Red Bull GRC: Loenbro Motorsports launches own Supercar program

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The Chip Ganassi Rallycross program will now be known as Loenbro Motorsports, owing to Loenbro’s increased commitment to Red Bull Global Rallycross and a drawdown for Ganassi to instead focus on its core programs elsewhere in racing, NBC Sports has learned.

Loenbro Motorsports announced plans to field its own multi-car effort in GRC’s Supercars class this year on Tuesday, with Steve Arpin continuing and a second driver to be confirmed at a later date in a pair of Fords.

A Ganassi team spokesperson confirmed Ganassi is no longer involved with this effort, which will still be based in Charlotte but at a different shop.

The 2017 Red Bull GRC season will be Loenbro’s third in an ownership position and fifth year overall within the series. The last two years, Loenbro was co-owner of Loenbro Chip Ganassi Racing and has now fused into the new Loenbro Motorsports banner.

“We’re excited to build upon the incredibly successful foundation that we’ve laid in Red Bull GRC,” Paul Leach, who owns the team with his brother, Jon Leach, said in a release. “We made big gains from the creation of this team in 2015 into the 2016 season, and we’re laser-focused on continuing to improve this year.”

Arpin, who won his first Red Bull GRC final at Daytona last year and finished fourth in points behind teammate Brian Deegan, has had Loenbro support for years. The Montana-based company has locations in seven Western plains states, and is an energy services company specializing in Pipeline, Industrial Construction, Insulation, Inspection, Fabrication & Oilfield Services.

He explained how he and Loenbro’s relationship has come together and how they will now move forward under this banner.

“They’ve saw the inner workings of motorsports, both good and bad,” Arpin told NBC Sports. “They saw an opportunity; they saw the potential of Red Bull Global Rallycross as well as a chance to come in and change the mindset.

“We partnered with Ganassi our first two years. As we got to 2017, we still have a great relationship. They’ll focus on their core business of NASCAR in Charlotte, and IndyCar/IMSA from their Indianapolis shop.”

Arpin said the program will continue with the same core personnel, led by lead engineer Carl Goodman. With Deegan and Arpin finishing third and fourth in points last year, the independent team was best of the rest among the privateers, behind the factory-backed Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team that went 1-2 last year.

“It’s a different shop. But the reality of it is that it’s the same exact program, where we retained our key people. Everyone came with it,” Arpin said.

“It’s the same truck/trailer and same cars; it’s just a different shop, 10 minutes up the road, and is Loenbro Motorsports instead of Loenbro Chip Ganassi Racing.

“For us, it’s an open dialogue with Ganassi. We’ll still have the potential to get together with the team in the future.”

Arpin is hopeful the Loenbro Motorsports team will get two tests in before the season opener at Memphis in late April, but if they only get one, they’ll try to have one be “extremely productive.”

Considering the strides he and the team made in 2016 from 2015, they’re optimistic of more growth and progression this year.

“We had a lot of down time between ’15 and ’16, and we weren’t able to do a lot of things yet,” Arpin explained. “With Loenbro making such an early commitment this year, we can get the bull by the horns and say ‘Let’s go do this.’ When we finished 2016, we were laser focused on the next steps and progression. Now it’s asking what we can do better at, with all the right people and the early commitment. It’s gonna be a lot of fun to get testing.”

Arpin’s relationship with Loenbro is more than just being a driver; he’s also developed a business relationship with them.

“I love it. I see it as a long-term career opportunity,” he said. “I’m intrigued by what happens behind the scenes and what makes professional race teams. So much happens to get there.

“There’s two rushes for me. First and foremost getting behind the wheel. Then it’s getting together the planning side of it, working with partners, and figuring out unique, creative ways to deliver more to the partners. That’s it’s own type of rush.”

The two-car Loenbro confirmation joins other multi-car efforts announced from Andretti and Subaru. Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE is yet to reveal its 2017 program yet, while Bryan Herta Rallysport is expected to announce its replacement for Patrik Sandell on Wednesday.

Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.