By Laurette Nicoll and Andrew Coley
Multiple drivers remarked that the Wild Horse Pass track built outside of Phoenix, AZ for round three was going to be the best course of the year. They loved the technical nature of the track and were all upbeat about the number of jumps added to the mix. There were a ton of jaw-dropping and electrifying moments this weekend so let’s discuss a few that stood out.
The qualifying structure changed for this event shrinking to an eight-car main to make the final more focused and to relieve some of the risk from the first corner. That meant that the Battle Bracket and qualifying were more important than ever before. Pole position was a huge advantage because with the short run-up into the blue-grooved and dusty Turn 1, drivers wanted to stick to the inside and not get pushed to the slick outside line.
After two spectacular racing incidents (UMC and ERX) that ended Cabot’s hopes of competing in the finals, Cabot finally got the break he was looking for in Phoenix and advanced to the main where he finished fifth.
In order to compete in Phoenix, he first had to get his car there, which was a huge undertaking. The damage from the ERX somersault took 680 man-hours, two guys from Sweden that stayed for 28 days (with only one day off) and worked for eight hours a day to get his Dryer & Reinbold Supercar back to racing condition. Cabot also very graciously handled all media inquiries regarding his tough two previous rounds like a champ and thoughtfully answered every question thrown at him. His racing intelligence will continue to propel him forward and we’re looking forward to watching his upward momentum.
Timmy Hansen and Robin Larson (battle bracket)
Robin blasted out to the lead showing incredible race craft and looked to be heading towards a win and a championship point when Timmy suffered a technical problem, spun and then turned off the course to head back to the pits for repairs. Fans looked to Robin still racing on the track when it appeared he over-jumped and took an uneven bounce upon landing on the banked turn resulting in broken suspension. At this same time, Timmy was pulling off the course towards the pits when his spotter radioed and said to get back on track immediately. In a comical but determined battle, the two cars very sluggishly dragged themselves around the AZ track and seeing as neither driver could take the gap jump, time penalties were assessed against both men. In the end, Timmy was awarded the win after completing three laps with the joker.
Timmy then went up against Travis Pastrana in round 3 of the battle brackets with a fixed car and gave it his best making Travis work for the win. Timmy was also originally only committed to the first two Nitro RX events due to budget and time restraints as he’s racing other international championship series. He has a heavy travel schedule, but thanks to some number crunching, and a sponsor stepping up to help cover costs, the last-minute decision was made to contest the remaining rounds and he and a mechanic flew to Arizona.
On Sunday, Timmy won and advanced out of his heat race putting him on the front line with Travis in pole. In the main, Timmy stalked Travis the entire six laps and finished second overall which secured the lead in the Supercar championship standings. We’re thrilled to have the talented current points leader making a run for the 2021 Nitro Rallycross Championship.
Travis has made huge gains in the last three rounds, and you can see his race craft and thought processes are sharpening. Nitro RX announcer Andrew Coley said, “The most successful rallycross drivers, like Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekstrom have the ability to race at 100% in terms of speeds and somehow there’s still space to be thinking about the tactical side of it. Travis knew he had to win the start and keep the door shut in turn one and he had that Subaru absolutely nailed to the inside curb. Timmy couldn’t get around the outside of him and that was the key to the win.”
Travis is the only driver to win his heat races in UT, ERX and PHX. And, even though Travis is designing the tracks, he refuses to take any kind of edge over the paddock as he is not driving one extra lap, not even during testing.
What may be an advantage for Travis, compared to the other competitors is that Travis is already used to jumps so flying the car doesn’t take up a lot of his headspace where many of the other guys are trying to learn the jumps and the corners. If you look at it that way, the drivers are learning ten corners, and six jumps for a total of sixteen components. Since the jumps are second nature for Travis, he just needs to link ten corners together. What Travis is teaching the rest of the field is that the racing line includes the jumps and they are not separate from the prescribed line.
Kyle stayed an extra week in Phoenix after his final NASCAR Cup race of his season and stepped into the ZipRecruiter #GoNitro car on Friday for the first time ever. His goal was always to get into the final and with a five-second penalty assessed to Robin Larsson in the semi-finals, Kyle’s third place finish suddenly turned into second and a place in the main. He finished fourth overall and even though we probably won’t see him again this year, we hope he’s game for next season.
Fraser had great speed in practice and in the battle brackets, took on teammate Oliver Eriksson, winning a hard-fought contest against the Swede. Facing Steve Arpin next, it seemed Fraser had the speed to outpace the Canadian but Steve had a better joker and defense strategy, keeping the young Jamaican driver at bay.
On Sunday, he made every effort and challenged for a transfer spot but finished third in his semifinal which moved him into the LCQ. Sadly, he crashed attempting a bold pass for the lead and his day was over.
Fraser was looking determined and confident at Wild Horse Pass but it didn’t come together for him. It’s the first time he hasn’t made a Nitro RX main event. No doubt this will further fuel his hungry aspirations as everyone watching him says the same thing – his first podium is on the horizon.
On Saturday, the gregarious Canadian driver got all the way to the final battle bracket fight with Travis Pastrana and finished in second place. A clean but aggressive driver, Steve is showing that he is a tough one to pass and protects his racing line. When the last checkered flag of Saturday night waved, Steve immediately left the track and headed to Vegas to meet with potential sponsors for next year. Steve got back early Sunday morning and unfortunately, may have stretched himself too thin and came down with a bad cold and lost his voice. This is also on top of being a new dad and getting less sleep than usual. Fighting through being tired and unwell, Steve still was confident and drove like it advancing into the main on Sunday. Unfortunately, he didn’t fair that well with a DNF and an eighth-place finish. However, those of us that know Steve are confident he’ll rebound heading into Glen Helen this weekend.
Final Results for round three at Wild Horse Pass in Arizona:
Kevin Hansen - DNF
Steve Arpin - DNF
These are a few of the highlights during round three among many other notable moments.
Heading into round number four, we expect more great racing at the famed Glen Helen Raceway November 20th and 21st in sunny, Southern California and hope to see you there!