Red Bull GRC: Isachsen reigns in Seattle; Wiman becomes new championship leader

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For the second time in as many weekends, the Red Bull Global Rallycross championship took a drastic turn.

Sverre Isachsen brought home the first-ever GRC victory for Subaru Rally Team USA in yesterday’s Round 9 at DirtFish Rally School outside Seattle.

But by virtue of his own second-place finish behind the Norwegian, Joni Wiman moved into the championship lead going into the Nov. 5 season finale in Las Vegas (NBC will air the race on Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. ET).

Ken Block entered Seattle with an 18-point lead over Wiman, but the King of the Hoonigans hit a barrier in the first turn and subsequently finished a disappointing ninth.

Wiman settled into fourth position by halfway, but was then able to move into podium position and peeled second off of Brian Deegan late. With his third consecutive podium run, the Finn is now threatening to win the GRC’s “SuperCar” championship one year after claiming the Lites title.

“I didn’t think I would do well at the dirt track,” Wiman told RedBull.com. “Looking forward to Vegas as the track actually suits us better. It’s all about Vegas now.”

As for Block, he pointed the finger of blame at himself for his trouble in the final.

“Looking straight into the sun, I just missed the braking point,” he said. “I went wide while turning into the joker, and bounced into the wall.”

Meanwhile, Isachsen was thrilled to give the Subaru camp its historic first win in GRC competition.

“It is really important for the team,” Isachsen said to the GRC website. “We never gave up on developing this car—it takes time. You do something wrong, but then you do something right, and then of course today we had a fast car.

“It’s huge for everybody, all the Subaru guys.”

Things had looked set for a clash in the final between Wiman and Block after both of them won their respective semifinal heats. In Semifinal One, Block led Nelson Piquet Jr. and Deegan across the stripe, while Wiman took Semifinal Two over Isachsen and Patrik Sandell.

That set up the Last Chance Qualifier, which featured both Scott Speed and Rhys Millen, the two race winners from last weekend’s doubleheader in Los Angeles.

Speed’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, Tanner Foust, was able to race into the lead early and eventually got the LCQ checkered flag with David Higgins, Millen, and Speed joining him in the final.

The GRC Lites class also crowned its champion this weekend at DirtFish, as Olsbergs MSE’s Mitchell DeJong locked up the title simply by starting the event.

But DeJong was not content to take it easy. The American went on to earn his sixth Lites win of 2014 over Austin Cindric and Alejandro Fernandez after going fastest in qualifying and winning both of his preliminary heats.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?