McConnell becomes Nitro Rallycross’ fourth winner of season in Round 4 at Glen Helen

McConnell Nitro Rallycross 4

Fraser McConnell used the inside line earned from his heat win to nudge points’ leader Robin Larsson wide in Turn 1 and lead all six laps of Nitro Rallycross Round 4 at Glen Helen, Calif. and become the fourth winner of the 2022-23 season.

“I approach every weekend with the same mindset: Trust preparation, execute as best I can,” McConnell told Katy Osborne on “It helps when you have really good support like I did this weekend.

“I was good to bounce back from last week and have a good round, trust the team.”

McConnell finished third behind Travis Pastrana and Larsson in Round 3 at ERX Motor Park in Minnesota.

One of the most important bits of strategy in short course rally racing is when to take the Joker Lap – an extended trip around the track that is designed to allow competitors to create separation between the cars. Larsson was the first driver to Joker, an indication that he believed he had a faster car than McConnell and could gain ground by staying out of the leader’s rooster tail of dust.

As Larsson rejoined the main track, he trailed the leader by a little less than six seconds, which might have been close enough to grab the lead when McConnell was forced to take the longer line around the track. Heavy pressure from behind by Kevin Eriksson trimmed fractions of seconds off Larsson’s lap times over the next five laps.

How to Watch Nitro Rallycross

Meanwhile, McConnell held off Round 2 winner Andreas Bakkerud at the front of the field with a margin that was just enough to keep the pressure from building.

Running first through third, McConnell, Andreas Bakkerud and Oliver Eriksson waited until the last lap to Joker. For McConnell, it could have gone terribly wrong. He clipped the inside berm as he made a sharp left turn to slip under the gap jump, losing momentum slightly.

With Larsson coming with a head of steam, slight mistakes get multiplied.

McConnell rejoined the main track with inches to spare and gained a little advantage when Bakkerud lightly nudged Larsson’s right rear fender.

Any mistake on the final lap would have been disastrous since they were covered by a slim margin of three seconds and in the final turns, McConnell almost over rotated twice as he found and pushed the edge of grip of the Dryer Reinbold No. 35.

Larsson’s second-place finish was enough to allow him to keep the points’ lead.

“I was so sure I got a puncture in Corner 1 on Lap 5 right when I needed to do the push,” Larsson said. “I had to get really defensive with Kevin [Eriksson] behind me for that whole lap. I’m so disappointed and hopefully no one watches the on board after the finish line, because there were some Swedish ‘words’. ”

Bakkerud rounded out the podium in third.

The winner of Round 3 Pastrana was unable to take the final spot in the feature.

Brian Deegan joined the field for Nitro Rallycross’ side by side race and won ahead of Pastrana on Saturday by less than .04 seconds.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”