BARK RIVER - It's that time of year again, when locals and tourists gather and the roaring of engines can be heard from a mile off. The widely anticipated Bark River Offroad Races were officially under way.
Before the races even began on Saturday afternoon, Race chairman Richard Ault was very pleased with the crowd turnout.
"Huge, Huge, Huge!" Ault said. "Very good. I don't know what the official numbers are, but I'd say this has got to be our biggest year ever."
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Chad Hord of Felch prepares to race in the AMSOIL PRO 2WD circuit race at Bark River International Raceway Saturday.
The events kicked off with some high flying action almost immediately when J.R. Wheeler flipped his car coming through the gate during the PRO BUGGY races. The crowd was left speechless for a brief moment, but Wheeler eventually stepped out of his car on his own volition and waved to the crowd.
Chad Hord, of Felch, returned to the U.P. with Team Boss Snowplows to compete in the AMSOIL PRO 2WD event. Hord said that there is something special about getting to compete so close to home.
"I like the Bark River track, and being close to home," he said. "It's nice for the friends and family to be able to come.
"It actually probably adds a little bit of pressure. Because it is friends and family, I think you care a little bit more."
Going into the races on Saturday, Hord was second in points and just three points out of first place. "We've been right there all season long, and I really don't see anything changing," he said. "I plan on putting the truck on top of the podium.
"Like I say, I enter every race as if I'm going to win it."
One of the things Hord likes most about the track in Bark River is the fact that it has some unique aspects to it, and TRAXXAS PRO LIGHT racer Ross Hoek of Holland agrees.
"[The track] is big and fast, but yet it's still got a lot of technical aspects to it," Hoek said. "It's my best track, historically. I've won a lot of races here."
Hord was doing a good job of keeping pace with the rest of the pack during his event, and he had a firm grasp on his fourth place position until his right rear tire blew out when he came off of a jump on the Northeast side of the track.
"Once the tire came apart, it ripped the brake line off, and bent the sway bar. Once I had no brakes, and with the way the tire was beaten, I just pulled [the truck] in," he said.
Saturday was also a rough outing for local fan favorite Nick Baumgartner of Iron River, who took 13th place in the PRO Light division race.
Bryce Menzies held the lead for most of the competition in the PRO 2WD event, and took home a first place victory as well as the Oakley Bomb Award for completing the fastest lap in the contest.
"This win is for my whole team," Menzies said to Mopar on Saturday. "We've been struggling and everyone has been working so hard. We have a very fast track this weekend.
The Mopar engine under our Ram is unbelievable. I'm trying to get back in the groove, and hopefully we can keep running with this momentum we now have."
Some of the other Pro racers who came out with a victory on Saturday were Ricky Johnson (PRO 4X4), Luke Johnson (PRO Light), and Mitchell DeJong (Super Buggy). The Off Road Championship (TORC) series will continue on Labor Day weekend in Crandon, WI for the World Championships.
The Bark River Raceway had a full slate of races that took place on Sunday as well. Full results from this weekend's races can be found at www.torcseries.com.