There’s been a few changes in the Nitro Rallycross points’ picture since the last round in Minnesota, but the thriller in Phoenix, or duel in the desert – however you want to describe Nitro Rallycross’ brilliant third chapter – has brought about some changes to DirtFish’s own power rankings table too.
Here are our top 10 drivers for the season so far, with some key new entries to this ever-evolving list.
10. Kevin Eriksson
It might be hard to see why someone with as much bad luck as Kevin Eriksson can make it onto this list, but Phoenix was definitely the lesser of three evils for the Honda driver and represented a step forward.
Qualifying order was decided by practice times in Phoenix, with the elder Eriksson fastest of the bunch. That – thanks to the odd number of entries – gave him a bye through the first round of the brackets and set up an eagerly anticipated duel with nemesis Scott Speed. Eriksson won that, perhaps surprisingly, before falling at the next hurdle to Steve Arpin.
The pace was there, and Sunday looked to be his time to shine until a collision with brother and team-mate Oliver Eriksson resulted in a broken differential and an early exit once again.
Kevin Eriksson definitely got more out of Phoenix than any other round, but he’ll be desperately hoping for a real break in California this week.
9. Cabot Bigham
After a mammoth repair job following his second car-destroying shunt in as many races, nobody would blame ‘The Big Ham’ for arriving at Wild Horse Pass with a bit of apprehension. But he set all of that aside to turn in a stellar performance, perfectly executing joker strategy on multiple occasions to vault up the order.
Qualifying for the final with a strong LCQ win, he then enjoyed a race-long battle with two-time NASCAR Cup series champion Kyle Busch as both locked in top-five finishes.
Bigham needed a lift after two torrid weekends, and boy did he get one.
8. Robin Larsson
It looked as if the RX Cartel had finally found its form… then it didn’t. But don’t let the sombre end to the popular team’s weekend take away from Robin Larsson’s performance.
Leading championship leader Timmy Hansen in the battle brackets until suspension failure, his only race appearance on Saturday will go down as one of the most bizarre in motorsport history.
Sunday was somewhat more straightforward, but only just. He might’ve won his semifinal after a thriller of a fight with Steve Arpin, but a squeeze on the Hyundai driver was judged to be too rough and he was slapped with a five-second penalty.
That left him at the mercy of Kevin Hansen in the LCQs and a certain final spot had been traded for an early exit in no time.
Still, Larsson and the Cartel have now proven they can hang with the best when the car stays together. Now if only team-mate Liam Doran can find some luck too…
7. Fraser McConnell
Fraser McConnell’s event began with one of the duels of the season against team-mate Oliver Eriksson in the battle brackets, and he enjoyed a similarly dramatic dice with Steve Arpin too – albeit one he didn’t come out on top of.
Fast-forward to Sunday and he narrowly missed out of a top two finish in his semifinal thanks to a perfect joker strategy from Tanner Foust. That left him in the last chance qualifiers where he ended up crashing while attempting to pass for the lead at the narrowest part of the track.
Ultimately it was another case of it being a mightily impressive start, with a sprinkling of rotten luck later than undid his weekend.
6. Tanner Foust
Beginning the weekend with transmission, engine and clutch failures would set most on a course for disappointment, but not Tanner Foust.
With new oily bits bolted into his Audi ahead of Sunday, the four-time US rallycross champion was able to show what he could do.
A textbook joker lap in his semifinal brought him right into victory contention behind former team-mate Scott Speed, with both advancing to the final where he was in the podium picture before fading late on thanks to a puncture and suspension failure.
As with Larsson, when the Audi works, it works well and Foust was able to show that at times in Phoenix.
5. Kevin Hansen
A quiet weekend for the 2019 Nitro Rallycross winner, but that wasn’t entirely his fault.
After a round two exit in the battle bracket at the hands of Pastrana, he began Sunday with work to do.
A strong win in the second LCQ showed what he could really do when the ball was in his court, and he was on course for a podium finish in the final until an oil leak forced him to park the car.
4. Steve Arpin
Rapid but unlucky – that’s probably the best way to describe Steve Arpin’s weekend. One of the strongest starters on the all-dirt grid, Arpin dispatched fastest qualifier Kevin Eriksson in the brackets before only just being beaten by eventual event winner Pastrana.
Second in his Sunday heat race put him in prime position for his semi which he won, albeit after a post-race adjudication that dropped on-the-road winner Robin Larsson down the order. In the main event Arpin resumed his duel with Pastrana, being his closest challenger early on before retiring with a picture after a brush with a wall.
On the evidence of this weekend alone, it’s hard not to bet against Arpin winning before the year is out.
3. Scott Speed
Scott Speed never quite managed to click with the Phoenix track this weekend, nevertheless, he showed why he’s a four-time champion by salvaging what would in any other case be a very good weekend.
After an uncharacteristically early exit in the battle bracket he finished his first heat second. That used to mean an instant free pass into the final but a rule change meant that he would have to go via the semis instead – which he won.
In the final it was all about keeping his nose clean, and it paid off as he recorded back-to-back podiums. Unassuming by the serial race winner’s standards, but solid nonetheless.
2. Timmy Hansen
It would’ve been pretty awkward if Timmy Hansen hadn’t shown up in Phoenix – he’d likely still be on this list somewhere despite not featuring all weekend.
Thankfully the championship leader is now locked in for the season. After surviving his way to the final of the battle bracket, enduring a hilarious Talladega Nights-esque crawl to the finish against Robin Larsson, the elder Hansen would eventually be narrowly beaten by Pastrana.
It was a similar story on Sunday with Hansen winning his opening heat, like Pastrana, but the Subaru driver coming out on top in the final.
All-in-all, a strong weekend despite missing out on the event win. He’s now in full control of the championship picture too, but his lead remains slight at just five points.
1. Travis Pastrana
At long last, Travis Pastrana is a rallycross winner again. It’s hard to believe he’s only won in the discipline once before, and that was almost a decade ago, because after his showing in Phoenix you’d have thought he was a multiple champion.
The class of the field from start to finish, after winning battle qualifying Pastrana once again won his opening heat, making it three out of three in that regard (he’s the only driver to do so, too).
From there he produced a mature drive in the final, fending off charges from Arpin and Timmy Hansen to secure a popular win.
Cynics would argue that of course Pastrana is showing well, it’s his series – but no. He’s really upped his game this year and he’s deservedly reaping the rewards.