By Laurette Nicoll
Sliding into round four of Nitro Rallycross in San Bernardino, California was a quick turnaround for teams. As the gang headed into historic Glen Helen Raceways’ off-road truck track, everyone knew it was going to be short, jumpy and dusty – which it was, but mygoodness, it really shook up the Nitro RX Championship points heading into the last round in Florida. There was no shortage of drama, so let’s discuss a few high and low moments of the weekend that were of note.
Nitro Rallycross Next Driver surges to the championship points lead
Young gun, Casper Jansson took both wins this weekend in Glen Helen in Nitro RX Next. This catapults him into the Championship points lead with two rounds left, culminating in Florida at The Firm on December 4th and 5th. Casper was second in the standings before the Southern California round and now with results he and the team should be proud of and a fifteen-point lead over second place Sage Karam, Casper said, “that’s really fun.” He hopes that Florida will suit his driving style and he knows he has to win races there too, and he’s prepared to fight for the Next Championship.
Kevin Hansen, had a tough weekend
Not only was Kevin the top qualifier on Saturday, but he surpassed the quick Steve Arpin (Arpin suffered a start light malfunction) and all the Subaru’s in the battle brackets to do it. That included the final win against Travis Pastrana, buoying Kev’s confidence that the team had the speed heading into Sunday morning up until practice. Then, stepping into the heat races, Kevin said that his launch off the start wasn’t the greatest and that was the main problem because he was stuck in the dust. He couldn’t see and he felt that after a hit, his front end was damaged. In the semi-finals, he mentioned that after a right-hand turn, another driver turned left in front of him and he “got stuck in the mud and had no power,” which relegated him into the LCQ’s. A battle of epic proportions ensued between him and Liam Doran and seeing as only the winner would advance, after a racing incident, Liam was docked a five- second penalty which dropped him from first to third. That didn’t help Kevin, as he finished behind Ronalds Baldins, who advanced, and the Latvian driver was unexpectedly delighted to compete in the main for the first time ever.
A genuine, heart-on-his-sleeve type of guy, Ronalds Baldins was wide-eyed after realizing that he was advancing out of the LCQ into the Final for his first time ever. A history note; Ronalds tried everything to compete at round one in Utah, but due to COVID travel restrictions, we saw him drive for the first time in Phoenix (round 3). So, you can imagine that after dreaming and fighting for this moment for so long, his stress level was elevated as he felt the pressure to perform and not let his team down. Brimming with emotion and in his best English he explained that finally he was racing with, “the big boys. I am small. This is amazing for Latvia. The track, the fans…this is amazing. In the future, we need luck and we will go up (in results).” As dedicated and passionate as this Latvian driver is, he is looking for sponsorship and as of today, is unsure if he and his team can afford to compete in Florida for the final Nitro RX round. We hope that something comes together for this spirited driver.
Liam Doran and Robin Larsson, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.” RX Cartel keeps fighting
In semifinal one, we saw Robin Larson launch himself into the mix after a gorgeously aggressive start and battled with Andreas Bakkerud. The two looked like they connected a few times but neither backed down. When the checkered flag flew, Bakkerud edged the win with Larsson right on his heels. Both drivers advanced into the finals, but it was there that Larson retired with two laps to go.
Meanwhile, Liam had his hands full in semifinal two and with incredible speed, it looked like things were turning his way when leading the white flag lap. He was edged out by Steve Arpin and Kevin Eriksson who executed their joker lap strategy to a precision point and they advanced into the main. Liam found himself in the LCQ battling Kevin Hansen and needing a win. After race contact, Liam was docked with a stiff penalty of five-seconds making his win fall to a third place finish which advanced Ronalds Baldins into the final.
As a side note, Liam has been commentating in the booth with Andrew Coley and Jarod DeAnda and has offered excellent insight and has been a joy to listen to. He wants to be racing obviously, but hopefully in those moments in between, he continues chatting with the guys on the broadcast.
Oliver’s big brother felt that he was on pace all weekend and wanted to give his team a great result in Glen Helen. In his heat race, he and Scott Speed got the fans standing on their feet as both drivers threw down showcasing incredible speed and race craft. Scott edged him out by .047ths of a second and Kevin settled into the semifinals. He advanced by placing second behind Steve Arpin. Happily, that moved him into his first Nitro RX final where he said he “just went for it. I pushed… I didn’t have any more to give and went 101%. It was so frustrating because I was so close to the Subaru’s but I was already on my limit. I tried. I’m happy with P4.” With this forward momentum, let’s see what big things happen for him in Florida.
Timmy Hansen, was leading the championship points coming into Glen Helen, now relegated to third after round 4
Undoubtably, this was a challenging weekend for the Swede. Timmy stated, “It’s probably my worst (race) weekend in years. In the end, I took 5th (overall) which was okay. It just didn’t work this weekend.”
He was looking for traction, which he didn’t find at this short course, off-road track. The only tarmac this Glen Helen course had was a newly paved start, and that was it. He is admittedly more comfortable on asphalt (like round one in Utah) but he looks forward to the fifth and final Nitro RX round where potentially, Florida will have about twenty percent asphalt, eighty percent dirt. He’s optimistic it will suit his driving style.
Andreas Bakkerud, throws elbows and protects his Subaru teammates
The popular Norwegian driver contested the first two rounds and after low-scoring results, missed round three in Phoenix, AZ. It obviously stoked a fire under the skilled driver and American fans saw the raw talent that “Snackarud” is known for all. With blistering speed in SoCal, the international star “Snacks” advanced out of his semifinal and started on the second line of the main event behind his Subaru teammates, Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed.
Admittedly, it took him some time in Utah and Minnesota, “to get used to the dirt and jumps,” on the American Nitro Rallycross circuit but “he really loves the tracks and rhythm sections,” of the series. His gratefulness to be back in action with the Subaru team was on full display as you’ve never seen anyone happier to finish third and he credited his “perfect car and team,” saying he wants to come back and compete with the gang in 2022.
No doubt “Snacks” hit a great stride in San Bernardino, and after witnessing a small sample of what Andreas is capable of this weekend, they’d be crazy if they didn’t resign him for a full season next year. He is the European driver that American fans would find themselves endeared to and tune into watch.
Scott was on pace all weekend and waited for the right moments to strike. At the end of the day, he walked always with a solid second place finish. Scott was very complementary of his teammate, Travis Pastrana saying he has helped him out so much all season, “all these (Nitro RX) tracks are definitely not my natural instinct and learning to jump from one of the best is a great opportunity. We’re a great team,” and Scott just wants one of them to win, regardless of which driver it is.
Travis finally takes his first ever win at the famed Glen Helen Raceway and it’s in a car! But, as the checkers flew and he took over the lead in the championship, his mind was immediately in the future thinking about the final round in Florida. Travis humbly said, “Being in the Championship hunt is something that I never expected and have had so much support (to get here). Scott (Speed) has been helping me evolve my driving and my starts but (after the win) I thought that I just lost my mentor because all the help going into Florida is going to stop,” (Scott is now securely fighting for the title too in second place). He laughed and continued, “I have to find someone to teach me to drive pavement real quick!”
His respect for his teammate continued as Travis mentioned, “I don’t drive like Scott drives… I don’t drive like the Hansen’s (Timmy and Kevin) drive. The Subaru’s are bigger cars so you have to flick it a little bit more to make it work. But, Scott’s figured out how to drive really tidy.” Travis revealed that he slowed down to drive like Scott and emulate his style but had an epiphany watching Andreas Bakkerud march in and drive round four. Travis realized, “This is my type of track. This is Glen Helen, it’s motocross! I know how to drive this track… and we went and made it happen.” Yes you did, Trav. His second win in a row propelled him to the front of the hungry pack and Travis now leads the Championship points by seven heading into the fifth and final Nitro Rallycross round.
Temperatures may be cooling down heading into December but not the action on the track! Be a part of history as the first ever Nitro Rallycross Champion will be crowned in Florida at The Firm, December 4th and 5th.
Glen Helen, San Bernardino, CA. Nitro RX results, round 4:
1. Travis Pastrana
2. Scott Speed
3. Andreas Bakkerud
4. Kevin Eriksson
5. Timmy Hansen
6. Steve Arpin
7. Ronalds Baldins
8. Robin Larsson DNF
Supercar Standings Points
1. Travis Pastrana 182
2. Scott Speed 175
3. Timmy Hansen 165
4. Kevin Hansen 110
5. Steve Arpin 102
6. Andreas Bakkerud 71
7. Fraser McConnell 71
8. Tanner Foust 56
9. Robin Larsson 42
10.Kevin Eriksson 38
11.Kyle Busch 35
12.Cabot Bigham 30
13.Oliver Eriksson 26
14.Ronalds Baldins 20
15.Oliver Bennett 1
16.Liam Doran 1