CGR Rallycross built program through 2015, already hard at work for 2016

Ganassi and Felix Sabates. Photo: Associated Press

MotorSportsTalk takes a look back at Chip Ganassi Racing Rallycross’ first season in the Red Bull Global Rallycross. First up was a look at how the season started, and how late things came together for the two-car effort, and a further look at the season after the first couple races is below in part two.

After the opening rounds of the Red Bull Global Rallycross season – the Fort Lauderdale season opener and the non-points X Games in Austin – the new Chip Ganassi Racing Rallycross team began to settle into more of a rhythm.

The team overachieved to start, courtesy of Steve Arpin’s runner-up finish in a dynamic drive at X Games to take the Silver medal.

From Daytona, the second and third races of the Red Bull GRC regular season, CGR wasn’t necessarily in “learning the cars” or “scramble” mode as much as they were the first two races.

The season-long theme of consistency for Arpin in his No. 00 Loenbro Ford Fiesta and teammates Brian Deegan, in his No. 38 Rockstar Energy Ford and Jeff Ward in the No. 360 360fly Ford (Ward filling in for Deegan at Daytona and Washington D.C. only) was established from there.

For Deegan, a.k.a. the general of Metal Mulisha, coming into the Ganassi environment provided a welcome new home as the team started to gel.

“I’d say this season has been, as far as a team structure, my best season as far as being with a solid team,” Deegan told MotorSportsTalk.

“I feel our cars were good from the start. They’re a good chassis, a proven chassis, with a proven motor. For a first year team we were really strong.

“I would have liked to win some races, but it really came to (not enough) time, until not getting the cars before the first race. We ran out of time to do some testing.”

The team still hit some high points along the way after its better-than-expected start. Deegan’s best result came in Los Angeles while Arpin failed to podium after Daytona, but was still a regular top-five finisher.

It was clear the polar opposites on the surface meshed as teammates.

“It’s like a perfect example of opposites attract and it worked out perfectly,” Arpin said. “We couldn’t be from more polar opposite backgrounds. The best part is, I have a different way of looking at things.

“In the asphalt sections, I’ll tackled like how I did NASCAR. But he’ll look at it from the aggressive wild side. Yeah I raced dirt cars, but more like asphalt. Deegan grew up manhandling stuff around. With his view, he raised my bar a whole bunch.

“For both of us, then throw in an experienced guy like Jeff Ward, he’s got so much experience, he raised the bar again. Every time he was at the track he had something to offer. It was literally perfect… the great combination of different.”

Deegan was a bit more succinct: “We’re definitely different but it worked out well. We’d never butt heads and we helped each other throughout the year. I’ve had teammates before you can’t get along with. But this was good.”

The breakthrough event came at the season finale. A test in, of all places, the Chip Ganassi Racing parking lot gave the team enough of a boost to improve its pavement pace heading into the Las Vegas closing act.

Arpin and Deegan were pacesetters in practice, with Arpin scoring the team’s first pole position.

Then on race day, it rained, which threw everyone a curveball.

“I’ve made some fast trips down the Interstate in the rain at least!” Arpin said. “It was interesting to say the least. I learned more that day, more than any event that season. Every corner, every lap, I learned something.

“The car was incredible. The thing for me was I didn’t know what I needed to feel,” he explained. “I’m not sure how to describe it – say I needed ‘Feeling X,’ which I’d never felt that before.

“The guys had patience with me for sure. There was trial and error before I told them where the car needed to go. But once we got to the main, it drove incredibly… I couldn’t believe how much grip there was. The biggest struggle was just visibility, because we didn’t launch out front. The car itself, it was beyond belief shocking how much grip the Yokohamas made in the wet.”

The other interesting part of Las Vegas was how fluid the schedule was with the rain hitting, and how it affected preparation and condensed the time period.

“That was quite a busy schedule,” CGR Rallycross team manager Carl Goodman explained. “Usually we’ll have all our track activities over two days. With practice, qualifying and possibly the first heat on first day – the warmup, semifinal, LCQ and final.

“But for Vegas, to really make more of a day of it on the Wednesday, they had only practice on the Tuesday. It’s quite normal to not run early in the morning. You run later in the day. It’s usually very tight. Then you had the weather thrown in as well.”

Regardless of the challenges, Arpin and Deegan finished fourth and fifth in what all members of the team considered their best weekend of the season. For the year, Arpin finished sixth in points and Deegan 10th despite the limited schedule. Arpin, too, was the top finishing M-Sport Ford.

Arpin said given how the year went, that he’s even more excited about 2016. Deegan will look to spend more time in Charlotte too for additional testing.

“That’s the worst part for the other teams, and better than best part for us!” Arpin said. “We got back from Vegas and we’re digging like we’re going this weekend.

“When we did Barbados and LA, and went back there, Deegan and I were good but we had some downtime. Barbados, we were stronger yet. Then we had a good amount of downtime.

“We put into motion everything we’ve learned throughout the season. One little test, at the parking lot of CGR, and then we go out, top of practice, and top of board until the rain comes.

“With that being said, with just a bit of time to get a tiny bit of testing, I can’t wait to see what this offseason brings us.”

Goodman, too, is bullish on what 2016 could bring – since 2015 seemed to vary on who starred at any particular weekend.

“It was very interesting to see the phases. All the teams had strong times and weak times,” Goodman said. “Ken Block had a very start section. The VWs were always dangerous, and really came on strong late in the year. Herta was fast at times. OMSE cars could never be ruled out, given the history with team and series. Then they finally get a 1-2 at end of season. Nelson Piquet was good too. It was interesting to see the ebb and flow between the teams.

“Holidays? I’ve never heard of them… I’m sure everyone in racing, is familiar with working through the holidays.

“We know what we want to work on. We never plan to make up the field, make up the numbers. We have a team here to win. No one is after the participation award.”

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX