Red Bull GRC: Oliver Eriksson building off GRC Lites title defense

Eriksson (center). Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The plan was never for Oliver Eriksson, the talented 17-year-old Swede in the No. 16 Olsbergs MSE X Forces GRC Lites entry, to win the GRC Lites championship in his first attempt at it.

But since he did, and since he’s still only 17, he’s become an even more well-rounded driver in his second season in the second division of Red Bull Global Rallycross.

Eriksson, who was on par with fellow teenaged talented teammate Austin Cindric last year, has now somewhat stepped up into a team leader role at OMSE’s GRC Lites program with rookie teammates Miki Weckstrom and Cole Keatts developing every week.

As Eriksson explained, the development has come naturally into his second season.

“The key this year was to be more consistent and make less mistakes. And keep my car in one piece,” the youngest son of OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson told NBC Sports.

“I had some problems in Phoenix. But I’ve now learned to be directly fast in first practice. Now I’m faster to start. So that forces me to keep going and be more consistent.

“They try to learn a lot from me but I have a bit to learn from them, too. It’s a big responsibility, but I don’t feel any pressure.”

Eriksson said this second season in GRC Lites will serve as better preparation for any potential Supercars bow.

There aren’t any true rookies in Supercars this year, as there were last year when Sebastian Eriksson – not related – stepped up to OMSE’s Supercars program. Last year it was a Ford program but now it’s the new Honda Civic Coupe effort.

“It was the plan actually. Last year was more of a tryout year. I did some trial races in 2014 and I was always ready for a full season. But it was a learning season,” Oliver Eriksson explained.

“We ended up with the season win, which was over our expectations. Supercars would still be a big step. They thought I could still learn, so I am.”

As noted, the GRC Lites field has changed a bit this year.

Conner Martell, Alex Keyes, Tanner Whitten, Alejandro Fernandez and Collete Davis are among the returnees while rookies like Cabot Bigham, Travis PeCoy, Christian Brooks and the aforementioned Weckstrom and Keatts have made initial impressions in the early stages of this year.

Eriksson said it’s been an evolution for the class, since Cindric and Miles Maroney aren’t also back.

“It’s hard to tell. Last year was really competitive,” he said. “This year, some guys are still here, but the newcomers have come on quick. It’s harder to win this year. It’s a very tight field.”

That being said, Eriksson heads into this weekend’s GRC Lites doubleheader 16 points clear of Martell and Bigham.

He’s won twice in the first five races, and has three podiums.

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

Larson High Limit Eagle
High Limit Racing - Twitter

It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway