24 August 2015

GRC Lites Race Preview: Washington DC presented by Volkswagen

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IN BRIEF: The second half of the longest season in GRC Lites history kicks off on a brand new course at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. Five drivers have taken victories in the first six rounds of the season, meaning nearly half the field could walk out of this weekend’s event with the championship lead.

TUNE IN INFORMATION:

Wednesday, August 19, 4:30PM ET on NBCSN
NBC Sports Group will be offering live streaming of the Global Rallycross Washington DC race through the NBC Sports Live Extra app via desktop, mobile and tablet.

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LAST RACE: Tanner Whitten and Miles Maroney split the two Detroit races at the end of last month, with each driver taking his first victory of the 2015 season. But it was Austin Cindric who walked out of the weekend as the big winner—with a pair of third-place finishes, he reclaimed the championship lead from Whitten.

DRIVER CHANGES: Rhys Millen Racing pares down to a single entry in DC, with Blas Zapag jumping into Harry Cheung’s car, while Gavin Harlien will skip this weekend’s event as well. Meanwhile, Joachim Hvaal will join the GRC Lites field for the first time in a third Olsbergs MSE entry.

THE TRACK: At .980 miles and with nine turns, the new RFK Stadium layout is significantly larger, faster, and wider than last year’s course and one of the longest in Red Bull GRC history. The dirt jump also returns after being utilized in at three of this season’s events. Click here for more information on the track.

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TITLE RACE GETS TIGHTER AND TIGHTER: When Tanner Whitten fell out of the second Detroit race due to contact with Alejandro Fernandez, it opened the door for his championship rivals to make up some ground. Unfortunately for the DirtFish Motorsports driver, they did just that; Miles Maroney won the race, with Fernandez second and Austin Cindric third, and all three passed him in the championship standings. The good news for Whitten? The spread between all four drivers is 16 points. Add Oliver Eriksson at 31 points back of the lead and this weekend’s action will be pivotal to determining this year’s champion.

SPORTS CAR-STYLE COURSE SUITS TOP LITES DRIVERS: This weekend’s Washington DC course shares characteristics with an American Le Mans Series race held at RFK Stadium 15 years ago, making it one of the most road racing-type courses on the circuit this year. That’s good news for some of the top drivers in the series; Miles Maroney was the youngest driver in ALMS history when he debuted in the series at 17, while Austin Cindric races Ford Mustangs in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Tanner Whitten has raced Porsches for Isringhausen Motorsports.

ALI RETURNS TO SECOND HOMETOWN: AF Racing’s Nur Ali is no stranger to Washington DC, a city which he refers to as his “second hometown.” A graduate of American University, Ali takes a keen interest in politics, having served as an intern for Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) during his college years before moving on to an impressive career in open wheel racing, stock cars, and most recently GRC Lites. Ali is also coming off of a career-best fourth place finish in Detroit.

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QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Washington DC presented by Volkswagen:

Miles Maroney, #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: “At this point I’ve actually grown quite fond of the dirt parts of the circuits, so I’m always excited to see the track layouts no matter what. On the heels of our performance in Detroit, to say I’m excited to get to DC would be an understatement and I’m looking forward to getting back to work at RFK. Knowing that it involves elements of a sports car track is just icing on the cake.”

Tanner Whitten, #15 DirtFish Motorsports: “After finally taking our first win in Detroit I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders as well as the teams. We knew from round one that we had what it took to run up front. But it's just so hard to win these events with how stacked the competition is this year, so taking that first win means so much to me. Coming into DC I don't feel any more pressure than I have all year. We know we have the speed and we have the clean race raft to back it up. So we just need to stay clean the rest of the year and we will be right back up there by the finale in Las Vegas.”

Nur Ali, #42 AF Racing: “From what I saw on the map, I think if I can capitalize on what I did at Detroit and take it to the next level mentally and I guess as a driver, I think we can do better this weekend. It’s just a matter of getting used to this whole program, the car, and everything else that’s been in the works. I think it’s a benefit for me and my team and myself that if the cards fall in the right place, I think this could be a good opportunity for us to maybe take a podium this weekend.”

IN BRIEF: The second half of the 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross season commences with a return to Washington DC, marking the series’ second-ever visit to the nation’s capital. Patrik Sandell, winner of the previous Red Bull GRC round in Detroit, also enters this weekend’s event as defending champion.

TUNE IN INFORMATION:

Saturday, August 15, 3PM ET on NBC and liveextra.nbcsports.com
NBC Sports Group will be offering live streaming of the Global Rallycross Washington DC race through the NBC Sports Live Extra app via desktop, mobile and tablet.

LAST RACE: Ken Block and Patrik Sandell split last month’s doubleheader round in Detroit, though Sandell could have easily swept both races if not for a driveshaft failure in the Saturday final. Scott Speed and Sebastian Eriksson finished second and third, respectively, in both of the Detroit main events.

DRIVER CHANGES: This weekend’s 12-driver field will be significantly different from Detroit’s doubleheader round. Nine of that event’s drivers will return, with Jeff Ward replacing Brian Deegan at Chip Ganassi Racing, Pat Moro making his first points-paying start of the season with his own Chevrolet Sonic, and Logan Gomez joining Royal Purple Racing.

THE TRACK: At .980 miles and with nine turns, the new RFK Stadium layout is significantly larger, faster, and wider than last year’s course and one of the longest in Red Bull GRC history. The dirt jump also returns after being utilized in at three of this season’s events. Click here for more information on the track.

HOME EVENT FOR VOLKSWAGEN: Event presenting sponsor Volkswagen’s American headquarters are located in Herndon, Virginia, just minutes away from this weekend’s event site in Washington DC. At this event last year, the manufacturer unveiled the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetle that Tanner Foust and Scott Speed have campaigned in the 2015 Red Bull GRC season, taking victories at X Games Austin and Daytona International Speedway.

SANDELL BREAKS STREAK OF BAD LUCK: Defending Washington DC race winner Patrik Sandell posted fast laps throughout the first half of the Red Bull GRC season, but an unlucky cocktail of incidents, red flags, and mechanical failures prevented him from taking a victory until the second race in Detroit. A first-lap red flag that came after Sandell took contact from behind from Ken Block reset the field, and Sandell took advantage of the restart to take a lead he would never relinquish.

SEASON DEBUTS FOR MORO, GOMEZ: Pat Moro will make his first Red Bull GRC championship race start since last year’s season finale in Las Vegas, and his second appearance of the year after the X Games invitational, this weekend with the PMR Motorsports Chevrolet Sonic. Meanwhile, former Indy Lights driver Logan Gomez will trade in his headset as Austin Dyne’s spotter for the Royal Purple Racing Ford Fiesta, making his Supercar debut.

QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Washington DC presented by Volkswagen:

Jeff Ward, #360 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Fiesta ST: “There are about three pretty hard braking areas. I like braking hard, and there’s two or three sections here that are set up for that. It’s like a road course—the dirt’s all straight unless they put dirt in that corner, but it’s basically a road course. So there’s a lot of hard braking, you just have to nail the apex right and get the car to get enough grip off the corners. It’s going to be hard to pass.”

Logan Gomez, #77 Royal Purple Racing Ford Fiesta ST: “Since this will be my first time driving a Supercar, I just want to focus on making the final. With only a few short practice sessions to get a feel for the car, it will be important to get up to speed quickly. Anything can happen in these races as I have witnessed while spotting for Austin Dyne this year. He's done a great job being consistent and is third in points after making every final. Hopefully we can have a good race here in DC and bring the car home in the top five. Of course, this is rallycross and anything can happen!”

Pat Moro, #59 PMR Motorsports Chevrolet Sonic: “Usually when there are bigger tracks they’re faster tracks, and right now we know we’re not on the same power level as the other guys. But we think the car actually corners better than some of the other cars. This track is probably going to hurt us, but then again you have to go out and you have to get a measurement. We have to use this as a gauge to see when we go back what changes that we can make with limited funds that we have, where the best area to put the remaining money that we have is.”