Red Bull GRC: Patrik Sandell holds off Nelson Piquet Jr. in D.C.

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Patrik Sandell didn’t buckle under the pressure put on him by Nelson Piquet Jr. throughout much of the Volkswagen Rallycross DC final and picked up his first career Red Bull Global Rallycross win today at RFK Stadium in Washington.

Piquet’s No. 75 WIX Filters/SH Racing Rallycross Ford Fiesta ST remained within a couple of car lengths of Sandell’s No. 18 Kobalt Tools/Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST in the final laps, but Sandell was able to put together a mistake-free run.

“I was trying to do every lap, just try to focus, go on the same lines, and not do any mistakes,” Sandell told NBC after his victory. “And then when I crossed the finish line, I was so extremely happy. It’s unbelievable. The team has done a perfect job, and my Kobalt Fiesta was insanely good.

“My spotter, Andreas, did a really good job. He helped me to push when I should push and go steady when I should go steady. I thank the team, they did a fantastic job.”

Piquet was unable to reel in Sandell, but his runner-up effort enabled him to pull within one point of championship leader Scott Speed, 135-134, heading into next month’s race in New York.

Speed had opened the year with two straight wins, but finished sixth in today’s final. Both he and Andretti Autosport teammate Tanner Foust (who finished fifth) had to overcome mechanical problems yesterday with their respective Volkswagens.

Completing a Ford lockout of the podium was one of Sandell’s teammates, 2013 GRC Lites champion Joni Wiman, in his No. 31 Red Bull/Bluebeam Fiesta ST. Another Ford racer, Steve Arpin (No. 00 Royal Purple/OMSE2 Fiesta ST), finished fourth.

Today’s final was a historic one for the series, as an 11th car was added to the main event.

In the first semifinal heat, Wiman jumped the start and was hit with a stop-and-go in the penalty box. However, he was supposed to be released from the box when the main line of cars had gone past.

Instead, he was released almost immediately after stopping, and slipped into the third and final transfer position on the track ahead of Ken Block.

Block couldn’t get past Wiman, and it appeared that the Gymkhana star would have to compete for a spot in the final by running the Last Chance Qualifier.

But Red Bull GRC officials caught the release error on the Wiman penalty and put Block directly into the final, where he would finish seventh.

Red Bull GRC will return to action on July 19-20 with their New York round at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. NBC will carry the final LIVE on July 20 at 2 p.m. ET.

Unofficial Results

1. 18-Patrik Sandell
2. 75-Nelson Piquet Jr.
3. 31-Joni Wiman
4. 00-Steve Arpin
5. 34-Tanner Foust
6. 77-Scott Speed
7. 43-Ken Block
8. 14-Austin Dyne
9. 67-Rhys Millen
10. 11-Sverre Isachsen
11. 81-Bucky Lasek

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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