening, finishing second. Thomas was looking for a final hole to sneak through on the last turn but found himself door-to-door with Beat, who through it in deep, trying to get the final podium position. Thomas and Beat linked together, crossing the finish line neck-and-neck, but with Thomas securing his third straight podium.
All Go For Greaves in Pro Lite
Coming into the weekend, Kyle Greaves has won a Pro Lite race at Crandon International Raceway four times over the previous two seasons. He was extremely dominant in his championship-clinching win on Labor Day weekend. He remembered to bring that dominance back to the Big House in 2023.
Greaves nailed the hole shot, clearing turn one with the lead. He ran six of the fastest laps in the race, including his quickest trip around the shortened Crandon on the last lap when a full course caution brought a restart. Greaves was nearly a full second faster on the final circuit than he had been all race, clinching his second win in 2023.
“We showed that our truck was pretty dominant last year (at Crandon), and we just we kept that same setup, and we just kept that same motivation,” said Greaves. “and you know I gotta give up my crew. We’ve been putting this truck through hell the last three weeks, and we went to Antigo, then Oklahoma and now, Crandon, and they’ve been working their absolute tails off.
Trey Gibbs had a brief moment where he pulled to the side of the track. He quickly re-engaged but lost ground on the leaders. Gibbs kept pushing, falling in behind Greaves. Madix Bailey and Travis Milhausen, Jr. had a race-long battle for podium positioning, with Bailey clamping down on the third spot on the final lap.
Rayford on Rails in Pro Spec
Chad Rayford’s move to Pro Spec is proving a wise move. The former Pro Lite driver has found his comfort zone inside the spec class, picking up his second straight win on Saturday with a dominant, flag-to-flag victory.
Rayford got clean off the first start and then the restart, taking advantage of not having to bang doors for positioning like the trucks behind him found themselves. As the track dried out, he found even more speed, setting his four fastest laps after the mandatory restart.
The battle for the second position would funnel to Nick Visser. The round one winner pushed his truck to another limit and set the race’s quick lap on the final circuit, closing the gap to Rayford to less than a second.
Defending class champion Gray Leadbetter drove uncontested in third, her third straight podium to start the year.
Carlson Charges to AMSOIL Pro Turbo SxS Victory
From the drop of the green flag, it was a two-horse race between Andrew Carlson and Kyle Chaney in AMSOIL Pro Turbo SxS on Saturday.
Carlson, the top qualifier, bolted into the initial lead thanks to a monster hole shot. But Chaney also came through turn one clean and quickly closed the gap, taking over the lead before they hit the finish line jump that officially starts the first lap.
Chaney controlled the pace for most of the race, but Carlson continued to catch the leader. Carlson took the lead with four laps remaining, sprinting past Chaney and flying to his first win of the season.
Chaney would fight a flat rear tire during the final laps, but he and Carlson had stretched a significant gap over the rest of the field and held on for his second straight podium finish. Robert Loire rounded out the podium in third.
Greaves Returns to Top of Pro Stock
CJ Greaves has led the majority of laps in Pro Stock SxS this season and continued to add to that number with his second win of the year on Saturday.
Greaves joined the race leaders early on lap two and was leading the race by the time the crowd hit the green flag at the finish line at the end of lap three. He would stretch his lead to nearly four seconds over early race leader Jeb Bootle.
For Bootle, he picked up his first career podium in Antigo two weeks ago, and he backed it up with a fast pace at Crandon. Bootle would give up the lead to Greaves on lap three, but he was also untouchable for the runner-up spot the rest of the way.
Trey Eggleston returned to the podium by finishing third. He and Dylan Marquardt diced over the final podium spot for the race’s second half, with Eggleston taking the position by less than three car lengths.
Pro Buggy: Open wheel contact created a chaos at the start of the Pro Buggy race on Saturday. Several contenders saw their momentum slowed in the middle of turn one, but one of the sport’s best drivers was clean from start to finish.Michael Meister won four of the five Pro Buggy races contested at Crandon in 2022, and he’s on his way to replicating that record with a green-to-checkers win in round three. Round one winner Mark Steinhardt kept pace with Meister, and his second-place finish keeps him in the overall points lead. Round two winner Billy Buth, caught up in the first-turn fracas, moved into the final podium spot on the second-to-last lap.
Pro-AM SxS: Twenty-six cars lined up for Saturday’s Pro-AM SxS race, but just like the first two rounds of AMSOIL Championship Off-Road, it all came down to the driving ability of Kolton Krajicek.
Krajicek started third off the abbreviated land-rush start and worked his way directly behind the race leader Kyle Sharkey and into the lead on lap four. From there, Krajicek pulled away from the field and crossed the finish line with his third straight win.
Sharkey crossed the line in second, and Tyler Remmereid notched his first podium finish of the year in third.
Super Stock Truck: Not bad for a backup driver as Cory Holtger took a dominant win as a fill-in for Ben Holtger, who took a scary spin in Antigo. Cory Holtger went wire-to-wire in his first career Super Stock Truck race, giving Ben Holtger a massive bump in overall points.
Points leader Joe Maciosek stretched his podium streak to three with a solid second-place showing. After sitting in third for the entire race, Maciosek was able to sneak past third-place finisher Scott Boulanger on the final turns.
570 SxS: Corbyn Wassenberg notched his first win of the season, leading the 570 SxS race from start to finish. It was a tight battle behind the points leader, but Ryker Remington moved into the runner-up spot on lap four and held off Bryce Powers (third) and Grant Dresel (fourth) for the second podium position.
170/200 SxS: Bumper-to-bumper racing and multiple passes across the top of the field defined Saturday’s 170/200 SxS class. It was a pass by Raymond Deininger with two laps remaining that would decide the Crandon affair. Tanner Thibeault led a few laps in the middle of the race before finishing second. William Holtger passed the checkers in third, a tenth of a second ahead of Ellie Hentges and two-tenths ahead of Drake Dreher.
1600 Single Buggy: Defending 1600 Single Buggy champion John Fitzgerald found the lead on lap two Saturday, but he spun out heading into the finish line turn handing the top spot over to Michael Seefeldt.
Seefeldt didn’t make a mistake, and the after a pair of runner-up finishes in Antigo to open the year and the win in round three, he now sits atop the standings by one point over Fitzgerald. After getting underway, Fitzgerald managed his way back into second, one spot ahead of round one winner Travis Trelsted.
Mod Kart: It was a three-kart drag race through turn one, but defending Mod Kart champion Porter Inglese came out of the scrum clean and powered to his third straight win this season. Avery Hemmer made a late race pass for the runner-up spot and held off pressure from Tristian Hinton and Zack Wirhanowicz for her second podium of the season. Hinton spun out in the gravel pit on the last lap, putting Wirhanowicz into third.
Short Course Karts: Race Visser used the clean air from a clean start to knock out the win in Short Course Karts. Visser had to deal with lapped traffic on the last lap, which allowed Wesley Vande Voort to pull up to Visser’s rear bumper. But Visser stayed out front through the final turns to take home the victory. Vande Voort grabbed his second podium finishing second, and points leader Lincoln Mandsager rounded out the podium in third.
Sportsman SxS: Round one winner Lucas Houle grabbed the hole shot and led the Sportsman SxS field around the abridged Crandon racetrack for the first five laps. But round two winner Benjamin Heiting found a way around the race leader with three laps remaining to pick up his second straight class win. Houle was less than a second behind Heiting at the line, with Bryce Carlson finishing third.
Youth SxS: Ryker Remington kept his Youth SxS upright on Saturday and powered to the win at Crandon. Remington won the opening round in Antigo and led from start to finish on Saturday for his second victory of 2023. Round two winner Libby Nielsen crossed the line in second, with Layne Peterson grabbing his first podium finish of the season.
1600 Light Buggy: The see-saw season continues in 1600 Light Buggy between Connor and Colin Schulz. Round one winner Connor Schulz lost out to his twin brother Colin in round two, but Connor was back on top in round three at Crandon. Colin Schulz crossed the line in second after making a last-lap pass for the runner-up spot. Jake Schilleman went from fifth to third on the final turn after a three-car tie-up just before the checkers.
Stock Truck: Points leader Cory Holtger made it two in a row after winning Saturday’s Stock Truck race. Holtger grabbed the hole shot off the Land Rush start and set the pace over the final laps to take his second straight win. Kyle Ambroziak was able to make a late pass on Brian Peot to finish second.
Up next for AMSOIL Championship Off-Road, presented by the U.S. Air Force: The Forest County Potawatomi Brush Run in Crandon, Wis., on Sunday, June 24.
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