Red Bull GRC: Speed wins chaotic, mud-soaked first race at New River

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull GRC
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – After only making it to the finals of Round 6 of the Red Bull Global Rallycross season courtesy of winning the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Scott Speed then proceeded to complete a near last-to-first win in the first of two finals itself at MCAS New River, and secure his first final round win of the season.

The win came in miserable conditions. What had been a picture perfect day turned on a dime with a lightning warning, then heavy rain shower coming in to dump water on the facility and forced an evacuation of the near fully packed grandstands.

Once the rain had subsided even though the track was still wet, the race started after 5:30 p.m. ET and local time (during the live NBC TV broadcast), on a quick turnaround with teams having scrambled to then switch onto BFGoodrich wet weather tires and without a recon lap to see the proceedings in advance of the race.

What followed was then a major test for the 10-car field, and the chaos went throughout the field with mud flying everywhere along with parts of broken cars – thus creating quite a night of work for the majority of the crews before tomorrow’s second race of the MCAS New River doubleheader.

Speed's car. Photo: Tony DiZinno
Speed’s car. Photo: Tony DiZinno

Alas, Speed, driving the No. 41 Special Operations Warrior Foundation Volkswagen Beetle GRC for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, launched out from seventh in the 10-car final round field up to second by the end of Lap 2, where he ran behind then-race leader Tanner Foust, his teammate in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Beetle.

But Foust’s day ended with a mechanical – another potential engine issue – on Lap 5 and it promoted mudslinging veteran Brian Deegan in the No. 38 NOS Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST for Chip Ganassi Rallycross into the lead.

Deegan was poised to secure his first Red Bull GRC win of the year but for the fact he had to take the Joker lap on the 10th and final lap of the final. The Joker hasn’t been a huge time benefit this weekend and with Deegan needing to take it, he lost a bit of ground.

Speed then took the normal line past the jump to go through the final double-apex left-hander into the lead, and the race win by 2.171 seconds.

“We made up a lot at the start, then were crusing around, just trying to keep a good position,” Speed told NBC Sports post-race. “A race like this it is easy to end up in a crash. Deegan used the grass, it was legal, then we made up all the time we lost. We took the joker early, and used that to our advantage in the last lap, last corner.”

Deegan later explained he had had a turbo loss earlier in the race, so he was driving wounded. His CGR teammate Steve Arpin finished third in his No. 00 Jacob Company Ford.

“It actually came down to the first lap. I had an OK start, was like fifth, then dove into the mud section, but there was a Honda stopped in front of me,” Deegan said. “I hit him, that ripped intercooler off, and I lost my turbo first lap. These cars without one are half power. So I raced with a slow car. The straightaway was like losing four car lengths. Salvaging the result was fine but we wanted a win! I think we would have been half a track ahead. Dirt’s my thing, man.”

Arpin added, “My car was in good shape until I went side-by-side with Speed in the dirt. He plastered my windshield with mud. Hit stacks of tires. I just held it to the floor. Boom hit another stack. Had no turbo. It was carnage! But we had a winning car today.”

Patrik Sandell made it from 10th on the grid up to fourth in the No. 18 Kobalt Tools Ford for Bryan Herta Rallysport, courtesy largely of staying out of trouble during the race. Sandell was only promoted into the final after a five-second penalty assessed to Sverre Isachsen in the No. 11 Subaru Rally Team America WRX-STi for a blend lane violation in the LCQ; that dropped Isachsen from third to fifth in the LCQ, and thus the only car out of the final.

Austin Dyne completed the top five in his No. 14 AD Racing Ford but like many others, had quite a bit of damage by the end of the race, and was a lap down.

Sebastian Eriksson limped his No. 93 Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE Civic Coupe home in sixth while all of Joni Wiman, points leader Foust, Jeff Ward (SH Rallycross) and Bucky Lasek (Subaru) were non-finishers.

Miki Weckstrom, meanwhile, was declared the winner of the GRC Lites race in his No. 45 Olsbergs MSE X Forces entry after five completed laps. That race got called early owing to the lightning storms, and was not restarted. Blake “Bilko” Williams and Parker Chase completed the podium, the latter of whom secured his first in GRC Lites.