In a town that has seen plenty of high-stakes poker games over the years, the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross championship has come down to its own version of the final table.
Points leader Joni Wiman, Ken Block, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Scott Speed are entering this week’s season finale at Las Vegas with a chance to win the series title.
Wiman, the Finnish rookie, has not yet won this season but has used the strength of three consecutive podium finishes to seize the top spot in the standings by 12 points over Block. Former NASCAR and Formula One combatants Piquet and Speed are not too far behind, with Piquet down 28 points and Speed down 29.
Out of those four, however, only Wiman controls his destiny: A second-place finish and the title is his.
“A win is not a must,” Wiman said recently. “It’s a bonus, but we are racing for a championship and not for winning one race. Of course I want to win the race, but it’s more important to bring home the championship now.
“Of course, I will pass if I have a good chance. But I just need to avoid the risks and not break the car. That’s what we’ve tried to do all season. That seems to work.”
Meanwhile, Block has to put a tough Round 9 at Seattle behind him. The king of the Hoonigans was the points leader at the time and made it to the final. But at the start, he tagged the wall going into the joker and then made contact with Tanner Foust.
Unable to recover, Block finished ninth that day and fell out of the points lead, while Wiman assumed it with a runner-up finish behind race winner Sverre Isachsen.
“Unfortunately with what happened in Seattle, it took the sort of destiny out of my own hands and put it just to fate,” Block said. “It is what it is. I’m just gonna go out there and the team and I will do the best effort that we always do.
“We’ll try to win the event and whatever happens with Joni happens. Hopefully, we can be in a good position and the cards will fall where they may.”
As for Piquet, he’s seeking his first championship in any form of racing since 2004, when he captured the British Formula 3 title. Piquet lost the points lead himself during the doubleheader weekend in Los Angeles, but feels like he may be in a more advantageous spot than Wiman going into the finale.
“In a certain way, I’m in a better position because I can take more risks,” he said. “I think Joni’s in the position I was a few weeks ago. He needs to be careful but he needs to be fast at the same time. And I’m over here, and now I’m the one taking risks – everything or nothing.”
Then there’s Speed, who will finally get to drive the new VW Beetle in Vegas (Foust, his Andretti Autosport teammate, debuted the car himself in Los Angeles). For Speed, the championship isn’t so much a concern as is being able to work on developing the Beetle, which he described as the team’s future.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to go out and hopefully win another race, call it four races won, and whoever wins the championship – well, we’ve done our job as a team,” said Speed, who’s won three times in 2014 – most among the remaining title contenders.
“We can’t help the unfortunate things that have happened [to us] this year. We’re going to do our job this weekend, hopefully come across with another race win, and move on.”
But while he says he’s not thinking about the title, you better believe that if Wiman, Block and Piquet falter, he will push his new Beetle for all its worth.
LAS VEGAS ENTRY LIST – SUPERCARS
00-Steve Arpin (Fort Frances, Ontario), Royal Purple Racing/OMSE2 Ford
07-Nelson Piquet Jr. (Brasilia, Brazil), SH Racing Rallycross Ford
11-Sverre Isachsen (Hokksund, Norway), Subaru Rally Team USA
14-Austin Dyne (Los Angeles), Barracuda Racing Ford
18-Patrik Sandell (Ostersund, Sweden), Olsbergs MSE Ford
27-Emma Gilmour (Dunedin, New Zealand), Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing
31-Joni Wiman (Pohja, Finland), Olsbergs MSE Ford
34-Tanner Foust (Dana Point, Calif.), Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
38-Brian Deegan (Omaha, Neb.), Rockstar Energy Drink Ford
43-Ken Block (Park City, Utah), Hoonigan Racing Division Ford
59-Pat Moro (Dublin, Oh.), Chevrolet Sonic Racing/PMR Motorsports
67-Rhys Millen (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing
77-Scott Speed (Mount Holly, N.C.), Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
81-Bucky Lasek (Dundalk, Md.), Subaru Rally Team USA
LAS VEGAS TRACK SCHEDULE – ALL TIMES EASTERN
Tuesday, November 4 (TODAY)
- 1:15 p.m. ET: Supercar Practice
- 2:25 p.m. ET: Lites Practice
- 3:20 p.m. ET: Supercar Practice
- 4:30 p.m. ET: Lites Practice
- 5:30 p.m ET: Supercar Qualifying
- 6:20 p.m. ET: Lites Qualifying
- 6:50 p.m. ET: Supercar Heats (Round 1)
- 7:30 p.m. ET: Lites Heats (Round 1)
Wednesday, November 5 (TOMORROW)
- 5 p.m. ET: Lites Warmup
- 5:30 p.m. ET: Supercar Warmup
- 6:10 p.m. ET: Supercar Heats (Round 2)
- 6:55 p.m. ET: Lites Heats (Round 2)
- 7:30 p.m. ET: Driver Introductions
- 8:10 p.m. ET: Supercar Semifinals
- 8:50 p.m. ET: Lites LCQ
- 9:20 p.m. ET: Supercar LCQ
- 9:50 p.m. ET: Lites Final
- 10:35 p.m. ET: Supercar Final
Wednesday night’s finale will be live-streamed on RedBull.tv and RedBullGlobalRallycross.com starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. The entire broadcast will then be archived and made available for on-demand viewing at RedBull.tv.
Additionally, NBC-TV and NBC Sports Live Extra will broadcast the finale on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. ET.