The Nitro Rallycross race season finale hosted a triple header to close out its 2022-2023 competition year. Just like everything else NRX is known for, they went big. Offering up three days of racing to decide the championships, fans enjoyed the most actioned-packed weekend of NRX to date. Join Off Road Xtreme as we take a look at all the Nitro-powered action from Glen Helen Raceway.
All eyes were on the points leader Robin Larsson, who held a 34-point lead in the championship standings. Behind him was fellow DRR/JC driver Andreas Bakkerud, ready to seize any chance at the championship. Fraiser McConnell was also in the hunt after dominating the earlier rounds at Glen Helen. He was absolutely still in contention to make a run for the title.
NRX Race Rain Or Shine
As the first day of the finale weekend got underway, there were a lot of questions about the track. Heavy rains earlier in the week had left crews working hard to drain the lake that had covered several turns. Nobody knew how the track would hold up to the 1,000 horsepower equivalent E-cars. As the practice laps clicked down, several drivers found the limits of the track and would require repairs before the racing even started. By the time racing did get underway, there was little question about the surface. The track was fast and willing to reward those who pushed the limits.
The fans didn’t seem to mind the weather either. With the experience that is Nitro Rallycross, the stands were packed all weekend long. Between races, the open paddock was the place to be. Getting to meet your favorite drivers, watching the teams prep the cars, and then stopping by the Nitro Circus demo created a fan experience, unlike any other event.
NRX Group E Race
Day one of Group E racing only added to the championship tension. After securing a third-place start for the final, Robin Larsson ran into some trouble early and retired before the end of the race. This opened up a window for Bakkerud, now leading, to take full advantage of. Securing the round win, Andreas was closing the points gap. With his very excited Bakkerud Blue crowd chanting in the background, he hoisted the trophy for the second time this season.
Saturday was a new day and a new round of racing. From the first heat, one driver was visibly on a mission to win, Travis Pastrana. Securing the pole for the final, it was clear he was ready for his third win of the season. When the “send it” light lit, Pastrana was on it, pulling away from the field and avoiding the battles behind him. Travis laid down a master class on racing over dirt and put his Ken Block Forever liveried car across the line first. Back in the pack, those hard fights allowed Larsson to crawl his way through the pack after a rough start and secure valuable fourth-place points.
NRX Race Final Round
Sunday was wetter than the first two days of racing, with the rain picking back up in Southern California. The first of the drivers to adapt to the wetter conditions was Robin Larsson. Earning top qualifier and the points to go with it, he had all but secured the championship before the first heat. Bakkerud still had a chance though. If the results mirrored Friday with Andreas on top and Larsson in seventh or below, he could steal the title.
Starting side-by-side on the second row, the Monster Energy RX Cartel teammates would have six laps to decide the season. On the green, Larsson appeared to be shot out of a cannon, launching into Second Place by the third turn. Then at the end of the first lap, race leader Eriksson pulled off, letting Larsson by. There was no holding back from then on, Robin Larsson would put an exclamation point on his season championship with a final-round win.
The weekend also brought something new to NRX with the Class 11 racing putting on a great show! Fans were treated to some of the best VW racers in the business for the debut. Blake Wilkey in his iconic purple X-Comp Tires bug, the Slo-Ride Garage VWs of Donnie Donovan and Ryan Rodriguez, and Josh Felix just to name a few. Baja Vida also brought out a couple of drivers you may have heard of. Piloting their favorite flavors of jerky-themed cars, Sara Price and Donald Cerrone hit the track as well.
The 11s would take the track twice over the weekend. On the first outing, Blake Wilkey took the win over Ryan Rodriguez in his Slow Ride machine. On the Second day of racing, Wilkey would start from the last row and work his way all the way into the lead by the end of the first lap. Unfortunately at the start of the second lap, his rear bumper got hooked up to another competitor, which slowed him all the way down back to seventh. At the end of it, Ryan traded places to take home the win with Blake running out of laps and claiming second. Not winning the race but putting on a show was Josh Felix, bicycling through more turns than he went through on four wheels. Let’s hope NRX keeps inviting desert classes out for some short course fun.
While Class 11 racing is the fun side of serious, the NRX Van Prix had nothing serious about it. Sporting some of the best liveries to hit a track outside the 24 hours of Lemons, the doomed vans put on an amazing show. As the assortment of vans gained speed it was clear the drivers were going for broke. One by one they flew over the tabletop jump and then promptly collided into a pile at the end of the first high-banked turn. Getting themselves sorted out, the field continued around the track minus a few of the people movers.
Unfortunately, the patriotic-themed Honda Odyssey had some trouble in the final turn a few laps in and rolled. This brought out a red flag and a healthy amount of smoke, bringing the fun to an end. The good news is some of the vans survived! If you are in desperate need of a “like new” daily driver, you may be able to score a great deal.
This year the top finisher would be hoisting a trophy with a lot of meaning behind it, the Ken Block Championship Trophy. The tragic loss of Ken was felt heavily by the rally community and especially his longtime friend, NRX founder Travis Pastrana. The trophy, created by Cold Hard Art in Indianapolis, is made of polished stainless steel and alloy. It takes elements from the final trophy awarded at every Nitro RX round and then opens up the design. The base features panels etched with track maps from each series stop, as well as an etched-in #KB43VER commemorative.
“Ken was an amazing friend, and it was a privilege to know his family. His impact on rallycross – on motorsports, overall – cannot be overstated. In addition to his incredible driving, he ran races and gave opportunities to so many people, including myself, to progress and achieve our dreams. He was instrumental in building the rally and Nitro Rallycross in America. His Gymkhana series put an exclamation mark on the fun and excitement that was possible behind the wheel. This award recognizes his contribution to the sport and celebrates his legacy.” -Travis Pastrana
Totaling The Points
It was Team DRR across the podium for the championship. Robin Larsson’s consistent podium finishes had put him on top. Teammate Andreas Bakkerud took the second step and Fraiser McConnell rounded out the top three.
Tommi Hallman would be crowned the NEXT World Champion coming out ahead through tough battles all year with second-place finisher Casper Jansson. In the SxS class, Gregoire Michaud would take top honors for the season in his Can-Am. To see the full final season standings head over to the official NRX site.
In all, it was an amazing weekend of racing to close out the season. It was packed with the hard-hitting battles we have come to love from Nitro RX. Congrats to all the season champions! An awesome season now wrapped up, Off Road Xtreme can’t wait to see what Nitro RX has in store for next year.