Saturday, March 2, 2024

Brooks, Mears, Sorensen join Crandon Pro 2 field

When Championship Off-Road returns to Crandon International Raceway this weekend, so will Jerett Brooks as he pilots the #1 Pro 2 truck.

Brooks retired from full-time competition after winning the Pro 2 championship in 2022, wanting to focus on family after achieving all that he wanted to in short course racing. While he did not win a race in his final year, he won the title over Cory Winner by just two points on consistency. It was Brooks’ sixth pro short course title.

Due to his retirement, the Pro 2 truck that his team built was acquired by Brock Hanmer. A fellow Pro 2 driver in Great American Shortcourse, Hanmer elected to skip Crandon and provided the truck for Brooks.

Brooks is not the only special face in the Pro 2 field at Crandon as Ryan Beat Motorsports will field two trucks for Casey Mears and Amanda Sorensen. Mears will drive the #25 while Sorensen is in the #12.

While Mears is new to Crandon, he is more than familiar with off-road racing as he competed in the adjacent Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group in his early career before switching to pavement racing. The legendary Mears family also has roots in the discipline, with his father Roger being a Baja 1000 star.

After competing in IndyCar, Mears became a NASCAR mainstay for two decades and recorded his lone Cup Series victory in the #25 car at the 2007 Coca-Cola 600. When he departed the series in 2017, he began pursuing off-road again by competing in the Stadium Super Trucks and eventually SCORE International. In 2021, he teamed up with fellow NASCAR alumnus and SST founder Robby Gordon to run the Baja 1000 and finished seventh in the Trophy Truck class.

Beat, a Pro 2 driver, is also close with Gordon and races part-time in SST.

“I’m super excited about the opportunity to run at Crandon for my first time,” said Mears. “It’s one of those races I heard about while racing NASCAR, but I was always busy that weekend and never had the opportunity to put something together. The Potawatomi community has carved out a piece of off-road history, and it’s exciting to join Ryan Beat Motorsports for one of the biggest off-road races in the United States.

“I’ve gotten to know Ryan a little bit, and to see how he runs his programme with sponsors like Chevy, Bilstein, Pennzoil, and Toyo is incredible, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. It’s a really cool opportunity to go out and have some fun and do something I’ve never really done before. My roots are in off-road racing, starting in Mickey Thompson Super Lites as a kid and playing in the desert in side-by-sides, sand cars, and that sort of thing. Watching my dad race off-road growing up and being able to follow in his footsteps is really special, and I hope to make him proud. I’ve always loved being a part of the off-road world and look forward to running the #25 Pro 2 at Crandon. I can’t wait to get there and get started.”

Sorensen returns to her original home, having raced in short course before moving on to pavement-based series like Formula DRIFT. In 2016, she won the Lucas Oil Regional GMZ Unlimited UTV championship.

For 2023, she is competing in the Extreme E Championship for Chip Ganassi Racing alongside RJ Anderson, a Pro 4 part-timer who won at ERX in July. The duo sits fourth in the championship with a pair of podiums.

Sorensen has also taken part in Nitrocross SxS events, finishing third at Utah Motorsports Campus in mid-August. Formerly known as Nitro Rallycross, Nitrocross and its support classes are a mix between rallycross and short course that has occasionally attracted Championship Off-Road faces like Pro 4 drivers Andrew Carlson and Jimmy Henderson, as well as reigning Pro SPEC champion Gray Leadbetter of R/BM; Nitrocross boss Travis Pastrana and series regular Tanner Foust have also raced at Crandon.

“I’m a little bit nervous going into the weekend because it’s my first race back with all the people I used to race against when I was younger, so that’s super exciting,” said Sorensen. “I’m using this to prepare for my Extreme E event the following weekend in Italy with the Chip Ganassi Racing crew. I got one test session in the Pro 2 about a week ago. I put about twenty laps on the truck, so I’m somewhat comfortable but not 100% ready. Crandon has always been on my bucket list, and it’s always something I’ve wanted to do.

“I’m looking forward to going out this weekend and getting seat time. I’m super thankful to be part of Ryan Beat Motorsports for the weekend and for Ryan to take me under his awning and have me be part of the team; also, a huge thank you to Chevrolet for supporting this programme for me. Turn one will be rowdy, and everyone has hyped this event up for me, so I’m super stoked. Going into turn one ten cars wide at 100 mph is pretty scary, but I’m looking forward to it. I will use this as a learning weekend and hope I’ll be doing more of these races.”

Racing takes place on Saturday and Sunday. The latter day will also see the Red Bull Cup between Pro 2 and Pro 4 trucks.