2nd place finishers in 2002 CORR Lucas Oil Pro Series ready for redemption in 2003.
Indianapolis, Ind. (January 16, 2003)-Together they have combined for 23 wins and 63 top-five finishes in 2001 and 2002. The only thing lacking for three of the most successful drivers in Championship Off Road Racing history is a championship trophy from the CORR Lucas Oil Series.
Curt LeDuc (Pro-4), Evan Evans (Pro-2) and Rick Huseman (Pro-Lite) may best be noted for their success in the CORR Lucas Oil Series, but amazingly, each driver has finished second in the year-end point standings for two years in a row. For Evans, it has reached three years and counting (2000 through 2002). Evans has been chasing Scott Taylor, the four-time Pro-2 champion. Huseman has been unable to knock off Jeff Kincaid, who took the Pro-Lite crown for the third straight time in 2002. LeDuc finished behind Rob MacCachren in 2001, and battled with John Greaves to the bitter end in 2002, losing by two points in the final point standings, 199 to 197.
LeDuc, Evans, and Huseman live within a 25-minute drive from each other in southern California. They are part of a group of west coast drivers who have had success in the CORR Lucas Oil Series.
"If any one of us can turn it around, we're all going to have a big party out here in California," said LeDuc.
Curt LeDuc will enter the 2003 CORR Lucas Oil Series with 11 career Pro-4 wins in 80 starts, which ranks him second all-time. In 2002, LeDuc introduced Skyjacker Suspension to Championship Off Road Racing, as well as his son, Kyle, who competed in the Pro-Lite division. That relationship has expanded, as Skyjacker will be LeDuc's title sponsor for his Pro-4 truck in 2003.
As is his custom during the CORR off-season, LeDuc is changing everything on his Pro-4 Skyjacker Ford. Included in that 'change' is cutting the front and back off the truck. Overseeing much of the efforts is his Crew Chief, Larry Hawkins. Hawkins has been a stable force for LeDuc's team for nine years.
"I'm happy we're back racing," said LeDuc. "We've got a better motor program next year (in 2003) and we're going to be a threat every weekend."
The 2002 CORR Lucas Oil Series was not the first time LeDuc was close to the Pro-4 championship. In 1999, LeDuc and Scott Douglas tied for second- place with 200 points, one behind champion Walker Evans. LeDuc has not finished below third-place in his five years of competition in Championship Off Road Racing. Even though he has been close several times, he understands that he cannot dwell on his past performances.
"I've learned a long time ago you can't beat yourself up," he said.
At the beginning of 2001, LeDuc said they had a plan for the season, and except for a few parts breaking at inopportune times, they stuck to that plan.
"I think we have a championship caliber team. We just have to prove it," said LeDuc.
Scott Taylor has been a thorn in the side of Evan Evans for the last three years. During Taylor's amazing run of four consecutive Pro-2 championships from 1999 through 2002, Evans was the runner-up in 2000 through 2002. 16 of Evans' 18 career Pro-2 victories came in those three years. Undoubtedly at the top of his career, Evans' confidence is not wavering in the midst of Taylor's run.
"My confidence is really good. I feel that I am driving good when I'm out front and doing well," said Evans. "I'm the one Scotty Taylor is worrying about and one of these days it is going to fall my way," said Evans.
Evans, who has always been known for his aggressive driving, now understands that he does not have to win every race in order to win the Pro- 2 championship. Heading into 2003, his mindset will be to finish in the top-three. He pointed out that a critical aspect to his success in 2003 would be to finish each race, not taking a DNF (Did Not Finish).
Evans has maintained his success in the CORR Pro-2 division by having a team consisting of 100% volunteers. For five years, those members have learned what they need to do for Evans and his truck. Evans is serving as his own Crew Chief, and Zach Zagar, who previously worked with Evans, is returning as his Chief Mechanic.
Evans and Zagar have been working on the truck this winter in California, making the essential changes to his GM Mobility/Goodyear Chevrolet. As it is with most forms of motorsports, though, Evans understands that a little bit of luck plays a big role in the outcome of a race.
"Luck is involved in racing quite a bit," he said. "You gotta have good luck on your side, that's for sure. Hopefully the bad luck is out of the way and I'll have good luck this year."
Evans also maintains that a positive spirit, both for him and his team, will work wonders when he will attempt to de-throne Taylor in the 2003 CORR Lucas Oil Series Pro-2 division. He looks at finishing second for three years in a row as a great accomplishment.
"My crew gets a little upset and have a hard time dealing with it. They get a little bummed out, and I'm being the cheerleader, telling them, 'Hey, look at it this way, for three years in a row we're the team fighting for the championship'," said Evans.
If there were any driver ready for a fresh start in 2003, it would be Pro- Lite driver Rick Huseman. Heading into the final race weekend of the 2002 CORR Lucas Oil Series, Huseman held a strong 16-point lead over defending champion Jeff Kincaid. If Huseman could gain five points on Kincaid in Round 13, the title would be given to the Fabtech Ford. What happened that weekend is far from memorable for the Riverside, California driver.
"We thought we had it in the bag (the championship)," said Huseman. "We ended up having the worst weekend of my life. The whole weekend was very disappointing. By the end of the weekend, I was so upset."
Huseman's forgettable weekend started with a loose oil line in Round 13, dropping him to 13th. In Round 14, a first-turn crash sent his truck flipping several times, ending his chances at the Pro-Lite title.
With the help of his main sponsor, Fabtech Motorsports, Huseman and his brother and crew chief, Dan, are building a new truck for the 2003 season. He is confident that he can return to the top.
"We had an opportunity to build a new one (truck), so we figured we would," he said.
Even though he will have a new truck, Huseman claims that his setup will be similar to last year, with the only change coming to the motor.
In his second full year of competition, Huseman has one more win than Kincaid, 10 to 9. With the right set up again in 2003 and a commitment from Fabtech Motorsports, Huseman is confident his team can return to the top.
"I think we'll surely get it this year (the championship)," said Huseman.
In 2001 and 2002, Huseman had stretches in the season in which he did not perform to his standards. In 2003, his focus is to win.
"Our mindset is just to win. Do whatever it takes to win," he said. "We want to have the championship wrapped up before the last weekend."