Nitro Rallycross returned home after its European vacation with the first of four rounds in the US this season.
On track, Travis Pastrana returned to a familiar position at the head of the field, while in the points standings, misfortune for Andreas Bakkerud allowed Robin Larsson to extend his lead at the top of the table.
But what does all that mean for the DirtFish power rankings?
10. Niclas Grönholm
The Grönholm family may own an FC1-X of their own, but Niclas’ appearances in the first two rounds of the season were as a replacement for the injured Kevin Eriksson.
With the Olsbergs driver back, Grönholm was relegated to the sidelines in Minnesota, but don’t expect him to remain there for too long.
9. Oliver Bennett
Bennett’s hard work was duly rewarded in Minnesota with the first final appearance of his Nitro Rallycross career. He made the most of it too, giving Strängnäs winner Andreas Bakkerud a run for his money.
Were it not for damage in his sole battle bracket race or his semifinal heat, he might’ve even had a great springboard for a better final result too.
8. Kris Meeke
Meeke’s had an impressive start to his rallycross career in the first two rounds of Nitro Rallycross, but stepped aside for Jenson Button as the series returned to the US.
He’ll be back behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia later in the year.
7. Kevin Eriksson
At long last, the driver with more miles in the FC1-X than any other finally got his season underway at ERX Motor Park.
Things went mostly to plan on Saturday, defeating Andrew Carlson and Travis Pastrana – the drivers with the most knowledge of the track and the series respectively – en route to the battle bracket final. There he was felled by TQ man Robin Larsson though.
Sunday began well too – fastest in warm-up and a strong run in the first heat before he rolled out. He could have continued, but opted not to, throwing away a potential big point scoring opportunity.
6. Oliver Eriksson
The younger Eriksson brother didn’t quite fare as well, but has the benefit of two rounds in the bank to build upon which helps him in our rankings here.
He may well have made it to the bracket final on Saturday after giving Larsson a good race, but for a puncture to halt his charge. That set him back on Sunday where he made it to the final after a second place finish in his semifinal – that coming in the form of a fightback after a retirement in his heat which he’d led early on.
A DNF in the final too brought a quiet end to a weekend that had been filled with much promise.
5. Conner Martell
Consistently building round-by-round, it’s no surprise that a return to home soil brought out the best we’ve seen from Martell yet.
Glossing over an early spin in qualifying, his charge to slash a six-second deficit to just two in less than three laps showed that this weekend was going to be a good one for the Vermont SportsCar driver.
A first semifinal win of the year locked him into the final, where he was a solid podium contender until a flat tire ended his chase for hardware.
4. Travis Pastrana
Returning to home shores, Pastrana made it clear at the start of the weekend that he meant business. And he duly delivered.
After sharing honors with Robin Larsson in the preliminary rounds, Pastrana began the final in the less-than-desirable outside starting spot on the front row. Nevertheless, he didn’t let that hold him back, sweeping round that outside to grab the race lead before the second turn.
From there, he never looked back, and banged in a string of session best lap times to boot.
The champ is back.
3. Fraser McConnell
McConnell’s Saturday ended early on with him a little soggy after flipping into a pond in practice. His Sunday ended with him a little soggy after spraying champagne on the podium. It was a turnaround perhaps he could never have predicted when his mechanics headed back to their hotel at 7.30am on Sunday morning to grab a quick shower having not slept a wink.
A charge to second in his opening heat, driving a freshly-assembled car, proved that there were no lasting effects from Saturday’s tumble, while a dominant semi win consolidated his comeback. A first trip to the rostrum was the icing on the cake.
2. Andreas Bakkerud
Like McConnell, the fact that Bakkerud was even racing on Sunday was a minor miracle. Driving a pieced-together car that consisted of parts from the FC1-X used by OC Veiby in the first two rounds of the season and the battery from McConnell’s wrecked machine, Bakkerud finished second in both his heat race and semifinal, enjoying a close fight with Martell in the latter.
In the final, he was among a clutch of cars fighting for the final podium finish, but ended up fending off a charging Oliver Bennett to take fourth.
It may have been his first finish outside the top-two this season, but it was the perfect exercise in damage limitation. or damage, and limitation…
1. Robin Larsson
He may not have won the final, but it was another near-perfect weekend for the points leader who added a hefty 19 points to his advantage at the top of the table and returns to the top of our rankings.
An undefeated run through the bracket set him up nicely for Sunday, where he made sure to lock in his final berth early on. There, only Pastrana could better him.