Red Bull GRC: Ken Block, Joni Wiman now the ones to beat in title race

Leave a comment

Ken Block started his 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season with a dramatic crash at Barbados that left his No. 43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford wrong-side up.

Seven races later, the Gymkhana star is on top of the championship.

Last weekend’s doubleheader at the Port of Los Angeles had the potential to wreak havoc on the title race, and it did. The biggest beneficiary was Block, who collected a pair of podium finishes and now holds an 18-point lead over Joni Wiman with two races to go.

“The season did start off a bit rough, and it took a bit to recover from that,” Block said on Sunday after finishing second in the Race 2 final behind winner Rhys Millen. “From there, we just kind of put our head down and put as much work in as we could.

“It’s been a bit of luck, and coming from behind with hard work, that has gotten me five podiums in a row. I just wanted consistency, I wanted some good finishes, and it’s just kind of steamrolled into this lead.”

Block entered L.A. second in the championship, down 40 points to Nelson Piquet Jr. But the Brazilian failed to make Saturday’s Race 1 final and only finished ninth on Sunday.

Piquet’s nightmarish weekend in the City of Angels has knocked him down to fourth in the standings at 34 points behind Block – 10 points behind third-place man and Saturday winner Scott Speed.

Speed has won three races this season and Piquet had a streak of four straight podiums (Austin-Washington, DC-New York-Daytona), but both have also had stumbles that have knocked them out of the championship lead.

Block must try to avoid the same fate, with 2013 GRC Lites champion Wiman now serving as his closest pursuer.

“We’ve got two events left and really just have to focus on [Wiman], who’s being really consistent, and watching what he’s doing,” he said of the Finnish pilot.

“We’re trying to be near him or ahead of him, especially for the next event [at Seattle], to hopefully set up a bigger points lead going into the final event [at Las Vegas].”

Meanwhile, Wiman, the driver of the No. 31 Olsbergs MSE Ford, heads to Seattle on the heels of his own double-podium weekend in L.A.

He’s now ranked as high as he’s ever been in the top-tier Supercar class, and after what’s been a solid 2014 for him, he’s probably feeling like he’s playing with house money at this point.

“It’s so great to be here,” Wiman said this weekend. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to do this well my first year, but of course I’m happy.

“It’s everything for me to get a good start on the weekend, feel it out fast, and get happy with the car, and then it’s just rolling on.”

Throw in Speed and Piquet, who will be very desperate to make one last push for the title, and next weekend’s Round 9 is setting up to be quite a show.

Catch Red Bull Global Rallycross: Seattle this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on your local NBC station and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Supercross’ return Sunday in Salt Lake: Start time, TV, info for watching

Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nearly three months after the postponement of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monster Energy Supercross is returning to action.

Sunday’s Round 11 is the first of seven remaining 2020 events to be completed. All are being held at Rice-Eccles Stadium, on the campus of the University of Utah, with no fans in attendance.

Here’s what you need to know …

BROADCAST/STREAMING SCHEDULE

Television coverage will begin at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, then will move to NBC from 4-6 p.m. ET.

The event also will be streamed on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports App, and NBC Sports Gold’s Supercross Pass, which also will stream live qualifying for the event starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.

COVID-19 IMPACT

Earlier this month, Feld Entertainment senior director of two-wheel operations Dave Prater confirmed that protocols for the final seven races will include COVID-19 testing for everyone on-site at Rice-Eccles Stadium. A negative result will be required to enter the stadium’s perimeter; only one test will be necessary as long as the person remains in Utah throughout the seven-race stretch.

Additional protocols include temperature checks (administered when someone enters the stadium perimeter), face masks, increased sanitation efforts and social distancing.

TRACK MAP

Prater also noted there is a different track map for each of the seven remaining rounds. “You might not see as different a track as you would from Indy to Salt Lake, but it will be a different track,” he said. “The lanes will be the same but with different obstacles.”

Click here to see the map for Sunday’s event.

FORMAT

A standard event format will be used for the seven remaining rounds, except for the season finale on June 21, which will include an East/West Showdown in the 250SX class.

  • 450SX Class – 40 Riders based on current point standings and 2020 top 100 number or combined season qualifying results
  • 250SX Class – 40 Riders based on current point standings and 2020 top 100 number or combined season qualifying results
  • Two qualifying sessions will be held for gate pick
  • 250SX Class – Two Heat Races and a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)
  • 450SX Class – Two Heat Races and a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)
  • 250SX Class Main Event
  • 450SX Class Main Event

WEATHER

Riders will face a heat wave in Salt Lake City. Weather Underground forecasts temperatures near 90 degrees at race time under partly cloudy skies.

WHEN WE LAST LEFT YOU

On March 7 at Daytona International Speedway, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac earned his fourth career Daytona Supercross win in the 450SX class. Tomac erased a nine-second deficit, took the lead from Honda rival Ken Roczen with two minutes to go before the white flag lap and went on to victory.

In the 250SX East class, 18-year-old Garrett Marchbanks became just the fourth rider to claim their first career 250 class win at Daytona. Marchbanks held on after absorbing late-race pressure from reigning 250SX East champion Chase Sexton.

Extended Highlights – Daytona 450SX

Extended Highlights – Daytona 250SX

Tomac – who has become a father for the first time during the shutdown – currently holds the 450SX class championship lead by three points over Roczen. Reigning champion Cooper Webb is in third place, 29 points back.

In the 250SX East class, Sexton leads the way by 10 points over Shane McElrath, followed by R.J. Hampshire, 18 points back.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

After Sunday’s opener, here are the details for the remaining six rounds:

  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).