Updated: Nov 11
One week ago Phoenix might have played host to another kind of motorsport, but this weekend Nitro Rallycross is very much the hottest ticket in town – and we’ve snagged some of that headline NASCAR talent to boot.
Chase Elliott, the 2020 Cup series champion, and this year’s Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric are joining the fun for not one, but two Group E championship rounds at Wild Horse Pass.
Friday will play host to a packed day of action with a full championship round running on the one day, culminating in a spectacular Final under the lights. Then we go again on Saturday and Sunday for our final round of 2022.
Fraser McConnell enters the weekend as the favorite, riding a wave of momentum after dominating in California last time out, and he’s looking forward to testing his talents against one of America’s best in fellow A Shoc athlete Elliott.
“I'm really looking forward to it,” he said. “I got the chance to race against him in Florida last year but I never got that chance to interact or see how he analyzes stuff or his way of looking at things.
“I’m really excited to see what NASCAR knowledge can bring to the table and I’m sure it’s a tonne and hopefully he’ll be able to learn some stuff from our end as well.”
Fellow event winner Andreas Bakkerud is equally pumped to go up against some of the best the US has to offer.
“I think to have [them] come out to play in the dirt at Wild Horse Pass is going to be cool,” he said. “Elliott did a race last year and he looked fast, and did a great overtake on Tanner [Foust].
“I think he’s one of the most talented American drivers I’ve ever seen so I think he’s going to do great.”
Oliver Eriksson, who will be Elliott and Cindric’s team-mate this weekend has already spent time with both drivers, and they’re already making an impression.
“They’re big names in motorsport and to extend the field, extend the team, it’s fun for sure,” he said. “They’re super-professional, both of them. They listen well, both me and Kevin [Eriksson] have a lot to teach, we’ve done this a lot and they’ve soaked everything in and they execute as well, it’s always good when it transfers into the car as well.”
Of course, the weekend features dirt and banked turns, something familiar for both, but also Nitro Rallycross’ signature gap jump – something that you perhaps wouldn’t want to take in a stock car.
“They were both quite nervous for the jumps but they managed well,” Eriksson said. “So far they haven’t had a single corner question, it’s all about jumps. They managed well, they listened well and when you listen it gets easier.”
And don’t expect these stock car stars to be a sideshow either. Our regular drivers expect them to be right in the mix.
“They’re going to be hard to beat and I think they’re going to enjoy it very very much,” said Bakkerud. “I’m pumped to see them and I wish them luck – hopefully they can mix up the championship a little bit, it’s going to be interesting to see where they can put himself on the grid.”
Eriksson added: “For sure, they have all the chances to do well, I’d say. They’re quick and we have all the data, everything to share here. We have good guys that are on the team as well to work on the details so hopefully we can stir it up a bit.”
Elsewhere on the grid Kris Meeke returns to the series for XITE Energy Racing after two rounds out and he’ll be looking to capitalize on the immense speed he showed in Europe earlier in the year.
Meanwhile McConnell, Bakkerud, Travis Pastrana, and points leader Robin Larsson will all be hoping to round out the calendar year as the first repeat winner of the season.
Aside from Group E, George Megennis and Casper Jansson will be resuming their US title fight in NRX NEXT, with newcomer Jimmy Henderson once again looking to make an impression, while Pastrana and Brian Deegan will once again be sparring in what promises to be a thrilling set of Side-by-Side races.