Top racers at Bark River
ESCANABA – This weekend’s 43rd annual Bark River Off-Road Rumble racing event will feature championship drivers from Canada and all over the Midwest competing for top honors.
The Lucas Oil short course summer off-road series, event number four of the 2018 season, will be staged Friday-Sunday at the U.P,’s top racing venue, Bark River International Speedway. Record crowds of over 36,000 spectators are expected for the weekend of racing.
Many will be coming to watch some of the area racing champions who have earned World Championships in their divisions, including Felch native Chad Hord.
Hord has captured five world championship titles and lists 38 career wins, with his racing career starting in 1996. Hord’s local racing roots are deep.
“I got into racing because I too was one of those little boys who would go to Bark River and Crandon and have their nose against the fence,” said Hord. “I grew to love the sport and started off building trucks when I would get off of work every night. Racing really grew for me.
“I would not be able to run without the support of my sponsors: Lucas Oil, Ponnse, Maxxis Tires and Vision Wheel.”
Hord has been very successful in the PRO2 class and through the years has 192 top five finishes in 253 career starts (76 percent). He currently is the class points leader in the Lucas Oil short-course league and is excited to be competing at home this weekend.
“Bark River is what I consider my ‘hometown’ track. I have grown up watching races here and it is so nice to be able to come and race in front of so many friends and family,” said Hord. “It is such an exciting track and the Bark River Lion’s Club always does a great job with the entire event.”
Friday’s short course Karts Race opens the weekend racing schedule at 6:30 p.m. and will include up to 17 young racers in the division, including 2016 World Champion Troy Johnson, age 11, from Bark River.
Johnson leads the Karts class points standings this summer and his brother Andrew, age 9, is fourth in the points race.
Another local racer, Aiden Wandahsega of Wilson is second in the points.
The Johnson brothers’ mom, Jennifer, says the boys play all sports and racing is a huge part of their busy yearly sports scheduling.
“Troy and Andrew also play travel hockey for Marquette teams. Troy plays baseball, football, Delta County golf association golf and they are excited to be racing at home this week,” said Jennifer Johnson.
“They are pretty excited. Andrew really wants to beat his brother and he took second place at Minnesota. Troy is now very consistent and confident. His heart is 100 percent into it (racing).”
The Johnson brothers’ dad, Casey, raced the Super Buggy class years ago and Casey works on their vehicles and is a big part of team Johnson.
The Karts races will be Friday and then Saturday at 10:35 a.m.
“We live only a mile away from the raceway on our dairy farm,” said Johnson. “The boys are hard workers, they are farm boys and love their racing and work hard at it too.”
2016 Super Stock world champion Jaime Kleikamp of Bark River is also leading the Lucas Oil series points race entering this weekend.
Saturday at 1:30 will be the first Super Stock races of the weekend and Kleikamp is ready to compete in front of the local race fans.
“Since a little kid, I’ve always went to the track right here in our backyard,” said Kleikamp, now 35, who started racing at age 19. “My dad raced buggy’s before I was born and I fell in love with racing.
“This track does a lot for our community. It is good for families to bring everybody to watch the racing.”
Kleikamp leads the points standings of the 25 Super Stock racers but has not registered a first place finish in the opening three Lucas Oil Summer league races. “We haven’t got to the top of the podium yet this year as we had hoped,” said Kleikamp. “Our team is working hard and making the adjustments and changes.”
The Pro Lite racing division also has area racers with Bark River brothers Cody and Kyle Kleiman competing for top placing. The Pro Lite class hits the race track Saturday at 5 p.m. and then again Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
Lucas Oil race director Bill Smith expects more than 230 racers in all classes, making it a busy weekend for all drivers, staff and racing fans.
Racing resumes 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with Pro qualifying. Opening ceremonies are set for 9:50 a.m. Saturday with racing to 5 p.m. both days.