Fraser McConnell was classified as the winner of round four of the 2022-24 Nitrocross season at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park after on-the-road winner Travis Pastrana was hit with a penalty.
Vermont SportsCar driver Pastrana was demoted two positions for making contact with Dreyer & Reinbold JC RX Cartel driver Robin Larsson and Olsbergs MSE’s Kevin Eriksson on the last lap of the final.
Pastrana had previously attempted to grab the lead on the opening lap. Starting on the front row of the grid alongside Larsson — both being the most recent winners this season, as well as the victors from last year’s visit to Phoenix — Pastrana swung sideways across the front of Larsson’s car in the first turn, but the Swede resisted.
Larsson ceded the lead at Turn 2, before taking the joker shortcut to move ahead moments later. Pastrana then unusually opted for the joker on the second lap, rather than waiting for his last tour, as is customary when against someone who took it on the first. But Larsson’s pace in the opening part of the race allowed him to remain ahead when the Joker strategies had played out in full.
Going into that last lap, the top five were covered by 1.5s, with Pastrana third behind leaders Larsson and Eriksson. He had a look up the inside of Eriksson going into Turn 1, but it was Turn 2 where things really kicked off.
Eriksson swept up the inside of Larsson — who was nursing a puncture sustained the lap before — with the pair making light contact. As they squabbled, Pastrana came into the turn fast, hitting both before snatching the lead on the corner exit.
When the pack got to Turn 3, Larsson’s RX Cartel teammate Andreas Bakkerud closed into the leaders, making contact with Eriksson, sending him up the bank on the outside of the turn — a move he would also get a two-place penalty for.
Pastrana emerged from the mayhem in the lead ahead of DRR JC man McConnell, who capitalized on Eriksson and Bakkerud’s shunt to move into a podium position, while Bakkerud held on for third.
Larsson nursed his car home to fourth, ahead of Kevin Eriksson, while his brother and teammate Oliver Eriksson – who dropped out of contention due to lap 1 contact with VSC’s Conner Martell – was sixth.
The win for McConnell is his second on the season, and came after a rotten start to the day where, due to mechanical issues, he only completed three full laps before his Last Chance Qualifier race, which he won.
Meanwhile, the last-lap carnage ended Kevin Eriksson’s podium run. The points leader has finished in the top three at every round so far and was set to continue that streak before his coming together with Bakkerud in the final.
Kevin Eriksson began the day as the top qualifier. Qnigan/Nitrocross
The clash wasn’t their first of the day, either, with the pair colliding in the second semifinal. They came together on the joker merge, taking both out of contention and handing an easy win to Pastrana. Robin Larsson won the earlier semi ahead of Martell who snuck past Oliver Eriksson on the final turn of the final lap.
Brian Deegan, driving a fourth DRR JC entry, was the only driver to not make the eight-car final. He began the day with a heat win over McConnell after the Jamaican suffered the first of his three retirements in the preliminary rounds.
That put Deegan in the top qualifier race along with fellow heat winners Bakkerud, Larsson, and Kevin Eriksson — Eriksson going on to win and claim his third Top Qualifier result of the season. But Deegan’s day was undone with a fourth place in the first last chance qualifier. Despite a strong start, late Jokers from Martell and Bakkerud dropped him down the order.
Casper Jansson, who finished seventh in the Group E final won the first Nitrocross NEXT round of the weekend, taking the lead on lap four of the six lap contest to leapfrog Lane Vacala after a quiet run up to that point.
Vacala eventually finished second, 5.755s back, with Lia Block claiming her first podium in the category after her previous top three finishes this season were rescinded through penalties.
In Side-by-Sides, Kainan Baker returned to the winners’ circle after his 10th place in the last round ended a three-race victory streak.
It was very nearly a different story, though, after he was bettered by Pastrana — another driver racing in two categories — at the start. Pastrana dominated until lap four when he pulled off the course at Turn 1 with a technical issue.
Baker was ultimately unchallenged after Ben Maier, his nearest challenger, also retired late on. Second went to Tyler Remmereid with Gray Leadbetter completing the podium.
In the first Baja Bugs final of the weekend, Ryan Rodriguez took his third win of the year after a tense battle with Blake Wilkey, while Kyle Zirkus — in his Herbie-liveried Beetle — took third after a last-lap pass on Donny Donnovan.