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.

VOLKSWAGEN RALLYCROSS DC – FINAL
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

What’s next for Danica Patrick after the Indy 500? Dreams, downtime and waffles

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Danica Patrick was a 14-year-old growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she had a firm idea of what she’d be doing 20 years later.

A reporter from her hometown newspaper recently reminded her of that in a recent interview when he brought a prescient artifact from those teenage years – an essay that she crafted as an up and coming go-kart driver about her racing accomplishments.

“I’m breezing through it, and then at the end, it said, ‘I wanted to race Indy cars,” Patrick, 36, said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I was 14. I told him, ‘See? If this isn’t an example of “Write that shit down,” nothing is.’

“This is manifesting. You have write it down and you have to imagine what you want. So I do that as much as I can.”

Heading into the final start of her career in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 (she will start seventh in her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing), Patrick already seems to have a solid idea of the next 20 years — in part, because of having some glimpses into her post-racing life.

There has been plenty of downtime since her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 three months ago. She has taken vacations (including an India trip to meet the Dalai Lama with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers) and created several new routines on her suddenly free from racing weekends.

“I make waffles on Sundays now,” she said. “That’s pretty fun.  In the summer, there’s like farmers market.  I can’t wait for that.  I mean, there’s going to be probably some new stuff that I don’t know yet.

“The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress.  Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That’s uncomfortable.”

But testing her comfort zone is appealing to Patrick, who has spent most of her adult life testing the boundaries of gender norms in her profession. Though the pressure of race weekends might disappear, her incessant quest for challenges probably will remain.

Now that racing is over, Patrick still has a winery, a clothing line, a cookbook and a fitness manual to promote – and more is on the way.

“I just have a habit for pushing myself to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me,” she said. “At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.

“As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years.  I’m super scared of heights.  I’m still scared of heights.  But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not still scared.  That doesn’t mean it’s not still something that’s easy to me afterward. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.

“I’m OK with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions. I’m ready for that.”

So what specifically is on tap? Talk shows? Another book?

Patrick demurs when pressed.

“I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life.  If I say I want it, there’s a very good chance that’s what I’ll get.”

In the short-term, there’s hosting an ESPN awards show that will keep her busy through July.

And after that, her schedule will free up just as Green Bay Packers training camp begins for Rodgers, the two-time MVP quarterback.

“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” she said.