Bark River, MI (August 12-13, 2023) — Bark River International Raceway is known for its big fly-aways, fast straightaways, crafty turns, and fierce racing. The competitive nature of the track and a bunch of hungry racers, add up to an entertaining weekend of racing. The Greaves Duo have had some very exciting races in the past and collected a lot of wins at the 1.5 mile track. With the points battles and revelries at a fever pitch, the track was sure to live up to the name: Island Resort & Casino Off-Road Rumble in the U.P. At the end of the weekend, CJ landed on the podium four times: swept the weekend Pro Stock SXS in his Monster Energy/Toyo Tire Polaris RZR, took a very close 2nd place in Saturday’s Pro Turbo SXS, and took the Saturday Pro-4 class race by way of an amazing tire change by the G-Team crew. Johnny seemed to be back to his old self, driving the fenders off of his familiar number 22 Monster Energy Toyota.
Pro Stock SXS
Saturday: Heavy rains prevented qualifying and practice on Friday but the bad weather gave way to blue skies, 70 degree temperatures, and great racing conditions on Saturday. Points leader, CJ Greaves, got the pole position with Tyson Marquardt beside him for the rolling 2×2 start to kick-off the Pro Stock SXS class race. 20 cars headed down the hill from the starting line towards turn one. Marquardt didn’t make it through turn one as he and Jeb Bootle got together. CJ, Bootle, and Owen Van Eperen made up the top three. They pulled away from the rest of the field with CJ only feeling a little pressure midway through the first half of the race.
Following the mandatory caution at the halfway point, CJ stretched his lead and cruised to take his 7th win of the season for Monster Energy/Toyo Tire Polaris.
Sunday: CJ lined up on the front row again for Sunday’s Pro Stock SXS action. This time Owen Van Eperen was beside him as they led the 23 car field to the green flag. Although the two were just about side-by-side, CJ had the inside line and took the lead with the turn one holeshot. Bootle quickly got around Van Eperen and began to do battle with Greaves. The two went nose to tail and in a repeat of Saturday’s race, the top 3 pulled away from the field all the way up to the competition caution.
CJ was on rails the second half of the race while 2nd place back were dicing it up. He was leading by more than 6 seconds as he took the checkered flag for win number 8.
Pro Turbo SXS
Saturday: CJ Greaves fell short of the podiums at Dirt City and was ready to move his Pro Turbo program another step in the right direction. His familiarity with the track and having the “practice” run in with his stock SXS, his confidence was high. A smaller but faster field of 18 cars had a wild start. Rodney Van Eperen took the lead with Andrew Carlson on his bumper. CJ Greaves was in 3rd and showing patience as the front 2 mixed it up. Carlson grabbed the lead just before the competition caution.
On the restart, CJ was ready to make his move. While he was setting up Van Eperen, Carlson unexpectedly pulled out of the race at the exit of cemetery turn. The battle was on for CJ and Rodney. The two went side-by-side. CJ almost made the pass stick. They were so close at the finish line that their wheels touched as they went wheel-to-wheel across the finish line. CJ took a hard fought 2nd.
Sunday: CJ was on row 2 to start the Pro Turbo SXS class race on Sunday. With CJ in 4th, the top-5 pulled away and all the cars kept to a seemingly safe distance for a calm first half of the race. No passes were made on the restart of the 2nd half of the race but the pressure began to mount with every lap.
With one lap to go, Carlson did a 360 that gave the 2nd place running Van Eperen the opportunity to take the lead. CJ also passed Carlson to move up to the final podium spot when all of a sudden, he lost power. His machine came to a rolling stop just 30 feet from the finish line. The bad luck made him finish 10th. In spite of the late race problem, he is still in 2nd place in the points standings and has a 52 point lead over the next contender.
Saturday: Although you can name the Pro-4 drivers on two hands, the field is made up of a bunch of hungry drivers searching for wins. Survival is the name of the game, with or without fenders. The newest rivalry in dirt sports lined up on the front row due to the position based on points standings. CJ Greaves and Jimmy Henderson were door-to-door for the start of Saturday’s Pro-4 race. Johnny was anxious to get back to his racing style and Bark River track was just the place to do it.
When the green flag flew, CJ Greaves’ Monster Energy/Toyota/Toyo Tire machine beat the field to turn one. Turn one gives way to a “S” shaped turn. Greaves had the inside line and Henderson went wide into the outside berm. Johnny landed in 4th. After a few laps, disaster struck as CJ landed bad off a jump and shredded his tire. He quickly ducked into the hot pit and the G-Team crew made an amazing tire change that got him back on the track on the lead lap.
Meanwhile the elder Greaves was feeling like mixing it up and got into second behind Adrian Cenni, losing body parts in the process. Johnny and Cenni were nose to tail when Henderson began to lean on Greaves. Johnny held on to 2nd at the competition caution. CJ was able to catch up to the field to start the 2nd half of the race. On the restart, Carlson forced his way into the group of trucks entering the turn 2 sweeper causing a multi-car crash. Most were able to continue but then Carlson spun-out and collected Johnny in the process. Cole Mamer was now in 2nd with CJ Greaves now pressuring him for the spot. As the final few minutes remained in the race, Cenni developed a flat, sending him to the hot pits. With less than 2 minutes to go, Mamer had a problem and had to pull out of the race. This gave CJ smooth sailing to the finish line to complete a great come-from-behind win.
“The crew killed it on the tire change,” said CJ following the race. “Getting me back on the track on the lead lap was huge and gave me the chance to be there at the end.”
There was not much left of Johnny’s truck at the end which finished 5th. He did look like his old self, racing hard and ripping up the track.
Sunday: The final race of the weekend was going to be a showdown at the O.K. Corral. The Pro-4 stage was set as previous races were filled with bumping and grinding. CJ rolled off from the pole position and took the holeshot to release the 8 beast to do battle. Johnny blew a tire on the downhill run towards cemetery turn that sent him into the wall. He was able to make to the hot pit for a tire change which put him a lap down.
All remaining truck tried to make their move on the restart. This resulted in 3 and 4-wide racing through the first few turns. Henderson was being wild and tried to make the pass on the off-camber turn in front of the capacity crowd. While CJ Greaves was in the lead, Henderson machine tagged CJ sending him head-on int the K-rail fencing. CJ was able to get going again with a smashed nose. With 2 laps to go, officials sent Henderson to the hot pits to enforce a penalty for his rough driving. CJ was now in 5th but Cole Mamer also has some issues and pulls out of the race allowing CJ to finish 4th, just off the podium. Johnny also returned to the track after his tire change and was able to muster a 7th place finish.
The weekend came to a close in dramatic fashion and most of the Pro-4 trucks headed home minus most of their fiberglass.
The next race is the famed Labor Day weekend Polaris World Championship Races at Crandon International Raceway.