Nitrocross Rounds 6 & 7: A Preview of this Weekend

Another race week is upon us as Nitrocross rolls into the spectacular Glen Helen Raceway for rounds 6 and 7 of Season 3. The teams arrived earlier in the week to prepare their cars (and their drivers) for the weekend. Coming off an exciting trip to Phoenix, this weekend is sure to be packed full of action and surprises. The championship hunt is heating up and time is running out for the contenders to set themselves apart from the rest of the field with this weekend being two of the final four races of the season. 

After the weekend here at Glen Helen, Nitrocross goes on a two month break over the holidays and kicks back up the first weekend in February, hitting the ice and snow in Calgary, before heading to the finale in Las Vegas. 

Phoenix Recap: Travis Pastrana pulled off the win in the main event for Round 4 only to be penalized for dive bombing a turn on the last lap and was scored P3 while the win was handed to Fraser McConnell. Robin Larsson fought a puncture to bring him a P2. This was the same race that saw the second instance of contact between Andreas Bakkerud and Kevin Eriksson. Round 5 was won by the current defending champion,  Larsson, with McConnell scoring his second podium of the weekend with a P2 and Eriksson seeing a P3. When the drivers left Phoenix, Eriksson held the points lead with Larsson nipping on his heels and Bakkerud within striking distance. 

In the NXT category, Casper Jansson scored wins in both rounds while pulling double duty and running Group E, as well. Lia Block scored podiums for both rounds, also, scoring a P3 in Round 4 and P2 in Round 5.  Current points leader, Lane Vacala, managed a sole podium in Round 4 with a P2 and Jimmy Henderson managed a P3 in Round 5. Vacala leads the standings with Henderson in second and Jansson in third.

Glen Helen looks to build upon this momentum with the last of the doubleheader weekends for Season 3. In the previous two seasons, this race has never failed to deliver thrills and excitement. The big jumps, banked turns and straightaways are the perfect combination for Nitrocross and what it brings to the rallycross world. As a fan, this is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. 

What to Watch For: Viktor Vrankx. This Belgian young gun has already shelved a World Rallycross Championship title in the RX2e category and was on his way to a second when he jumped ship and decided to come to Nitrocross. Did I mention he was 17 when he won his first? He’s competed all over Europe and definitely possesses the skills to debut in Glen Helen with confidence and fire. 

Robin Larsson. If he is to go back to back as Nitrocross champion, he is going to need another good outing this weekend to gain a points advantage that he can build on. He has been good here in the past and should be frontrunner for both rounds. 

Bakkerud v. Eriksson. In Phoenix, tempers flared. Eriksson expressed his displeasure with Pastrana, Bakkerud and everything else. He declared he was “…here for the racing, not the show.” I don’t think anything makes that more clear than his actual driving. So, the question then is, is this squashed or could we see tempers flare again? Bakkerud is a phenomenal driver, as is Eriksson. Both possessing that will to win and the skills to make it happen. There’s going to be no surprise to me if they get together at some point. But how much will Phoenix play into either’s response, whether on track or off?

Lia Block. Look for Block to have another excellent weekend. After back to back DQ’s in Rounds 2 and 3, it seems she has settled in and is gaining momentum in the NXT category. It was just announced that Lia will also be making her Group E debut in Round 7 on Sunday. With news coming out shortly after leaving Phoenix that Lia would be joining the F1 Academy with support from Williams F1, can she find even more to celebrate this weekend?

The Group E and NXT categories should provide some exciting racing and memorable moments in southern California this weekend. I wish I could say the same for the support categories. First off, I actually like SXS racing and I like seeing the Baja Bugs on track. However, the fields are too small and the tracks are too big for those categories to really showcase like they should. If Nitrocross is to keep them on the schedule going forward, it might be a good idea to shorten the courses for them. If the fields were twice as large as they are, the full course would work but that just isn’t the case. 

Predictions: In the three races here at Glen Helen last season, there were three different winners in the Group E category. The only consistent driver was Andreas Bakkerud, scoring P3 in each of the races. His DRR teammates scored wins and P2 in two of the three races. I expect that trend to continue this weekend. My top three picks for the Group E category are Larsson, McConnell and Bakkerud, in no particular order. 

In the NXT category, Casper Jansson is on a hot streak, winning the last three races while the championship leader, Vacala, has only made the podium once in those same three races. However, I think Jansson’s luck runs out this weekend. The driver to end his streak will either be Vacala, Jimmy Henderson or Lia Block, with Jansson riding the hot streak to a podium finish, just not the win. 

No matter how the weekend goes, it will be fun to watch. I will certainly be tuned in – if the broadcast works – and rooting for my drivers.

Copyright © 2022 Allen Keith  – All Rights Reserved.