Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Rallycross title success was an epic climax to what has been a landmark year for the Subaru driver, which has included American Rally Association and Mount Washington hillclimb success.
Triumph in rallycross has been a long time coming for Pastrana, with his title win coming at the end of a hard-fought season battling with team-mate Scott Speed, and the powerhouse Hansen family.
But which moments stick out as the key moments in his successful Nitro RX campaign? We check out the highlights.
It might seem sad to start this positive tale under something of a dark cloud, but Scott Speed’s qualifying smarts at ERX Motor Park would go on to set up Subaru and Pastrana’s season nicely.
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By throwing the Battle Bracket final, Speed ensured that he (after finishing second) and third placed Pastrana would not only start Sunday’s heat races on the front row, but they’d be in separate races too. They just needed to win each one to give them a front-row lockout for the main event.
The plan went perfectly, and Speed would head home Pastrana on Sunday. It was a welcome result after Subaru missed the podium entirely in the season opener, and it would prove to be the start of a three-race winning streak for the team – two of those going to Pastrana.
Pastrana’s been a major name in US rallycross since the discipline made its way across the Atlantic at the start of last decade, but believe it or not the 2021 season was his first full slate of events in the discipline (he did five out of six Global Rallycross rounds in 2012).
What’s more, he’d only ever won once, in a Dodge Dart at New Hampshire Motor Speedway back in 2012, and had one other podium to his name before this season.
Roll on to Nitro RX’s third event of 2021 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, AZ. All of those surprisingly unimpressive statistics would be blown away.
He topped qualifying for the first time by disposing of both Hansens and Steve Arpin in the final, overcoming the latter’s better start. Then on the Sunday he absolutely dominated to beat Timmy Hansen by over two seconds in the final.
It was a weekend performance not only worthy of a champion in waiting, but of a serial title winner.
Phoenix was impressive, of that there’s no doubt, but it was no fluke either. As the series moved onto Southern California, Pastrana’s fine form continued.
He couldn’t quite go back-to-back in qualifying, narrowly being beaten by Kevin Hansen after a last lap move failed to pay off.
Come day two, Pastrana took his customary heat win, before heading home a perfectly executed one-two-three finish for Subaru – a performance that would’ve impressed the US Navy’s Blue Angels.
Pastrana wasn’t handed the win, but beat Speed on pure pace and an alternate joker strategy, while Andreas Bakkeurd played the team game, shielding the title-chasing pair.
The victory at Glen Helen Raceway was also a key moment in Pastrana’s career as a whole, with him never winning at the iconic motocross venue during his legendary two-wheeled career.
Expectations FIRMly exceeded
Regular followers of Nitro RX will have heard Pastrana talk about how he would struggle at The Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park, and while he didn’t win the final, he didn’t exactly struggle either.
A top-four result in the Battle Bracket teed him up nicely for a strong Sunday, and he kicked that off with a fifth heat win from five, beating European Rallycross Champions Kevin Hansen and Robin Larsson in the process.
Starting from the second row for the final put him in an ideal position to bring home the title, but lap one contact with team-mate Speed almost derailed his – and Subaru’s – hopes.
But he kept his head, regrouped, and followed both Hansens and Speed home in fourth with a perfectly managed performance. Once upon a time showman Pastrana might’ve pushed to advance from that fourth place spot, risking the adequate result in the process. But not this time. Less really was more this time.