VSC earns 1-2 finish at Nitro RX Phoenix Round 5

The Nitro Rallycross  double-header at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park was very much an event of contrasts for Vermont SportsCar (VSC) as it scored a stunning breakthrough one-two finish on Friday night under the lights with drivers Travis Pastrana and Conner Martell. Carnage and some bad luck meant the  team couldn’t quite replicate that form over the 2nd race, with Pastrana earning a 5th Overall finish for the team.

The condensed, two days-into-one schedule of Friday provided a unique challenge for the team as it looked to return to the form that gave it a first win in the all-electric Group E class in Minnesota two rounds prior.

Travis Pastrana got off to the best possible start handily winning his qualifying seeding heat. He then smashed through the head-to-head battles earning the coveted Top Qualifier spot after seeing off five-time World Rally event winner Kris Meeke, round two winner Andreas Bakkerud, and Oliver Bennett in the process. 

That form continued as the sun set, as Pastrana won his heat race putting his VSC Power Plus Group E car on Pole in the  Final. After a great start in the Final, Pastrana defended an early challenge from Meeke which faded quickly as Meeke was forced to retire with a technical issue. Pastrana then led the race nearly unchallenged to bring home his second Nitro RX Group E win of the season.

Conner Martell’s Friday was somewhat tougher at first, taking the longest route possible to the final via the Last Chance Qualifier, after a tricky first half of the day. Starting at the back of the grid in the Final Martell picked his way through the field, moving all the way up to 2nd overall, and nearly catching Pastrana on the final lap to earn his first podium finish of the year and cap off a fantastic 1-2 finish.

The double-header format meant the racing would continue into Saturday and Sunday in Phoenix, with round 6. Saturday’s qualifying battle bracket races saw Pastrana halted by a puncture at the semifinal stage, his second of the day while Martell beat NASCAR superstar Chase Elliott in his first head-to-head, but fell to Fraser McConnell at the Quarter Final stage.

Come Sunday, the team knew it had the pace to win again, but was beset by bad luck.

Contact and traffic prevented both drivers from shortcutting into the final via the opening heats, while Pastrana was eventually able to advance with a win in the Semi-Final. Martell unfortunately fell victim to heavy contact in the LCQ which broke his steering and brought an early end to his day. In the Final, Pastrana was in a hotly contested fight for third behind race winner Robin Larsson and top qualifier Oliver Eriksson, but a brush with McConnell, coupled with an early joker not paying off, meant that Pastrana had to settle for fifth.

“We were quick, there was a lot of carnage out there,” said Pastrana. “It was a tough weekend for everybody. We had a great day on Friday and that proved we have the pace, but we couldn’t get the job done again on Sunday. Ended up fifth, got a pretty good punt from McConnell, we both thought we had it and neither one of us backed off.”

“I’m really stoked about the P2, and with Travis getting P1, that’s amazing,” said Martell. “I think this momentum will go into the next race. We had good pace Sunday too but just some really bad luck with all the contact which broke our car.”

The next round of Nitro Rallycross is scheduled for Jan 21-22 in Quebec, where the Group E teams will compete on ice for the first time.  

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