Chase Elliott penalized in Nitro Rallycross debut after finishing first in head-to-head match


One might call it a qualified success, but Chase Elliott simply called his debut in the final round of Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Rallycross “fun”, in an event that saw him cross the finish line first in a head-to-head battle with Tanner Foust only to be penalized for avoidable contact in the final turn.

After winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup championship, Elliott has been trying to get out of his comfort zone and learn new skills in new racing disciplines. With ASHOC as a sponsor and mentorship from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson, Elliott has tried his hand at racing dirt midgets and sprint cars in 2021.

As the year drags to a close, Elliott made a foray into rally racing – and almost pulled off a dramatic win early in Round 5 of the Nitro Rallycross season.

In the three-lap battle, Elliott chased Foust for most of the event. He stayed in contact with the experienced Nitro regular throughout the three-lap race and closed enough to tap his back bumper on the penultimate lap. That gave Elliott the confidence to send his car even harder into the final turn on the white flag lap. Contact with Foust gave Elliott the momentum needed to race to the checkers first.

Race officials saw it a little differently.

Elliott was assessed a penalty for what they deemed avoidable contact. Elliott was denied the win, but his quick maturation in rally racing was remarkable as he learned how to drift, jump and steer his car with a handbrake in the span of those three laps plus practice.

“I appreciate Travis (Pastrana) and everybody for having me,” Chase Elliott said during the broadcast on Peacock. “ASHOC is kind to let me expand my horizons on getting outside of my comfort zone. It’s been a lot of fun and I appreciate their partnership. The learning curve’s been steep. I’ve never driven a car like this before, so that’s a little different. This track does have a lot of asphalt though which is good, I think, for me.

“I’ve never jumped anything that far before, so I was a little nervous about that yesterday. I got to the point where I was like you just got to do it. The longer I sit around here and think about it worse it’s going to get. The learning curve’s been steep, but it’s been fun.”

On his first jump, Elliott sent the car too far down the ramp and buried the nose. On Lap 2, he landed safely in a more optimum zone.

Elliott’s transition from paved racing to short dirt ovals has been interesting, but hardly successful. And while rally racing is certainly not in his comfort zone, it is adjacent with the Firm Raceway in Northern Florida being made up of large swaths of pavement with dirt added on top.

“I’m trying to simplify it,” Elliott said. “With these kind of cars, and having front wheel drive and then having a handbrake – that handbrake is a nice tool to have. Everything you do in this thing when you drive it … drives tight or understeer into the car, so pointing where you need to go is really weird. Anytime I get out of shape, or the car gets at an angle (in a paved racecar). You’re always back steering, whereas in this car a lot of times you might be sideways, but you’re actually still turning towards the turn, or turning the correct way, where normally (I’d) be turned the opposite way.

“It’s very different but a lot of fun, some of the most fun times ever had in a race car.”

In the finale on the second day of racing, Chase Elliott finished last in the eight-car field that was won by Timmy Hansen.

Elliott’s guest appearance in Nitro Rallycross comes two rounds after fellow NASCAR star Kyle Busch narrowly missed the podium in his debut at Wild Horse Pass.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.