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

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit

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Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.