With the throng of Dutch fans making the quick trip to Spa to support Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, they were instead left to watch the teenager incur another retirement in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix while teammate Daniel Ricciardo again seized the opportunity at his disposal for a surprise podium finish.
Verstappen had his sixth retirement in 12 races this season in the Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged Red Bull just on Lap 8. He slowed on course and exited La Source, then limping up the hill through Eau Rouge before parking on the side of the track, driver’s right – game over.
“I’m very disappointed. I can’t believe it keeps happening. Six times this year. Fifty percent retirement,” Verstappen lamented to NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe these things happen. I’m competing against Fernando (Alonso) in terms of retirements.
Ricciardo, quite by contrast, parlayed Verstappen’s retirement and Kimi Raikkonen’s 10-second stop-and-go penalty for failing to slow down in a yellow flag zone into another podium finish himself.
Following a restart from the Safety Car period when Sahara Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashed, Ricciardo and Raikkonen swallowed Valtteri Bottas at the end of the Kemmel Straight, in a move reminiscent of Mika Hakkinen’s famous overtake on Michael Schumacher in the 2000 race where Ricardo Zonta got swallowed wholely.
Ricciardo then pulled away from Raikkonen the rest of the race by several seconds to score the surprise podium result.
“That was huge. Max dropped out early. I know it’s full of Dutchies. Thanks for hanging around – we all do!” Ricciardo said on the podium.
“Kimi had a penalty so we got into fourth. Had good mid-race pace, then the Safety Car came at the right time. We had an opportunity and great to capitalize on it with Valtteri on the restart.”
The podium is Ricciardo’s sixth of the year, matching Verstappen’s DNF number.
Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.
“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”
But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.
After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.
Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”
The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.
And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.
It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.
“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”
Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.
The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.
“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”
And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.
“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.