Travis Pastrana has shed some light on the nature of some race control calls during the first full season of Nitro Rallycross, saying that the thinking behind them was a result of discussions with teams after the first round of the season.
After the Utah opener, an event blighted by dust issues, a number of hard on-track moves went punished later in the year, notably instances including Fraser McConnell at ERX Motor Park, Liam Doran at Glen Helen Raceway, and Chase Elliott at The FIRM.
Speaking to DirtFish during the off-season, Pastrana said that track design alterations could be a key step to alleviate the number of stewards interventions post-race.
“For me, it’s not as much the stewards, it’s the tracks,” he said. “You’ll see the calls over and over again, that’s what they say with World RX; you’re like, ‘oh, the calls are horrible’, but there it’s traditional racing.
“There’s no way to pass [cleanly] with the vehicles that we have in the tracks that we’ve had in the past.
“You know, when you look at Timmy and I going back and forth [at The FIRM], we passed five times in one lap and we were pushing on each other, but there was zero car damage.
“That’s the type of race that allows you to really do what you wanna do and to not be penalized – the wider first turns that are faster first turns that don’t have the bottlenecks.
“There’s a lot of stuff that we can do in the tracks, even the jokers where they come back onto the track you know, where Fraser went off,” he added. “Maybe [it was] his fault, maybe not his fault. And he missed the track, which is definitely a penalty, but that shouldn’t be something that happens. And that’s on me.
“So more than the rules, I think – which is a huge thing that Nitro has been talking about – I need to look at where these penalties happened and why they happened. And make sure that if drivers like me and Kevin come in the first turn rubbing and pushing on each other, and, and one of us gets in the air and we can’t slow down, that a guy like Scott or Timmy doesn’t pay the price because the first turn is a 90, right in a really narrow pavement corner.
“Let’s open these first turns up where we don’t have that bottleneck.”
While drivers – and fans – have felt hard done by with the results from some entertaining battles during the season being reversed post-race, Pastrana revealed some teams were actually keen for such decisions to be made.
“The problem was after round one, the teams came to us and said, look, there’s too much car damage, we can’t have any bumping, [if] anyone touches, disqualify them,” he said. “So that’s what the stewards are going off of the teams.
“When you have the teams then arguing that they were taken out, that’s not my business,” the series pioneer stressed, “but when I see the second round, some of the calls that are being made, they’re saying, ‘hey, look, the teams want this’.”
Pastrana made heavy contact with team-mate Scott Speed after he was hit by Kevin Hansen in the final race of the season, an incident that went unpunished and allowed him to claim the season championship.
At the time he felt uneasy given that it felt inconsistent with the rest of the season – even if series organizers were keen to avoid interfering with the championship battle in race control.
“The end call, the non-call, like that was our goal coming in was that the calls should not affect the end of the championship, but it didn’t feel congruent with a lot of the calls that have been made, especially at that track with bumping and rubbing.
“They kind of set precedents earlier in the year with a call on Fraser McConnell that… I went off on the guys. I was like, ‘dude, no car damage happened. We have to allow racing and we have to give some driver accountability’.
“If you go wide into a corner, you’re opening it up. Same thing with Tanner Foust. And granted that’s a spot that the spotter’s not able to see, but that’s part of racing too, is taking advantage of those opportunities.
“Chase Elliott got inside of Tanner and yeah, he hit him aggressively, but you couldn’t pass anyone on the outside. So really that’s Tanner’s job as a driver to be inside, [is] to not allow someone to have an opportunity to bump you there.”