Flying Dutchman Soars to Second Straight Win of 2018
Elk River, MN - After a dominant victory in 2018's short course debut at Crandon, Mike Vanden Heuvel and the Flying Dutchman Off-Road racing team headed to Elk River, Minnesota to do battle at the Midwest Short Course League's shortest but most punishing track: ERX Motor Park. The three-year-old world-class one-mile short course track features a split lane, sandy traps throughout, and so many jumps you could swear you spend more time in the air than on the dirt. These features combined with major elevation changes had drivers battling the course just as much as the other drivers, and fuel pressure struggles proved to be a recurring theme for PRO 2 competitors throughout the weekend.
Once again, Mother Nature threatened the schedule for Rounds 3 and 4, as several bouts of rain forced the cancellation of Thursday’s badly-needed practice round. Fortunately, Friday morning’s storms ducked south of Elk River and conditions were hot and sunny for the rest of the event, allowing the rest of the event to proceed as scheduled.
Vanden Heuvel was the favorite coming into ERX - he won twice and had a second place finish to boot at the track in 2017. Right out of the box Mikey was blisteringly fast, posting the fastest qualifying time on Saturday morning. He started on the third row and took off, digging his Kenda Klever tires into the loamy Minnesota dirt and powering toward the front.
It didn't take long for Mikey to improve his position - he got around Mark Peterson in turn two and was there to take advantage of a rollover by one of the leaders, powering his way to third place in the opening moments. The action came to a pause, however, as the race was brought to a pause to clear a rolled-over truck further back in the pack.
After the restart, Mikey got a little squirrely in turn two, letting Keegan Kincaid slip by on the outside of the split lane section. But Vanden Heuvel didn't let him go, and appeared to be poised to pass him back in the "k-turn" section later that lap. Unfortunately, some contact scrubbed off his speed and Daely Pentico made it by.
That was as bad as it got for Mikey. He buckled up and began to turn things around, passing Pentico back, and then retaking third place from Kincaid. A thrilling battle ensued with Chad Hord, as Mikey slipped on the inside through the treacherous whoops section. But Hord didn't give up, staying alongside Vanden Heuvel for several turns, only relinquishing the spot when Vanden Heuvel had the better line through the k-turn.
A couple laps later, leader Andrew Carlson over-rotated and Vanden Heuvel was there to seize the lead! The #77 Kenda Tires machine never looked pack, dragging busted fenders and loose chome-moly bumper tubing across the finish line to stay a perfect 2-for-2 in 2018!
"Today they were giving me all that I could handle, but I was in the right place at the right time. This truck loves ERX," glowed Vanden Heuvel on the podium. "This might be the best track we have - it's my new favorite track for sure. I got a couple wins here last year and we're just going to keep this rolling!"
Saturday started with more of the same from Vanden Heuvel, who started on the front row and left the rest of the field in his roost right off the first turn. "The Rookie" Daely Pentico had a great run early and challenged Mikey for the lead, but made a rookie mistake and rolled over attempting to keep up with the blisteringly-fast Flying Dutchman. Vanden Heuvel dominated early, posting the fastest lap of the race on lap three and staying firmly in control through lap 6.
Unfortunately, Vanden Heuvel began to have engine troubles, and his temperatures began to rise. Mikey attempted to manually cool the truck while simultaneously holding off Chad Hord for the lead, but eventually he had to relinquish the position. After a valiant effort to run up front with a cooking truck, Vanden Heuvel finally decided to save his engine and live to fight another day.
Despite the disappointing finish to the weekend, Vanden Heuvel has firmly established himself as the man to beat in PRO 2. Three races in to the inaugural season of the Midwest Short Course League, he sits third in championship points, just 12 behind the leaders.
"My whole theory is I never chase points," said Mikey. "I figure the fastest way to get points is to win races, so we're going to try to keep doing that!"