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Jeremy McGrath/AIRAID in LOORRS Pro 2 Truck See Mid-Season Success at Estero Beach

Jeremy McGrath leading Patrick Clark at Estero Beach in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series in June

It was hard to pass on the track at Estero Beach,where McGrath holds off the 25 truck of Patrick Clark.

In his second year as owner-driver of his JM2 off-road short-course truck racing team, AIRAID Performance Filters-backed Jeremy McGrath has arrived at the midway point of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (LOORRS) in second place in a highly competitive Pro2 Truck class. McGrath is 41 points behind series leader and long-time rival Rob MacCachren, and is holding off third place RJ Anderson by four points as they approach rounds nine and 10 on July 23-24 at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California.

If that intro was jam-packed, so it has been for McGrath and company, who have ridden a roller-coaster over the first eight rounds of the 2016 LOORRS. Compared with 2015, where McGrath was on the podium in four consecutive contests before hitting the whoops to conclude the series in fifth, his 2016 finishes alternated between top-fives and back-of-pack before ascending to a second and then two wins. He has steadily improved his finishes, but has had to deal with surprises that prevented better results.

JM2's pre-season testing and prep aimed McGrath toward the top three for the year. Their intention is not to play a points series, but aspire to consistent finish positions. That wasn't happening early on, but is now. In rounds 1-2 at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Ariz., he was a respectable fourth in round 1, but could not recover from surprise number one: a broken sway bar in round 2. They pressed on to rounds 3-4 on the team's home track in Lake Elsinore, Calif., and had a similar experience with another fourth place in round 3, then surprise number two: a tie rod came off its spindle in round 4. The team thought they'd prepped deeper than to have something like this happen and had never had a tie rod failure. New rule: The truck comes apart between races, and the checklist gets longer.

Jeremy McGrath getting air at Estero Beach in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series in June

Jeremy McGrath and his AIRAID Pro2 Truck get some good air at Estero Beach in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series in June.

Rounds 5-6 at Utah Motorsports Campus in Toole, Utah, were great confidence-builders for everyone on the team as McGrath had excellent speed in round 5 to finish second. He then qualified on pole for round 6 and led every lap to top the podium. The momentum carried over to round 7 at Estero Beach, Baja California, Mexico, with another win and no mechanical failures. Then came round 8, where he was running up front until surprise number 3: the "mud eater" visor tear-off mechanism stopped working, and with low vision he had to settle for a back-of-pack finish.

It is gratifying that the surprises are not coming from the engine bay, and in its second full year of support for JM2, AIRAID has kept the Pro2 truck, and McGrath protégé Brock Heger's Pro Lite truck, well stocked with intakes and filters. Team manager Lew Lewis said, "These engines are carbureted and they need maximum air flow and maximum protection. AIRAID makes the best air filters for our needs, and we really appreciate that the company has engineering expertise and advice available to us at all times."

Jeremy McGrath celebrating win in Pro2 Trucks at Round 7 of the LOORRS

McGrath celebrates his second consecutive win in Pro2 Trucks at Round 7 of the LOORRS

There is no real down time during the LOORRS, and the brief four weeks between round 7/8 and 9/10 are being spent rebuilding the truck. While there are eight more races between now and October, they will approach each one individually. It was satisfying to have two recent wins and confidence is up. The truck is sound, despite the surprises. They are not making any overall changes, and will not over-think the rest of the season.

The venues are established and don't change that much. McGrath describes the courses as sort of supercross truck tracks where drivers pick their lines, and if they can link them together right, they can go faster. Weather and track prep are the biggest influences on race conditions. Everyone knows one thunderstorm or uneven watering of a corner will change everything. It makes for great spectating, and as a short track, fans get to see lots of action.

They can also get close to the competitors and see the details of the trucks. "There are many knowledgeable people who show up regularly and talk to us, tell us what they've learned by watching us," Lewis said. "This series is great in that there can be so much interaction with the fans." And McGrath is accessible as well, usually in the pits all day, and posting regularly to Instagram. He does this organically and writes all his own commentary. Social media has added a genuine, and valuable, connection to race fans and enthusiasts.

The crew at JM2 numbers 12 on race weekends and six day-to-day at the shop, except in summer when school is out and impromptu "take your kid to work days" for the gaggle of team children, ages 7-11, often take place. McGrath, with two youngsters, is big on family involvement, and the kids also attend the races. They understand their dads are working during the day, and make the venue their home for the weekend. Everyone rinses off the day's dirt while he cooks dinners on the grill.

This family-team spirit will continue to infuse JM2 as they pursue that fine line that will get them to the top of the Pro2 class. There were 12 series contenders entered and racing through round 3/4, and nine through 7/8. MacCachren has had no problems to date, but that could change at any time. Each of the top five competitors has had a first-place finish, with Bryce Menzies hauling down three wins. It will be a hard-fought second half that, after Glen Helen, includes Wild West Motorsports Park, Sparks, Nev., August 13-14, a return to Lake Elsinore, September 23-24, and the finale, back at Wild Horse Pass, Chandler, Ariz., October 22-23.


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