While the battle for each respective class championship in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series has grabbed the spotlight through the first four rounds of the 2019 season, there’s also another exciting competition unfolding within each division as first-year drivers across eight classes are giving it their all in search of being named Rookie of the Year.
There’s always a lot of discussion around the impressive depth of talent in the Pro Lite field, and that sentiment also holds true when it comes to the class’ rookie contingent. At this point in the championship, Trevor Leighton and Katie Vernola have proven to be the front-runners in the battle for Rookie of the Year honors, and both have enjoyed bright spots in the fierce competitiveness that comes with one of the best proving grounds in all of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Through four rounds, Leighton has made himself a consistent presence inside the top 10. The Idaho native has been able to post a top-10 finish in all but one race this season, and it’s landed him in a fierce three-driver battle for seventh in the Pro Lite standings. While Leighton sits ninth, with a season-best finish of seventh coming in Arizona, he’s just four points out of seventh.
Vernola is gaining valuable experience during her first year of Pro Lite action. The California native has been on the cusp of the top 10 throughout the first four races of the season, earning a best result of 12th and a standing of 12th in Pro Lite points. As she continues to get more laps and more races under her belt, Vernola will certainly have the opportunity to break into the top 10 and make a run at Rookie of the Year.
Currently, Leighton and Vernola are separated by 32 points, but with five rounds remaining in 2019 this fight is far from over.
While several rookies entered the Pro Buggy division this season, adding to an already loaded field, one driver in particular has seized control of the battle for Rookie of the Year honors. From the get go in 2019, Zachary Drapkin has shown his mettle against the top drivers in the class, distancing himself from his fellow freshmen drivers. While the Southern California native did not make the trip south of the border for the most recent rounds of action, his pair of solid finishes at the first two races showed he has the talent to be a fixture in Pro Buggy.
Drapkin kicked off the year with a fifth-place finish at Glen Helen, which he followed up with an eighth-place effort in Arizona. With those two results, Drapkin occupies eighth in the Pro Buggy championship standings. While there’s plenty to be proud of with those strong finishes, Drapkin is still in search of more over the championship’s stretch run.
With five rounds remaining this season, it will be interesting to see if Drapkin is able to build off his early success and potentially break through with a podium result en route to what looks to be his Rookie of the Year award to lose.