After a long and busy offseason full of hard work, Mike Vanden Heuvel returned to off-road racing action in his signature red Flying Dutchman Off-Road #77 on June 16th & 17th. Thanks to a renewed partnership with Kenda Tire, Mikey is geared up for a run at his first PRO 2 championship as he competes in all four events of the new Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League.
The first event took Vanden Heuvel to Crandon International Off-Road Raceway for the 25th Annual Forest County Potawatomi Brush Run races. Unfortunately, Mother Nature once again left her mark on the Spring Crandon race, as heavy rains through Friday forced the cancellation of all practices and qualifying. Rain continued into Saturday morning, causing a delay to opening ceremonies.
Racing was finally able to begin and several sportsman classes did vintage battle on the extremely muddy track. But just before the PRO 2 race was slated to begin, the skies opened up once again and another round of heavy rain proved to be the death knell for Round 1 racing. Vanden Heuvel would have to wait until Sunday for his first bout of 2018.
On Sunday it was determined that all classes would run on an abbreviated version of the Crandon track due to course conditions. The Flying Dutchman Off-Road team was quick to adjust to the tighter circuit:
“As soon as they said we’re running on the short track, we changed gears and tire groove,” Mikey explained. “We had to get those long, tall gears out of there. ”
The cancellations were particularly hard on the PRO 2 class, which was loaded with new trucks and rookie drivers with low seat time. It could be a recipe for many accidents, so Mikey was determined to get ahead of the fray.
And get ahead he did. Coming off a randomly-drawn 7th place start position, Vanden Heuvel clawed his Kenda Klever tires into the hallowed dirt and screamed into the famous Turn One gunning towards the front of the pack. In a masterful outside-in move, he ducked inside the orange #43 of Bob Brand without a moment’s hesitation, and came out of the first corner in 2nd out of 15 trucks. Only Chad Hord stood between Mikey and the lead.
But Hord’s lead was as short-lived as they come. Mikey out-drove him out of the Gravel Pit Turn and took over first place on lap one. It was a position he would never let go of. Calamity ensued behind him all race long, but the Flying Dutchman never gave an inch and cruised to a win in the first race of 2018.
“It’s been my mission for years to be a Crandon winner in PRO 2!” Mikey celebrated after the win. “This track’s killed me over the years. I’m so happy to be here!”
Mikey got a fast start in the PRO 2 vs PRO 4 challenge cup later that day, and was racing for third early on. Unfortunately a caution brought the PRO 4 trucks to his back bumper, and contact from a hard-charger resulted in damage that kept him from challenging for the win. But nothing could bring Mike Vanden Heuvel down after reaching the top of the box at the Big House.
“What a debut for the new Kenda Klever R/T,” said Vanden Heuvel. “We took these tires directly off the shelf and conquered Crandon. I couldn’t be happier for my Kenda team along with all of my sponsors, crew, and family."