Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross (VARX) driver, Scott Speed, scored the only victory of an abbreviated Red Bull Global Rallycross doubleheader weekend at Marine Corps Air Station New River in a rain-soaked Final which tested the limits of drivers’ patience and car control abilities. Sunday’s Final was canceled after lightning and a torrential downpour made conditions unraceable in the afternoon.
The VARX Beetle GRCs started the weekend off with a bang, qualifying 1-2 on Saturday. Tanner Foust won all three of his Heat and Semifinal races, earning an inside starting position for the Final. Speed had a more difficult route, succumbing to a mechanical issue in Heat 1. He secured a spot in the Final by winning the LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier), and started seventh in the main event.
Before the Final, a giant rainstorm rolled over the Air Station, inundating the dirt section of the track with water. Once lightning cleared the area, drivers took their positions on the starting grid for the wet race. Foust got off to a great lead, but Speed had the field’s dynamite start, moving from the third row of the grid to second position behind his teammate after Turn 1.
“I was so surprised to come out of the first corner is second place,” Speed said after the race. “Getting up front early was key to our race, because we were able to avoid most of the mess of everyone driving in that soup.”
While Foust opened up a huge lead to his nearest competitors, Speed became embroiled in a battle for second place, fighting through the mud to gain the upper hand against his rivals. Fans were treated to a spectacular race, with drivers doing everything within their power to keep cars on the slick track.
Foust stayed clean at the front, making it look like a fourth victory in the 2016 Global Rallycross season was inevitable, until the car began to slow halfway through the race.
The team directed Foust to retire, saving his equipment for the next day’s event. Once the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Drink Beetle pulled to the side of the track, it meant that VARX teammate Speed was battling for the lead.
Speed was at the back bumper of the race’s leader on the last lap, when his competitor took the required joker lap on the way to the checkered flag. At the MCAS New River track, the joker is longer than the normal course and Speed managed to get around his rival to earn the victory. The result is the best for the reigning champion since the Los Angeles doubleheader in 2015, and marks the second consecutive event in which the No. 41 Special Operations Warrior Foundation Beetle GRC drive has driven to the front of the pack from the back of the grid.
For his part, Foust regretted the missed opportunity to extend his championship lead with another victory.
“It’s an unfortunate way for us to end the race after showing speed all day,” said Foust. “We were definitely in a position to win, so finishing by the side of the track is a real bummer.”
Although he remains third in the championship, Speed significantly closed the points gap to his teammate with his victory. Almost more important than the championship standings however, was the No. 41 car’s recapture of top step of the podium after such a long hiatus.
“This is such a great way to end the day, and I’m so happy that these fans stuck around to watch this amazing show,” said Speed after accepting his trophy. “I’m glad to get a win under our belts after so much bad luck earlier in this season. It’s a great reward for our hardworking crew.”
The Beetle GRCs were quick once again on Sunday, setting the first and third fastest times in the morning’s qualifying session. Speed and Foust took a victory apiece in their Heat and Semifinal rounds before another giant thunderstorm released a torrent of rain and multiple lighting strikes near the race venue.
Teams took shelter under their awnings while the storm passed, but lingering lightning, and an underwater track made any further racing impossible. Series officials will determine whether Sunday’s Final will be made up in another location, or if the event will merely be stricken from the season schedule.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t get to race today, especially since we were starting from the front again,” said Foust after the rain shower. “Thanks to the fans who stuck with us today. We’ll be ready for the next one.”