Travis Pastrana claimed his first top qualifier spot of the Nitro Rallycross season, beating Steve Arpin in the last of several nail-biting battles at Wild Horse Pass in Arizona.
The Subaru driver was bettered by Arpin at the start, as Arpin maintained the lead until the third turn, which threaded through the first gap jump, where Pastrana managed to sneak up the inside.
From there, Pastrana opted for the joker – a shorter route on this track and generally the route of choice for the lap one leader throughout the day – while Arpin went for the standard lap.
When the pair reconvened at the start of lap three, with Arpin having now jokered, Pastrana was still in the lead, but ran wide into Turn 2. Arpin was unable to take advantage though, and followed Pastrana home as both had a smooth run to the checkered flag.
Ahead of the battle bracket final, Arpin defeated an impressive Kevin Eriksson in the first semifinal, as well as Fraser McConnell and series newcomer Ronalds Baldiņš before that, while Pastrana bettered points leader Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen after a first round bye as a result of Oliver Bennett’s non-start.
Before racing Arpin, McConnell defeated Olsbergs MSE team-mate and fellow Ford driver Oliver Eriksson in their round one head-to-head. In an incredible fight, the pair exchanged the lead at each of the first three corners before McConnell settled into first.
Olsbergs Honda driver Kevin Eriksson’s run to the semifinals began with a bye in the first round thanks to the odd number of entrants. In round two Eriksson defeated Minneapolis winner Scott Speed in a tense fight.
The pair, who’ve had something of a rivalry brewing all season after a collision in Utah, were evenly matched throughout the race, but ultimately Eriksson’s stronger start aided his cause. Speed’s defeat, which came after he rolled in practice on Friday, meant that he missed the battles final for the first time this season.
Timmy Hansen’s Saturday was more dramatic. He made light work of Tanner Foust in the opening round, with the Audi driver pulling off early with engine failure.
His second battle looked to be an early retirement for Hansen, who pulled off with a driveshaft failure.
Moments later however, Robin Larsson, who had been leading until Hansen’s failure, suffered suspension failure going into Turn 2.
Larsson’s misfortune led to Hansen quickly rejoining the race, while that subsequently led to Larsson also continuing. The two crippled cars struggled to the end of the race with Hansen winning.
Two-time NASCAR Cup series champion Kyle Busch made an early exit on his rallycross debut, being defeated by Speed in the opening battle. Busch fared well overall though, shadowing Speed for much of the three-lap contest.
In the first NRX Next final of the weekend Sage Karam became the first driver in the category to win twice, heading home George Megennis and rallycross returnee Conner Martell.
Karam vaulted from third on the grid to first initially, but the final was stopped by a red flag after a roll for Casper Jansson.
The Enlunds Motorsport driver lost control over the humps on the start/finish straight on lap four of six.
The light tumble forced a lengthy delay, but once the race restarted Megennis was more resolute in his defending of the lead from Karam going into turn one. He then took the joker for clear air while the rest of the field battled through the dust and the low sun.
That didn’t hamper Karam at the front of that pack though. He jokered on the second lap of the now three-lap dash to emerge into the lead on the final lap.
Megennis made contact as he tried to take the lead, but Karam held his ground. Martell meanwhile was also hounding Megennis but couldn’t get by him, resulting in the three podium finishers being separated by just a second.
Lane Vacala took fourth ahead of Martin Enlund, while Eric Gordon was classified sixth after retiring early on.
Final qualifying order (Supercars)
1 Travis Pastrana (Subaru)
2 Steve Arpin (Hyundai)
3 Kevin Eriksson (Honda)
4 Timmy Hansen (Peugeot)
5 Robin Larsson (Audi)
6 Kevin Hansen (Peugeot)
7 Scott Speed (Subaru)
8 Fraser McConnell (Ford)
9 Oliver Eriksson (Ford)
10 Tanner Foust (Audi)
11 Kyle Busch (Subaru)
12 Cabot Bigham (Audi)
13 Ronalds Baldiņš (Honda)
14 Oliver Bennett (Mini)
15 Liam Doran (Audi)