Lena Gets Loud With Champ Season Opener

May 22, 2024
Off Road Racer Staff

Lena, Wis. ~ The off-road universe rumbled into Lena, Wisconsin, over the weekend as the 2024 AMSOIL Championship Off-Road season officially kicked off with a thunderous day of competition at the Dirt City Motorplex. Race fans were roused by door-banging pro trucks, mud-slinging side-x-sides, and buggy battles across the 18 class off short-course action. As the sun set and the dust settled on day one of the 2024 campaign, a mix of new contenders emerged, and past champions put the rest of their class on notice for a summer of off-road racing excitement. adrian cenni Cenni Surges to Wild Pro 4 Win When the Pro 4 field bunches up and rolls toward the starters' tower, it's natural to focus on the 33 truck of CJ Greaves and the 44 of Jimmy Henderson. Their rivalry grew last year, and the same door-to-door action is expected this year. But for more than two decades, all eyes seem to gravitate towards the bright orange number 11 of Adrian Cenni. The Wildman may be a moniker from his younger days, but Cenni can still wheel a Pro 4, and when he feels he has the truck to move to the front of the pack, he will find a way to get there. This was the case on Saturday for Cenni. Greaves and Henderson moved out front early, and Cenni spun out early, pushing him to the back of the back. But Greaves would pull into the hot pit right before the mid-race restart, and Cenni started making his way through the field. He and Henderson would lock horns for several laps, but Cenni powered into the lead. With all eyes watching, he would go on to win the season opener, his first win since Bark River last season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcr85AYnXJw "It was very gratifying to come from the back," said Cenni. "I spun out early, as it was very slippery out there at the beginning. I started picking guys off one by one, and wow, very exciting." The bumping and banging continued for the final two podium positions. Henderson and Johnny Greaves would swap fiberglass for the final few laps, with Greaves getting the late advantage to move into second after Henderson spun. That spin also put Andrew Carlson into the final podium spot, finishing just behind Greaves in third. lena champ opener Thomas Charges To Late-Race Lead, Win in Pro 2 Ricky Gutierrez spent the off-season building a new truck and dialing both it and him in to tackle the highly competitive Pro 2 field. That hard work was evident on Saturday as one of the sports fan favorites was on a rail, holding off the likes of Ryan Beat, Kyle Greaves, and Mickey Thomas. But on lap 14, Gutierrez had to pull off with what appeared to be heating issues. Part of that issue may have been from the heat Mickey Thomas was putting on the race leader. Thomas worked his way through traffic and found the heavy roost from Gutierrez on lap ten, and the two would get tangled up briefly. Thomas fell back briefly but roared back and overtook the race leader with four laps remaining. It was a big win for the championship-focused Thomas, who is ready for the season-long slugfest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-kNmyWl-Zg “I had a ton of fun that race,” said Thomas. “I tried a lot of things with Ricky and found a line that was working really well. I was able to get up alongside him a few times, and it took more than once, but we got it done.” 2023 Pro Lite champion Kyle Greaves made the move into the higher-horse powered Pro 2 division this season and ended his first day in the bigger trucks in second place. Zac Zakowski put together a solid run to finish third. johnny holtger Holtger Hits in Pro Lite Johnny Holtger is going to have a busy season in 2024. The 2020 Pro Lite champion will run three Pro trucks this season: Pro 4, Pro 2, and Pro Lite. It’s a big task, but Holtger is ready and was up to the task in Pro Lite on Saturday. The top four drivers had a shot at controlling the race early, but each made small mistakes. Holtger used the pole position and experience to get out front, with Trey Gibbs in second. Gibbs would shuffle back a few spots, but he came on late in the race and looked like he had the speed to challenge Holtger for the win. But a late spin by Gibbs gave Holtger clean air as he notched the opening-round win. Gibbs bounced back from his unplanned spin to lock down the runner-up spot—Carson Parrish’s return to racing culminated with a third-place finish. dylan parson Parsons Opens With First Pro Spec Win Dylan Parson finished fourth overall in 2023 but didn't break through with a win in Pro Spec. He wasted no time rectifying that by taking the top spot in Saturday's season opener. Parson's used a first-lap surge to jump into the lead and drove a near-flawless race to pick up the victory. While Parson was enjoying his winning drive, several drivers were bouncing up and down the leaderboard for the final two podium positions. When the dust settled, Chris Van Den Elzen held the runner-up spot, and Nick Visser finished third. andrew carlson Carlson Shines in Pro SxS Andrew Carlson had a pair of wins and a top-five finish in Pro Stock (formerly Pro Turbo) last season. He knew last year’s car had more wins to offer, and it proved prophetic on Saturday as Carlson mixed top-end speed with stellar driving to earn the opening-round win. There was a lot of early jockeying for position between the top drivers, but Carlson and defending champion Kyle Chaney pulled away from the field, making it a two-man race to the finish. Carlson had a counter for every move Chaney used to steal the lead, and the Elk River, Minn. driver crossed the line by roughly half a second for the win. CJ Greaves had some early work to get away from the pack but settled into third to round out the podium. owen VanEperen VanEperen Wins Pro Stock SxS Opener From the jump, it looked like defending Pro Stock SxS champion CJ Greaves would start the year on a winning note. Greaves led Jeb Bootle and the 15-car field for nearly two laps when Greaves pulled off the track momentarily. That put Bootle into the top spot, but Owen VanEperen slipped underneath in one of Dirt City’s 180-degree turns to snatch the lead away from his Yamaha counterpart. VanEperen didn’t let off the gas, driving to his second straight Pro Stock win dating back to 2023. Colin Kernz ran his fastest laps at the end of the racing, moving into the runner-up spot with three laps remaining. The same held for Jake Kosmecki, who finished third. jared jadin Pro-AM SxS: Twenty-seven cars lined up for Saturday's Pro-Am SxS, and after several early lead changes, some late action dictated the opening round winner. Kyle Sharkey held the point early before Kolten Krajicek locked into the top spot. Krajicek, who won at Dirt City last season, looked to start the season on a winning note, but with just over one lap remaining, he pulled off the track. That put Jared Jadin into the lead, and the young driver cleanly drifted around the Dirt City Motorplex for the win. Defending class champion Bill Berger finished second. Jacob Blemke kept his car in front of David Gay and Cody James for third. mason masterful Mason Masterful in Pro Buggy Dave Mason, Jr. wrapped up the 2023 Championship Off-Road season with a win in Pro Stock SxS. This year he kicked off the season with an opening round win in Pro Buggy. Mason is expected to pull double duty this year between the two classes, and he came out swinging in Pro Buggy on Saturday. Mason got the lead from the start and was rocket fast through Saturday’s contest. He commanded the race from the beginning and held up to the pressure from Billy Buth over the last two laps. With Mason on atop the podium, Buth crossed the finish line in second. Cole Bernloehr was quick throughout for the third spot on the podium. branden beauchamp Super Stock Truck: Last season's Super Stock Truck class finished with the top three, having just 13 points of separation. The talent in the class runs deeper than that, and the 2024 season is expected to be equally as close. Branden Beauchamp was third in that grouping but now leads the charge to open the new campaign. Beauchamp took a wire-to-wire win, leading two-time (and defending) class champion to the finish line. Nick Byng had early pressure on Beauchamp before settling into his final finishing position of third. Stock Truck: Kyle Jenshak was the pole sitter for Saturday's opening round of Stock Truck, and he quickly asserted himself into the lead, but Tyler Mullins snuck around on the opening lap for the race lead. Mullins was quick out front, leading the field to the mid-race restart. But Mullins would spin out, opening the door for Jenshak to retake the lead. Jenshak didn't relinquish the lead once he regained it and drove to his first career Stock Truck win. Rookie Tyler Hoffman finished second, and Brian Peot was third. john fitzgerald 1600 Single Buggy: The number six was a tough number for John Fitzgerald in 2023. A late race issue in the season finale pushed Fitzgerald behind eventual champion Michael Seefeldt by six points. Fitzgerald would start the season's first race in sixth, but that wouldn't last long as the past champion eventually found his way to the front. After some early race chaos, with several lead changes, Fitz slipped past Sean Springstroh for the top spot with three laps remaining. Fitzgerald had his hands full with Springstroh as they raced hard and clean over the last three laps, with Fitzgerald holding a .670 of a second advantage at the line. Seefeldt worked his way through the field after starting 13th to finish third. Sportsman SxS: Tyler Wusterbarth picked up his first career win at Dirt City last season. He started the 2024 season by picking up his second Sportsman SxS victory. Wusterbarth started 12th off the green flag but quickly snaked his way through the pack. He was already in second by the completion of the first lap and put the heat on race leader Sam Brazee. Wusterbarth got the lead on lap six and held off a host of drivers after a red flag led to a one-lap sprint to the finish. Tyler Peetz crossed the line in second, just .320 of a second behind the winner. Rookie Jayden Dickman finished third in his first Sportsman SxS race, less than a half second behind Peetz. connor schulz 1600 Light Buggy: Connor Schulz missed out on the 2023 1600 Light Buggy title by one point to his brother Colin. Connor (with Colin not racing this season) may be a man on a mission in 2024. He held it wide open on Saturday, leading from start to finish to pick up the opening-round win in Lena. Behind him, things got a little chaotic, especially for the final podium spot. Evan Hockers locked down the runner-up spot shortly after the mandatory caution, but it was a three-way drag race to the finish line for third. Eugene Reinke, Jr. picked up his first career podium, holding off class veteran Greg Stingle and Dylan Rohloff at the line. 570 SxS: It was a three-wide start for Saturday's 570 SxS race, with Draxton Szymik bolting past the top two cars and into the lead. Szymik never relinquished the top spot, but Logan Fritzinger used an early charge to put himself in position to challenge for the lead late in the contest. With the checkered flag flying, Szymik held off Fritzinger by less than a second for the opening-round win. Emerson Dreher rounded out the podium in third. class 170/200 SxS: On Saturday, 23 entrants participated in the combined 170/200 SxS race at Dirt City. This year, the race will be scored by individual class rather than overall finishing order. With that, Drake Dreher was the first SxS across the finish, crossing the line ahead of Ashton Dreher. Both drivers were also 1-2 in the 170 standings. Third place overall went to the 200 SxS leader, Raymond Deininger. Kody Krantz filled in for Gaborik Geyen and finished fourth overall and third in 170 SxS. Henry Holtger finished second in 200 SxS, and Ryder Ives was third. Mod Kart: Avery Hemmer wasted no time getting out in front of the Mod Kart field and pulled away for a sizeable lead. Hemmer repeated the action after the restart and went on cruise control to pick up her first career win. In his first Mod Kart race, Corbyn Wassenberg took over the runner-up spot with three laps remaining and finished ahead of Hunter VanZile, who was driving in place of Chase Alsteen on Saturday. Short Course Karts: Opening weekend brings a lot of optimism, and that was again the case in Short Course Karts. It is also a weekend of firsts, including Caleb Bell's first-class win. Bell had control of the race from start to finish and let the rest of the podium swap spots late in the race to round the podium. Finley Holtger moved into second with two laps remaining and pulled away to lock down the spot. Jax Romenesko also moved into a podium position with two laps to go and held off Brayden Bell by 4/10ths of a second for the third spot. Youth SxS: Ryker Remington opened up the defense of his 2023 Youth SxS title with a big win on Saturday at Dirt City. It was challenging for the defending champ, as Carter Jutila was committed to the fight. Jutila spent the final seven laps on Remington's rear bumper, but Remington never opened the door and held off Jutila by .194 of a second at the finish line for the win. Jutila earned his best Youth SxS finish, and Hudson Houle was third. Up next for AMSOIL Championship Off-Road: The second round of racing will be held on Sunday, May 19 at the Dirt City Motorplex in Lena, Wis. With a subscription, you can watch every round of the AMSOIL Championship Off-Road season live on www.FloRacing.com and on the series television partner Fox Sports. For more information on how you can follow along this season, click here. sponsers