The road to Jimmy Keeney’s third appearance in X Games began on March 25 and 26, 2011 at the first round of the Global RallyCross event known as The Revolution held at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California. Jimmy drives a 2007 Subaru STI in the limited division. Jimmy’s goal was to gain an invitation to X Games 17 by winning the limited division in the three race Global RallyCross series.
The story of how Jimmy even ended up in Irwindale is one of fate, luck and determination. Jimmy placed a call to Rhys Millen asking if Rhys needed any crew members for the first round of the Global RallyCross event. Jimmy asked Rhys if he were able to get himself to Irwindale, would Rhys get him a crew pass. Rhys told Jimmy that the Global Rallycross series was the only way a non-factory, privateer driver could earn an invitation to X Games 17. Rhys told Jimmy the Global RallyCross series would have a limited class that Jimmy’s car would be competitive in. Rhys asked Jimmy why he was not bringing the car to the event in Irwindale. Jimmy had many concerns about going to the event.
Jimmy was asking himself could he miss work? What financial burden would racing this event put on his family? Rhys told Jimmy he recently accuired a new company and he would like to sponsor Jimmy’s effort in Irwindale. Rhys said he would help Jimmy with his expenses if Jimmy put “Wo-ven” on the car for the event. Alex Helton and Jimmy’s dad, “Big Jim” were at Jimmy’s shop during the conversation with with Rhys. Big Jim told Jimmy he should take Rhys up on his offer and go to Irwindale.
I went to the kart track after Jimmy and Rhys had their discussion; and I could tell Jimmy had some reservations about going to Irwindale. Both Alex and I encouraged Jimmy to go to Irwindale and race. Jimmy agreed to the offer and in the matter of a week or so, Jimmy began the long and sometimes difficult “Road to X Games 17.”
Jimmy headed to the first event in Irwindale with his wife Melissa, his co-driver in the Rally America series, his mom Vicki and dad Jim. Also joining Jimmy at Irwindale was multi-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb competitor, Colorado Hill Climb Association Quad class champion and current Rally America driver Alex Helton. Jimmy and his team rolled into Irwindale with the task of racing many factory, specially built rallycross cars to include the very fast Fords of Tanner Foust and Marcus Grönholm. Even though Jimmy would be scored separately in the limited division, he would be competing on the track against the higher horsepower, lighter purpose-built cars. Jimmy has proven on Pikes Peak and in stage rally, he is an extremely smooth and precise driver who was up to the task at hand.
The track in Irwindale was 50% dirt and 50% asphalt with a massive 70 foot gap jump.
In qualifying for the Super Rally event on Friday, Jimmy qualified ninth and would face number eight qualifier Marcus Dodd in one of Rhys Millen’s Hyundai Velosters. Jimmy and Marcus would square off for two laps on the course in a best two out of three single elimination race. In the first race, Jimmy showed he had what it took to compete with the factory teams, even though he was at a sizable disadvantage. Jimmy finished with a time of 1:19.207 and Marcus finished with a time of 1:19.130, besting Jimmy by a slim 0.077 of a second.
Jimmy lined up for the second run. He took to the course and attempted the 70 foot gap jump first, when disaster struck. Jimmy did not get the drive out of the corner before the jump and came up short on the landing ramp. Jimmy’s car flipped violently, ending his weekend. Jimmy was not hurt in the crash and finished ninth in the event. Jimmy’s car was not repairable and he was not able to compete in the rallycross event on Saturday.
After the crash, Jimmy was concerned about the financial hole he put the team in, because of the damage to the car. Jimmy said Rhys also felt bad about what had happened. Jimmy told me “Rhys wouldn’t hardly talk to me after the crash.” Jimmy said Rhys felt bad about the crash and what had happened at Irwindale. Jimmy said he told Rhys, “You weren’t driving the car, don’t feel bad.” Rhys Millen Racing, Rhys and his crew have been and have continued to be a huge supporter of Jimmy’s racing effort.
Even though Jimmy and his team suffered a huge setback at Irwindale, they refused to quit! Jimmy rallied the troops and went to work. Stay tuned for my next segment on the long road to Seattle!