Dreyer & Reinbold JC’s Fraser McConnell topped qualifying for the first time in Nitro Rallycross, winning the Battle Bracket for round four of the 2022-23 Nitro Rallycross season at Glen Helen Raceway in California.
McConnell bettered Oliver Eriksson in the final of the head-to-head contest in what was one of the most intense races of the day.
Both made an even start with Eriksson edging ahead despite starting on the unfavorable inside line, but McConnell remained close, looking up the inside of Turns 3 and 4, making the move stick on the exit of the latter.
Olsbergs MSE driver Eriksson was then the hunter and looked up the inside of the final turn on lap two. While he couldn’t get by, it set up an intense final lap. Eriksson matched McConnell’s first lap moves, attempting to pass at turn three.
At the penultimate corner, McConnell went fully sideways to shut the door once and for all on Eriksson to ensure a clear run to the checkered flag.
Ahead of the final, a number of other big names fell early on. Reigning champion Travis Pastrana and current points leader Robin Larsson both exited in the opening round of the battle bracket – Pastrana dropping out after winning one of the opening two multi-car seeding heats.
McConnell, who won the other of those opening heats before the Battle Bracket, defeated Oliver Bennett, and Kevin Eriksson in the head-to-heads, while Oliver Eriksson felled Pastrana and Sweden race winner Andreas Bakkerud en route to the final.
Jenson Button also made an early exit, opting to sit out of the remainder of the weekend having not had enough seat time ahead of qualifying and racing due to a crash in Friday practice.
“Both Jenson and the team decided that it was unrealistic and unfair to ask Jenson to drive today,” the team said in a statement issued before qualifying. “Unlike most of the other drivers here, Jenson has no prior experience with the magnitude of gap jumps that are present at this track. Without extra seat time and practice, it would have been unwise to continue.”
In NRX NEXT, George Megennis dominated the final of what was the first round of the US season for the premier development class.
Starting the final from pole, Megeniss took an early lead ahead of 2021 champion Casper Jansson who vaulted up front he second row of the grid. But as he applied the pressure on Megennis up front, he took the final corner of the first lap too tight and hit the track-marking tractor tire, allowing Megennis to stretch his lead out front and he was ultimately unchallenged.
Second went to category debutant Jimmy Henderson who started on the front row of the grid alongside Megennis, but missed out at the start before ultimately benefitting from Jansson’s misfortune. Lane Vacala completed the podium ahead of Jansson, with Eric Gordon completing the field.
The first Side-by-Side final of the weekend, Pastrana suffered yet more misfortune, losing a win late on to Brian Deegan.
The action sport icons were together through the first two turns of the six-lap final with Pastrana ultimately prevailing from their first-lap skirmish. But with Deegan setting the fastest lap of the race before jokering on the penultimate lap, and Pastrana leaving his longer route until the final lap, the positions were reversed, but not before a tense drag race to the line. Deegan won but just 0.034s.