Travis Pastrana won his first rallycross event since 2012 with a dominant display in Nitro Rallycross’ third round at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Arizona.
For the third time this season Subaru man Pastrana began the second day of the event by winning his opening heat, making him the only driver in the series to win all of his opening heats on race day.
That gave him a front row start for the final and he duly took advantage, resolutely holding the inside line going into the first corner on the opening lap to fend off a fast-starting Timmy Hansen.
From there he controlled the race. But for a brief challenge from Steve Arpin through Turns 2 and 3 on that first lap, Pastrana held station out in front and won by two seconds at the end of the six-lap contest.
Timmy Hansen, who confirmed this week that he would be seeing out the rest of the season, took second, despite taking time out of Pastrana late in the race. Such was Pastrana’s advantage, Hansen couldn’t overhaul him.
Scott Speed, who’d struggled to gel with the all-dirt Arizona track for much of the weekend before winning the first semifinal, claimed the final podium position in third, ahead of NASCAR star Kyle Busch who had a trouble-free run and capitalized on others’ misfortune to snatch fourth.
Cabot Bigham, racing in the final after his car was virtually destroyed in crashes at each of the first two events, claimed a fine fifth after a race-long dice with Busch.
Both were elevated into the top-five late on as podium contenders Tanner Foust, Kevin Hansen, and Arpin – who was arguably Pastrana’s closest challenger early on in the race – all tumbled down the order in the final couple of laps.
Arpin’s retirement was the result of a puncture after a brush with a wall, while Hansen parked due to an oil leak. Foust came home in sixth, despite a puncture and suspension failure late on.
1 Travis Pastrana (Subaru) 5m16.750s
2 Timmy Hansen (Peugeot) +2.062s
3 Scott Speed (Subaru) +5.582s
4 Kyle Busch (Subaru) +14.160s
5 Cabot Bigham (Audi) +16.187s
6 Tanner Foust (Audi) +16.597s
Kevin Hansen (Peugeot) DNF
Steve Arpin (Hyundai) DNF
Pastrana’s victory moves him up from fourth to second in the standings, five points behind Timmy Hansen who is now undisputed championship leader. Speed, who was equal on points with Hansen going into this weekend, slips down to third, but only six points off the top spot.
Arpin and Fraser McConnell have swapped places and now occupy fifth and sixth respectively, while Foust remains in seventh.
Busch’s sole appearance in the series was good enough for 35 points, putting him eighth in the standings, ahead of series regular Bigham and Andreas Bakkeurd who contested the first two rounds of the season.
Earlier in the day Robin Larsson looked set for a final berth after he won the second semi, but a post-race penalty for squeezing Arpin into Turn 1 resulted in a five second penalty that dropped him out of the transfer spots.
That guaranteed Busch a final appearance on his maiden rallycross start while Larsson had to seek redemption in the last chance qualifiers, which he was unable to achieve.
Kevin Eriksson, who was the fastest driver in timed practice on Friday, once again had a torrid weekend despite rapid pace, his event ending at the semifinal stage with a broken differential.
Liam Doran however was the unluckiest driver of the event. Like Kevin Eriksson he was looking for a return to form in Arizona but rolled out of the opening heat race after contact with a dirt mound and couldn’t get his car repaired.
In NRX Next Sage Karam doubled up by winning once again, his second of the weekend and his third in a row this season.
The IndyCar racer dominated the final, leading from pole position and taking advantage of the battles throughout the rest of the field to cross the finish line with a 6.8 second advantage.
George Megennis finished second, fighting back from two incidents with Lane Vacala – the first that shuffled him to the back of the pack on the opening lap, the second that resulted in Vacala ending up in the wall in the joker lap – to finish runner-up.
He grabbed second on the final lap with a late pass on Casper Jansson, both moving up a spot on lap four after Conner Martell spun.
Martell, making his NRX Next debut this weekend, was Karam’s closest challenger for the victory but lost control entering Turn 1. He eventually retired with mechanical failure, being classified fifth behind final finisher Vacala.