To say that Grant Enfinger is on one heck of a hot streak is putting it mildly.
Perhaps a better way of saying it is Enfinger is on the verge of achieving one of the biggest records in ARCA history in the ARCA Series in Saturday’s International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 at Talladega SuperSpeedway.
Enfinger has won each of the first three races on the ARCA schedule, only the second time such a feat has been done in the series’ history, the first time occurring in 1970 by Ramo Scott.
Scott was ARCA champion in 1970 and 1971, USAC Stock Car Series champ in 1975 and was the pole sitter for the 1976 Daytona 500.
Enfinger, a native of Fairhope, Ala. (just outside of Mobile) native would love nothing better than to be the first driver in ARCA’s 62-year history to win the first four races of a season, and in his home state to boot.
“(Winning at Talladega) would be huge,” Enfinger said in a team media release. “To be able to make a statement like this would be huge, not only for myself being an Alabama guy, but for Team BCR.
“(Team owners) Howard and Paula Bixman are working so hard to give us what we need to win everywhere we go. I’m so proud of this team, the way they’ve all stepped up.”
What makes Enfinger’s story all the more amazing is this is only his second full season in ARCA.
“Other than that one full season with the Allgaier’s (team owner Mike Allgaier, father of NASCAR driver Justin) in 2011, I don’t think I’ve ever run four ARCA races in a row, let alone win them all,” Enfinger said.
An added bonus of sorts for Enfinger is he’ll be teammates in Saturday’s race with Justin Allison, grandson of NASCAR legend Donnie Allison, one of the original founders of the infamous Alabama Gang.
“Having Justin as a teammate can definitely help,” Enfinger said. “But you’ve also got to get in position at the right time to get the help. If you get a car in between us, it doesn’t matter if you have a teammate. I hope it works out so we can work together.”
Enfinger knows that Saturday will likely be the biggest test yet this season for him, given Talladega’s unpredictable reputation.
“Talladega’s a crapshoot, more than anywhere we go,” he said. “There are just way too many variables at Talladega. Our job is to put ourselves in the right place to make it happen one more time.”
Enfinger’s wins this season have come at Daytona, his home track in Mobile and last weekend in Salem, Ind.
He’s anxious to add Talladega to the list, a place where his best prior finish has been third.
“We’ve got some real good things going,” Enfinger said. “We’ve had three really good race cars to start the year … with the right amount of luck to win.
“We’ve always had a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into our effort. We’re not really doing anything different in that regard. I think the biggest thing was winning our first race last year; it brought a huge sense of relief. Now we can focus more and make better decisions with the ‘monkey’ off our backs.
“You just never know what’s going to happen at Talladega though. But, we have a great plate program and I know we’ll be fast.”
One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.
The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.
Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.
“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”
NUNCA HAGAS LO QUE ESTE IDIOTA
El ganador en la Indy 500 #100 y ex-F1 Alexander Rossi, participó en el rally Baja 1000, la mala nota la dio este imbécil que se metió con su auto a la pista en sentido contrario y por poco Rossi se estrella con él.
Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.
Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.
Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.
Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.
NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.
Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.
How valuable was last years’ experience?
“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.
“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”
As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.
“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.
“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”
Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.
“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.
“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”
The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.
“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.
“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.
“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”
As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.
“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”
The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.
Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.
“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.
“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”
The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.