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Nitro Rallycross Race Preview: Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park

As if the first two rounds of Nitro Rallycross weren’t exciting enough, things are about to get Rowdy this weekend.

Yes, we mean Rowdy, as in NASCAR legend Kyle Busch. After wrapping up the 2021 Cup Series season at Phoenix Raceway last weekend, Busch stuck around in Arizona to make his rallycross debut at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park alongside the sport’s biggest names in the brand new NRX Star Car. Equipped with the same equipment as Subaru Motorsports USA’s Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed, he’ll have a shot at spoiling the championship battle by stealing a win from the deepest field in the sport.

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Scott Speed competes at Nitro Rallycross in Elk River, Minnesota, USA on 3 October, 2021. // SI202110040152 // Usage for editorial use only //

As always, this weekend’s track layout takes the existing course and cranks it up to 11. Built out of Wild Horse Pass’ off-road short course, rather than the road course section that Red Bull Global Rallycross adapted five years ago, this build adds two crossover jumps and a major shortcut with this week’s Joker Lap. Dirt remains the primary racing surface, even taking over the starting grid, unlike last month’s most recent round at ERX Motor Park.

This week will also see some slight tweaks to the racing format, with practice times setting the battle bracket grid rather than single-car qualifying. The final grid will drop to eight Supercars, as just the winner of each heat will move on instead of the top two, and the higher qualifier from day one will get the inside line into Turn 1. The last chance qualifiers will also split into two whenever 15 or more cars show up, as will be the case this weekend.

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Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed celebrating at Nitro Rallycross in Elk River, Minnesota, USA on 3 October, 2021. // SI202110040147 // Usage for editorial use only //

The question will be whether or not the tweaks will favor the momentum that Speed and Pastrana built with a 1-2 at ERX, or if Timmy and Kevin Hansen can counter with another double podium of their own, as was the case in the opener from Utah Motorsports Park. Timmy Hansen and Speed are tied atop the points table with 87, with Kevin Hansen third at 85 and Pastrana fourth at 75; with NRX’s ruthless points format leaving some drivers at zeroes, and just three races to run, it’ll take final appearances by all four to keep the fight close.

Nitro Rallycross action from Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park will stream on Saturday and Sunday afternoon on Peacock, and highlights will air later in the week on NBCSN. After Wild Horse Pass, the series will go straight into the second leg of a back-to-back for the second time this year, heading to Glen Helen Raceway in California on November 20-21.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.