With seven down and two to go, this Sunday the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) will be in NASCAR’s backyard. Round 8 will be held at the Dirt Track of Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina and promises to be a vicious battle.
Two to Tango at the Top of the GRC
There is a lot on the line for our GRC drivers this weekend. This will mark the final race for the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Cup and the prize of $20,000. (Am I the only one shocked at how small that purse is?) If the little rallycross god of thunder, Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen plays his cards right, not only could he take home that prize but seal the deal on his very first GRC championship. On the other hand, you have Tanner Foust who is holding fast in second place and will surely do his utmost to be the horsefly in Topi’s ointment. Foust is hoping to take home his third straight championship. However, with seven out of seven podiums including five consecutive wins? Heikkinen is most certainly the favorite heading into this round. Oh, and then there’s twelve other guys who are ravenous for victory.
One Less Zombie Cat On The Grid
The not-so-merry band broke up this week, as Dave Mirra parted ways with the Subaru Puma Rallycross Team. It was an amicable split and now the X Games veteran has found a seat in the LD Motorsports/Prodrive Mini Countryman, in place of Liam Doran who’ll be racing in Germany. This leaves Sverre Isachsen and Bucky “The Coyote” Lasek piloting the only Subaru cars in the event. Mirra’s season had been marred with numerous equipment failures and all-around bad luck. Let’s see if his turn in that dangerously nimble Mini will be a favorable one.
Welcome to the party, Chevrolet!
Ford Racing has been dominating the GRC this season, while the other American manufacturer, Dodge hasn’t made a podium appearance since last year with Travis Pastrana’s win in New Hampshire. At long last, Chevrolet makes its debut this season with a Sonic from PMR Motorsports for Pat Moro. Better late than never, eh? Quite frankly, we have no idea how this car will do. However, it’s great to have a seasoned driver like Pat Moro in the mix and we hope he does well.
Don’t Call It a Comeback
Stephan Verdier is another talented tough guy who made a splash in the X Games Los Angeles round. The fans were won over by his never-say-die attitude and the Subaru that just couldn’t stay alive, no matter how hard he tried. This time he’s behind the wheel of Rhys Millen Racing’s Hyundai Veloster, and it’s very likely the Frenchman will make his presence felt. Another competitor making an unexpected reappearance is Brazil’s Nelson Piquet Jr. It looks like X Team Racing haven’t surrendered their GRC ambitions with their Mitsubishi Evo. Although it has always been the slowest car in the field, tuned for rally but not rallycross; we’ll see if they’ve found a way to become relevant to the series this weekend.
Beginner’s Luck After All?
The Cinderella story of this season appeared to have a star in Scott Speed. He was a mere guest driver in the Rdio Star Car for the Brazilian season opener, but ended up taking home X Games gold. After that, his season has been a mixed bag using descriptive phrases like “almost got it,” “barely missed it” and “never really had a chance.” Time is running out for this Sprint Cup driver to prove that he really does have what it takes to compete in the GRC, and that the rumble in the jungle was more than a fluke. The other OMSE2 driver is Canadian Steve Arpin, who I’d classify as a sentimental favorite because of his effervescent personality and aw-shuck sincerity. However, hehasn’t had the good fortune to show much more than flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately those wonderful moments don’t happen at any time to help him win at all. Unlike Speed, he doesn’t have the pressure to follow up on a gold medal-winning performance.
Enough Already, Pastrana Racing!
Few race teams have been as utterly frustrating as this one. As the only other American cars in the series, I really, really wanted the Dodge Darts to give OMSE Ford Fiestas a run for their money, just for the sake of keeping the series competitive. Who knew that Mini and Subaru would have made it to victory lane first and repeatedly? Subaru, who seemed to get nothing right this year, has scored two Top 3 finishes, while Dodge can barely finish a race no matter what rally or rallycross star is in the driver’s seat. This weekend we’ll finally see Travis Pastrana and Bryce Menzies back in their cars, hopefully tearing the field to shreds, as they assert themselves before the season is over; and they find themselves left with nothing but nothing.
The Big Dogs Pound
Block, Deegan and Sandell are three of the toughest sons-of guns in this series. Even though this is Patrik Sandell’s first GRC season, he is an incredible talent and giving the series’ veterans a very hard time. Speaking of veterans, they don’t get much bigger than Ken Block, who shares the record for winning the most heats this year with Heikkinen; but at the same time, only visited the podium twice. There’s only ten points between them for the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Cup, so look for those two pushing particularly hard to win…everything. In the GRC championship standing, Block’s currently fourth, with Brian Deegan stuck like to glue to the third spot. Ah, The General who completely won me over last season with his skill, bravado and never-ending supply of guts. He never gives up; and just when you think he’s out of the race, there he is flying over jumps (sometimes sideways) and chasing down the leaders to the very end. Like Block, he’s only taken visited the podium twice this season. However, you’d have to have a screw loose to count Deegan out until the fat lady sings.
The TV broadcast will begin on ABC at 4:30pm EST on Sunday September 22nd, although according to the Dirt Track of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s website, the heat races will actually start from 1:00pm EST. Tickets for kids under thirteen are $10, while adults must pay $25. Your ticket is also a paddock pass, so fans can watch teams and drivers work on the cars. The GRC drivers will be participating in autograph sessions throughout the event. They’re all good guys, so please round up your posse and head over there to see some hot rallycross action before the season-ender at SEMA in Las Vegas, next month.
To purchase tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.