By Patrick Rall
The Dodge Dart rally teams finally arrived to race on US soil last week but in the end – the Global RallyCross event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway went just as poorly for the Mopar rallycross cars as the rest of the events this season. The good news is that Travis Pastrana made it through to the final race while Bryce Menzies once again did not. Unfortunately, a tire failure in the final took Travis out of contention shortly after the race began.
The bad luck for the two Dodge Dart rallycross teams started early when both of the Mopar drivers had to run head to head in the third heat race of the day. With only two cars advancing from each heat race, the Darts would have to finish 1-2 to avoid the Last Chance Qualifying race (LCQ).
Travis Pastrana had to start on the back row of heat 3 due to a very poor qualifying time but he managed to equalize that early disadvantage with a big, hard run into the first turn. He got around Tanner Foust and Svere Isachsen as they headed into turn 1 but when Foust drifted out into Travis, he was able to sneak his Ford Fiesta into the top spot. Svere Isachsen also gave the #199 Dart a bump and claimed the second spot while Travis was forced to settle for third and then an early fourth when he took the long-cut Joker turn on the first lap. Travis continued to close in on the leaders until lap 5, when he pulled the car off of the track due to a severe vibration in the chassis. Turns out that there was a bunch of mud packed in the wheels and that caused the vibration…so the lifelong dirt racer removed himself from the race because his tires were too muddy…no joke. This left Menzies to try to claim the second spot from Svere Isachsen but even when the Subaru rally car spun in the final turn, Bryce wasn’t close enough to strike. This meant that both Darts would head into the LCQ for their shot at the final race and the podium.
In the LCQ, Travis Pastrana started on the front row alongside Scott Speed and Bucky Lasek while Menzies started in the back row with Nelson Piquet Jr and Steve Arpin. Speed grabbed the quick lead on the start but Pastrana managed to get into the first set of turns quicker and he took the lead. Menzies tried to follow his teammate into the second spot but Speed shut the door and held onto position 2. Just when things were starting to look up for Menzies, he stalled the car on the crossover turn and caused a huge pile up that saw Speed, Piquet and Lasek come away with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th spot with the top three going into the final. From there on out, it was all Pastrana up front and Menzies did what he had done through the rest of the events this season – going quietly into the night without any real shot at the final. The important part was that in winning, Travis Pastrana was very, very fast and he looked like one to watch in the finals.
In the finals, Travis Pastrana started in the third row and was able to make it up to the 6th spot during the first lap but that was about as good as it got. During the second lap, Pastrana slid off of the crossover turn and flattened the left rear tire which effectively ended his day. He was able to turn in some decent laps for a car on three tires but he was never a factor in the race. Tanner Foust, Patrik Sandell and Toomas Heikkinen spent the 10 laps battling for the top two spots and although Foust dominated the entire race – a last lap, last turn spin took him out of the top spot as Topi Heikkinen drove to an easy win. Foust finished 4th and Fords finished 1-5.
Pastrana was able to finish the final race but he did so one lap down – settling for the 7th spot overall thanks to mechanical issues that took Scott Speed and Bucky Lasek. Bryce Menzies finished in the 11th spot in missing the final race. While there are five GRC races left in the 2013 season, Pastrana’s current position of 11th, 56 points out of the top spot will make it near impossible for him to make a legitimate run at the 2013 GRC championship. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to show up in Munich and earn some points rather than pissing around and running in the back of the NASCAR field the day before the German races.