World Rally Championship star Kris Meeke began the Nitro Rallycross season with no inkling that he’d be racing in the US.
The Northern Irishman was tapped by XITE Energy Racing to fill in for Jenson Button in Europe, but when the F1 champ had to miss the Phoenix double header, Meeke once again got the nod.
Finding out less than a week before the three-day event began, Meeke had to dash across the Atlantic, and while it was a trick weekend overall, facing technical issues and penalties in qualifying that made his job even harder, the end result was a third place on Sunday – his and XITE’s first podium ever in the series.
“The potential of this series is something else,” Meeke said. “But yeah, we still have to fine-tune, the car still needs to be developed a bit more, but for me and the team, it’s a big reward for them, they’ve put in a lot of effort.”
But while coming home with the hardware represents a good return on the weekend for Meeke, it was the track itself that left the biggest impression.
“I have to say the US tracks are a different level from what they have in Europe,” he said. “There’s so much expanse here, Travis has an input in the circuits, there’s so much experience from Supercross and Motocross, and it basically is a Supercross track for cars.
“The idea’s fantastic, the concept’s fantastic, these insane gap jumps and stuff… Yeah, the concept’s there, it just needs it all packaged together.”
Right now Meeke doesn’t know when he’ll be back at Nitro Rallycross, but after his Phoenix experience, it’s definitely a case of when, not if: “if they do more tracks like this, I’ll certainly come back.”