We’ve reached the point in the year where everybody is winding down, recharging after a long season, and getting ready for the next one. But actually, it’s not everybody at all.
Thanks to Nitro Rallycross’ calendar-straddling schedule, George Megennis will be pulling his Christmas crackers while thinking about the championship fight he’s currently in.
NRX Next, Nitro Rallycross’ premier development class, has had a unique year – starting off with a full European season (that concluded in Minnesota in the United States after the cancellation of a planned event in Finland), before beginning a North American campaign in the fall that’ll conclude in the new year.
While unusual, for Megennis it’s been something of a blessing. After a hard-fought European season that ended with him finishing third in the points with three podium finishes, he got to press the reset button mid-year, and now finds himself comfortably atop the North American standings.
“Having this midseason switch has been fantastic. To be able to reset and shift focus back to the American Nitro style, it’s really benefited me,” Megennis told DirtFish.
“It’s a really good opportunity because at the beginning of the season, I was still running off of last year’s racing style a little bit,” he added, alluding to the more traditional tracks the series raced on in Europe. “At the American tracks, you have to be a little more aggressive, a little bit more sideways everywhere. The jumps are way bigger, too.
“I accidentally took that mentality to the European tracks. Even though they’re Nitro tracks, they still have very European elements.
“Lydden [Hill, rounds one and two] had so much Tarmac compared to every other Nitro race. It’s really amazing how refined you have to be and how difficult that was for me. It took me until Strängnäs [in Sweden, rounds three and four] to calm it all down and get some more conservative results. I managed to finish in third in Europe because of it.”
Not only did the change in style benefit his European challenge by the end, but he was able to carry over some of those lessons when he returned Stateside.
“I was able to really benefit from that going into the American rounds, because it meant I was being more gentle with the car and getting much better results,” Megennis said. “It’s put me in a really great position, going to the last round of the American championship leading by 24 points.”
It’s no secret that the US’ more dramatic tracks, with their multiple and sizable jumps and banked corners, fit Megennis’ driving style more. In fact, it’s something that’s been apparent since before he transitioned to cars full-time last year.
“Ever since I was in go-karting, I’ve always had a much more aggressive, much more sideways style,” he recalled. “It drove my coaches crazy because I would always be trying crazy passes and not really going that fast because I was sideways.
“But it really meshed well when I came to Nitro because that’s what it’s all about.”
Megennis’ record in Nitro Rallycross is mightily impressive, with 13 medals from a total of 16 races across 2021 and 2022, including a category record of nine second places. But recently he’s returned to the winners’ circle – in doing so snapping a four-race winning streak for European champion Tommi Hallman.
His first win of the year came in the first round of the North American season, providing the perfect bounce back from that summer reset.
“It really was a huge confidence boost for the whole team,” Megennis said. “It was really great for everyone.
“The win at Glen Helen felt really good because it had been so long – since Utah of last year – that I’d got a proper win. The whole team needed it. We all worked so hard. After so many seconds, to be able to put it on the top spot was an absolutely amazing feeling for all of the team.
“And then to win again in Phoenix – just to be able to prove definitively that the win at Glen Helen was not a one-off and I’m absolutely fast enough to be there every race and that it wasn’t just a fluke.”
Even though there’s now a long layoff until NRX Next’s next race in Calgary at the beginning of February, Megennis is sure that his recent wins will provide the momentum needed to bring the championship home.
That is, of course, the goal for the remainder of the campaign, but it’s not as straightforward as it might seem for the New York native.
Although still backed by long-term backer Snowplow Analytics, Megennis still needs to secure the remainder of the budget needed to see out the season and take home the NRX Next North American title. Should he get that, he’s confident a switch to snow and ice will yield yet more results.
“I love racing on ice,” he enthused. “I’ve only raced on ice in a crosscar before, but I think it’d be a great experience.
“I’m sure with the help of [team boss and RX Lites veteran] Eric Färén I’ll be able to get up to speed very quickly. He’s got a lot of experience racing on ice, and I’m sure Kevin [Hansen, team owner and World Rallycross race winner] will be a huge help as well.
“I’m absolutely prepared if we’re able to make it happen.”