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GRC Season Review: Brian Deegan, Part 2

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

With a pair of third place finishes at Texas and X Games, Brian Deegan managed to recover quickly from missing the main event of the Global Rallycross Championship season opener. Texas saw him complete a 1-2-3 sweep for Olsbergs MSE and Ford, while X Games saw him beat all of his teammates to the finish line.

But Deegan really turned up the heat in the second half of the season. Beating teammate and points leader Tanner Foust to the line at New Hampshire put him third in the overall standings, as well as tied with Foust for the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup heading into Las Vegas. Soon enough, the entire season was reduced to a head-to-head battle between the Rockstar Energy-sponsored teammates; Deegan, despite having far less seat time, took the fight to Foust all the way to the end, coming out of the season second in points with runner-up finishes in the final two rounds.

In the second part of our season review, Deegan talks about when he realized he could win the championship, overcoming adversity to finish second at SEMA, and his goals and expectation for the 2013 season, both for himself and the series:

New Hampshire marked your third podium in a row. You came out of there third in points, one point off of second, and still well within the championship race thanks to the drop rule. Was that when you felt like you really had a shot at winning the championship, or did you feel that way earlier in the year too?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

I would say New Hampshire was one of the points where I was like “yeah, alright, you’re in the game. Kind of a dark horse, the underdog, and just go out there and lay it down, go for the win.” I had some things going on where I came in late and didn’t get a day of practice, so that put me behind the ball. But I just drove consistent, didn’t do anything crazy, and I drove my pace. I feel like if I just drive my pace, drive my skill level, that’s a good, easy third place all day long. And if I push a little harder, and everything goes right for me, I have a shot at the win. So I really just played it smart there, drove my pace, and ended up third. But it really started crossing my mind (there) that, “hey, you’ve gotta start winning some races and getting in the mix if you want to win this thing.”

The last two races were very much looked at as a head-to-head battle between you and teammate Tanner Foust, both for the championship and the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup. Looking at things that way, did you learn anything about racing your teammate in Vegas that you tried to apply to SEMA?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Yeah. At Vegas out there, we had a good race. I feel like Tanner’s always consistent, and that’s the hardest thing to beat, but he did have a few races that he didn’t have such good outcomes because he gets a little too aggressive sometimes and he drives the wheels off the car. But you’ve gotta know, he’s always going to get a good start and he’s always going to be in the game. He’s always going to be a front runner, so he’s a hard guy to beat, you know? I think with all the time that guy has in a car, you know, he’s probably like how I feel when I get on a dirtbike. I don’t have to think, it just happens. And he’s a tough guy to beat, because he’s got a lot of seat time.

But come next year, he’s my focus, and I really, really want to become a better driver than him. That’s my goal, and it’s a high goal, I know. But I believe I can do it. I came close this year without a lot of testing or practice. I mean, the only time I ever drove the car was at the races. Those guys get to race overseas, they get to do testing, and for me, I was still trying to figure out what the gauges did at this point. So next year, Ford’s backing me bigtime, and I’m going to have a lot more test days next year. I should come in really ready to win by the first round.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Your Tuesday heat race at SEMA didn’t end anywhere near as well as you hoped, with the flat tire. What happened to cause that, and how did the resulting championship implication affect how you approached the rest of the race?

Unfortunately, (in) these races, you have to qualify first. The start position is so critical. And for me, I started off in my qualifier and had a pretty good start coming in there, and the first turn, the same guy—(Sverre) Isachsen, the guy in the Subaru, does the same thing every time. He comes in the first turn and runs into everyone hoping he can spin someone out and get to the front. He did it to me and ended up blowing my tire off the wheel. And there’s nothing you can do about it when that happens, it’s just racing. I can’t stop what they’re going to do. And it put me out of it.

I just kept a calm head. Everyone was panicking, going “oh no, oh no,” and I’m like, “hey, it is what it is. I can’t change what happened. All I can do is stay calm, get the car fixed, and let’s get out there and win this last chance.” And that’s what I did. I got back up there and won the last chance.

The only problem is, it started snowballing. And once you start snowballing, something like that, now I had to start dead last in the main. Worst spot ever, you know? And for me, I was like “alright, you do the best that you can.” Honestly, all I could hope for was a mechanical from Tanner to win the championship at that point. But I knew he was going to get a good start. He had the best starting position, he did everything he had to do to have a perfect day, you know?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

So I came in there and came off the start, not a good start, was running midpack. I picked the joker lane way too early. And luckily, after Ken Block caught on fire, they red flagged the race. They tried to say, “oh, no, we’re just going to end the race right there.” I saw the race promoter and I was like “there’s no way you’re ending this race right now. There are thousands of people in the stands, all the heads of all the companies are here from SEMA. This has to end in a climactic finish for the well being of the sport.” And he’s like “alright, alright, let’s go back to the starting line.” I thought alright, a few more laps, but they did a complete restart, and it was a perfect scenario for me.

I got back to the last starting position and said “alright, all or nothing.” I came off the start, and while everyone hit the brakes, I kept gassing it. I went from last up to side by side with Tanner in the lead! (laughs) I watched the tape after that, and it was one of the first turn moves that I’ve ever seen, that I’ve ever pulled off. I came from last up to battle with Tanner, and then I had too much speed. (I) spun a little, broke traction, ended up squeezing the line around fourth place, and came around for the joker lap. Luckily, the top three took the joker—I went long and took the regular lap, they took the shortcut, and I just did the best lap that I could. I came back around and I took the joker that lap, did the joker perfectly, and I came out right by Tanner. A little bit quicker, I probably could’ve got Tanner, at least got beside him, and I came out and got on Tanner, and I drove as hard as I possibly could. I knew to get next to him and get with him to at least rub on him, and he had a car length on me the whole race. I did everything I could to catch him.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The bottom line is, having to go through the last chance, and these cars—there are a lot of things that snowballed for me with tires going away and the heat in the car—just having to race the last chance and not being able to prep your car for the final at all snowballed on me. And the best I could do was what I did. I got second, and that was all I had that night. I left there going “hey, you did pretty damn good. You really salvaged something there for what you had.” Second sucks, but Tanner’s a good driver, and it gives me a goal for next year.

How close were you to running down Tanner for the lead at the end of the final? Was there anything else you could’ve done?

Nah. Every time I pushed a little harder, would brake a little later, I would slide. And there’s a point that Marcus Gronholm, master of racing, explained to me one day. He doesn’t give me a lot of tips, I just think it’s the Euro style to keep it to themselves, (but) he told me one day, “when you charge into a turn, and your car slides, it’s for one reason: you came into the corner too fast.” And that was exactly what was happening to me the whole race. Every time I would try to go a little faster into the turn to catch Tanner, I would slide and lose time. And so I was stuck in this mode of, “that’s as good as these tires are going to go. That’s as fast as I can go with these tires without sliding everywhere.” And it’s crazy, you know? I’ve learned more and more about tire wear over the last season, and there’s a trick to it. I still have to learn all of those tricks, but like I said, that’s the best I could do with the car I had.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Finally, the series went through an incredible transformation from the first race of the championship to the end at SEMA. There were changes in track construction, the jump, and certainly in safety. Of all of the changes that we saw over the course of the season, what did you think was the biggest improvement the series made? What are your thoughts on next year?

I would say what was good towards the end was the fire safety trucks were more on the track. We finally got a fire safety truck next to the jump, because that 10-15 second delay to get there could be life or death, and those are the biggest changes that I appreciated. Coming next year, I think the guy that owns the series now, that’s a good friend of mine, Colin Dyne—he comes from a racing background. He was into IndyCar, he knows about NASCAR, he’s going to turn this thing into a serious series. It’s going to be really good. And I think the big change next year (is) it’s going to turn into more of an exciting show, and a race. It’s going to be more about the racing, it’s going to be theatrical, and it’s going to just be an awesome show. And that’s what I see it moving to next year, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Check out Brian Deegan on Twitter @mmgeneral and Instagram @briandeegan38. Also be sure to check out his Facebook, YouTube, and website for all things related to the General.

—Chris Leone

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GRC Race Review: Foust Takes Win, $25,000 Bonus In Las Vegas

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

With $25,000, bragging rights, and a nearly insurmountable lead in the championship on the line, Tanner Foust came through with his first win of the Global Rallycross Championship season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last night. By beating Olsbergs MSE teammate Brian Deegan to the finish line, Foust also secured the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, awarded to the top driver in a three-race mini-championship that also included rounds in Texas and New Hampshire.

Foust, who scored two wins in the European Rallycross Championship earlier this season, elected to skip the ERC season finale in Germany in order to go for the $25,000 bonus that comes with the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup. While he gave up second in ERC points to Liam Doran, who elected to skip the GRC race and took home the victory elsewhere, Foust extended his points lead to 16 over Deegan and mathematically eliminated the rest of the field from title competition.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

In qualifying, Foust, Ken Block, and Travis Pastrana laid down the three fastest times, meaning they would start on pole in their three respective heats. Foust, Sverre Isachsen, Bucky Lasek, Dave Mirra, and Richard Burton comprised the first heat; Block, Rhys Millen, Andreas Eriksson, David Binks, and Pat Moro made up the second heat; and Pastrana, Toomas Heikkinen, Brian Deegan, Samuel Hubinette, and Stephan Verdier made up the third heat.

Burton would not complete the first heat, locking his wheels up before the jump and hitting the safety barrier head on at the edge of the landing pad. Burton was removed from the car via stretcher, complaining of a sore back, but all tests were negative.

Foust and Isachsen advanced from the first heat, Block and Millen advanced from the second heat, and Deegan and Heikkinen moved on from the third heat. Eriksson, substituting for Marcus Gronholm, seemed primed to move on in the second heat before losing control in the final dirt turn and yielding the lead; earlier in that heat, Binks went into the dirt corner too aggressively to lose a position to Millen. Pastrana also failed to advance immediately despite winning his heat, after accidentally taking the shortcut twice and earning himself a 30 second penalty.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

The last chance qualifier sent four drivers to the final: Eriksson and Pastrana, who both made up for their mistakes in the preliminary heats, as well as Verdier and Lasek. Verdier rebounded strongly after a poor start left him eighth going into the first corner; meanwhile, for Lasek, it was his first final appearance of the season after a few instances.

For Hubinette and Binks, it was the first time that either of them missed a final all season, greatly affecting their championship hopes. Binks and Mirra had issues in the first corner that left them at the back of the pack, while Hubinette’s Saab suffered mechanical failure.

In the final, Block and Eriksson had issues through the first corner, while the field split the shortcut and gap jump evenly on the first lap. From there, Foust paced Deegan to the end, while Isachsen edged Heikkinen for third. Pastrana suffered an engine failure in the final to take him out early. The biggest gainer in the final was Verdier, who spent most of the race at the back before taking the shortcut late and stealing fifth place.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

Last night’s results and points totals were:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 20+1 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 17+1
  3. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 15
  4. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 13
  5. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 12
  6. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 11
  7. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 10+1
  8. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 9
  9. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8
  10. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 7
  11. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 6
  12. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 5
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 4
  14. David Binks, #17 Ford, 3
  15. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 2

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The final results of the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup are:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 53 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 50
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 33
  4. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 32
  5. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 31
  6. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 30
  7. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 26
  8. David Binks, #17 Ford, 24
  9. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 24
  10. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 21
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 19
  12. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 17
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 16
  14. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 15
  15. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 15
  16. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 13
  17. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8
  18. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 5
  19. Filipe Albuquerque, #99 Dodge, 1
  20. Jimmy Keeney, #418 Subaru, 0

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The overall point standings are now as follows:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 83 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 67
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 55
  4. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 51
  5. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 51
  6. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 48
  7. David Binks, #17 Ford, 45
  8. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 43
  9. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 41
  10. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 39
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 38
  12. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 28
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 27
  14. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 27
  15. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 21
  16. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 21
  17. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 18
  18. David Higgins, #75 Subaru, 10
  19. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8
  20. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 5
  21. Tim Rooney, #47 Subaru, 4
  22. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 2
  23. Filipe Albuquerque, #99 Dodge, 1
  24. Jimmy Keeney, #418 Subaru, 0

– Chris Leone

GRC Preview: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook/Photo credit: Jeff Speer

Despite the absences of Marcus Gronholm due to injury and Liam Doran and Andy Scott to the European Rallycross Championship finale, this weekend’s Global Rallycross Championship event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway should feature a minimum of 15 cars after a short field of 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This weekend’s entry list includes:

  • No. 3, Andreas Eriksson, Best Buy Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 11, Sverre Isachsen, Puma Subaru Impreza, Subaru Puma Rallycross Team
  • No. 12, Stephan Verdier, Disney XD/Motorcity Hyundai Veloster, Rhys Millen Racing
  • No. 17, David Binks, eBay Motors Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 34, Tanner Foust, Rockstar Energy/Etnies Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 38, Brian Deegan, Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 40, Dave Mirra, Puma Subaru Impreza, Subaru Puma Rallycross Team
  • No. 41, Richard Burton, Gumball STI Subaru Impreza, Gumball STI
  • No. 43, Ken Block, Monster Energy/DC Shoes Ford Fiesta, Monster World Rally Team
  • No. 57, Toomas Heikkinen, Bluebeam Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 59, Pat Moro, Venom Energy/In-Vest USA Subaru Impreza, PMR Motorsports/Michael Crawford Motorsports
  • No. 67, Rhys Millen, Hyundai Racing Hyundai Veloster, Rhys Millen Racing
  • No. 77, Samuel Hubinette, Eneos Oil Saab 9-3, Scott-Eklund Racing
  • No. 81, Bucky Lasek, Puma Subaru Impreza, Subaru Puma Rallycross Team
  • No. 199, Travis Pastrana, Red Bull/Discount Tire Dodge Dart, Pastrana199 Racing

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

This event will mark the first start of the season for Eriksson, who scored 37 points in two events last year, while it will mark the first race for Heikkinen since his disqualification at Texas. Millen will also return to the series after skipping the New Hampshire round during the launch stages of Formula Cross. There has been no word on if Pastrana199 Racing will enter a second Dodge Dart as it did in Texas and X Games, or if they will remain a one-car team as when Travis Pastrana took the victory at New Hampshire.

Drivers will also be competing for the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup bonus, which counts each driver’s results from Texas, New Hampshire, and Las Vegas. Currently, Olsbergs MSE teammates Foust and Deegan are tied for the lead with 32 points apiece, while Hubinette (28 points) and Pastrana (23) are also within striking distance. For an in-depth breakdown of how drivers can win the championship, click here.

Image via Global Rallycross Championship

The track layout is once again .77 miles long, but features some significant changes from the previous NASCAR tri-oval layouts at Charlotte and Texas. The jump is now at the exit of NASCAR pit road, while the shortcut actually takes drivers through the gap jump, as had been the plan at X Games. Dirt also returns, as part of the Legends track within the tri-oval will feature the clayish mixture from X Games and slight banking. For more analysis on the layout from Stephan Verdier, click here.

ESPN3 will broadcast the race live online at 11:30 PM ET on Saturday. ESPN2 will show the race again on television at 6 PM ET on Sunday.

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Foust, Deegan Tied For Lead In Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Six drivers are within 11 points of the lead in the three-race Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, the $25,000 “championship within a championship” that the Global Rallycross Championship will award after the completion of Saturday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Through the first two races at Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Olsbergs MSE teammates Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan share the lead in the standings with 32 points apiece. Scott-Eklund Racing’s Samuel Hubinette ranks third with 28 points, while Travis Pastrana holds fourth place with 23. Behind them, three drivers—Ken Block, David Binks, and the still-inactive Marcus Gronholm—share fifth place with 21 points each.

Theoretically, any of these six drivers could walk out of Vegas with the $25,000 bonus.

Foust and Deegan are the likely favorites, given their consistency all season. Foust scored finishes of second at Texas and fourth in Loudon, while Deegan placed third in both events. They’re also the only two drivers in the series to win heats in both events.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Pastrana and Hubinette both established themselves as legitimate threats for the bonus at New Hampshire after finishing 1-2 in both their heat race and the final. For Pastrana, the victory was a relief after a series of DNFs in the first three events; for Hubinette, it was the realization of untapped potentials after multiple mechanical failures while running at the front of the pack at Texas and X Games.

For Block and Binks, the road has been a bit more difficult. Each has scored a fifth and an eighth place finish in the two previous bonus events, leaving them 11 points back of the lead. The position must be especially frustrating for Binks, who had been running exceptionally well at Loudon before a broken driveshaft ended his final early.

Two other drivers—Stephan Verdier and Andy Scott—are tied for eighth with 19 points apiece and could mathematically steal the title, but Scott announced on Wednesday that he would not race at Las Vegas. As for Verdier, he’d need a lot of help; to start, either Foust or Deegan would have to miss the final, while the other would have to finish 10th without winning a heat. Beyond that, the other drivers ahead would have to miss the podium in almost every case.

– Chris Leone

Brian Deegan: “There’s No Strategy Besides Being The Fastest Guy”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Brian Deegan’s career accomplishments speak for themselves. He has more than a dozen X Games medals, mostly in the sport of Freestyle Motocross; he’s one of the quickest rising stars in off-road racing, challenging for his third consecutive Lucas Oil Driver of the Year award; and he’s one of the most skilled drivers in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship, having taken three consecutive podium finishes and ranking third in points through four events.

And yet out of all of the drivers in the GRC, Deegan may be the closest to resembling the traditional racing champion in mindset. Heavily focused on his craft, the 37-year-old Omaha native attacks rallycross with the same razor-sharp precision that has allowed him to be so successful on both two wheels and four. Any driver can talk about winning races, but Deegan knows that the job is simple: be the fastest competitor out there.

With two races left on the GRC schedule, the time is now for Deegan to show that speed. Earlier today, he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with us about translating skills from one sport to another, his Olsbergs MSE team, and facing off with teammate Tanner Foust for the championship:

First question: you’ve been plenty busy this season, not only with Global Rallycross but also with the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, where you lead the Pro 2 points. What does it take to be competitive in multiple series over the course of a given year?

I just focus on being an all-over good athlete at multiple things. Having the foundation of growing up a motocross racer has been my best skill set, and I’m just able to really study who are the best guys and why they’re the best. And I study video, and I read a lot of books on racing. I just do my homework, I go out there, and I go out to win. That’s what’s in my head, and that’s why I feel like I’ve been able to dominate at multiple sports.

Looking back at New Hampshire—it was the first time that the GRC was able to get dirt involved on a NASCAR track, as well as adding an elevated hairpin over the pit wall. In short, it was perhaps the most unique layout of the season. What were some of the biggest challenges on that track?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

For me, I’d say it was when they put the dirt on the track—it adds more of a challenge so it isn’t just a road course race. I think once the sand got kicked out onto the track it made it real slick, and that was the most challenging. Then they built that jump down the front straightaway, that just shot you straight up in the air and landed you out in the flat-on pavement. That one was a pretty brutal landing.

You’re one of three drivers tied for second in the series with three heat wins, including one at New Hampshire. How important has scoring that front row starting spot for the final been this year?

Rally’s such a short race, it’s just like a sprint, so you really need to get on the front row to have a chance at winning. It’s a short race, so I feel like that starts with qualifying and getting on the front row. It’s all about clean, good starts. I feel like from motocross I have the advantage of being a good starter, and that’s been my specialty.

You had to race teammate Tanner Foust down the final straightaway for third place at New Hampshire. Does the Ford team usually take it easier with one another, or is it every man for himself in the final?

It’s every man for himself, you know? It’s racing, and there’s a lot of guys on that team. You know, actually, Tanner’s helped me a lot. Out of all the guys, he’s helped me the most. But when we’re on the track, he’s a competitor, and we have to try to beat each other. That’s our job.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Loudon marked your third consecutive podium finish. The only exception this season has been Charlotte, where you had mechanical issues despite winning your first heat race. Do you think about Charlotte and wonder where you’d be in the championship if that hadn’t happened, or do you put it out of your mind?

The thing is, a lot of people don’t know that they let you drop one race in the GRC series. As of now, I get to drop my worst race, so I get to drop that race. So right now, me and Tanner are pretty much battling for the championship.

As it stands, you’re third in points right now, 13 out of the lead and only one behind Samuel Hubinette in second place. With two races left, how does that affect how you approach the end of the season? Are you confident that you can make up that deficit, and will you drive more aggressively to do so?

I’m going to try to win the last two races. That’s what I’m here to do, and I feel like that’s what I’m going to go to the track to do. That’s what I do in all the other series I try to race; I’m here to win. So there’s no strategy besides just going out and trying to be the fastest guy.

Las Vegas adds new modifications to the layout from Charlotte and Texas, adding six-degree banked dirt in the NASCAR infield and putting the shortcut through the gap jump. Have you looked at the new layout? What do you like about it?

Yeah, I think it’s good! Any time you can add dirt and the jumping over each other on the gap jump, I think the crowd really likes that. So I think that’s a good weekend for the sport.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Fords scored five of the six podium spots at Charlotte and Texas, and Las Vegas is similarly tight. What about the Fiesta makes them so good on the smaller tracks?

I just feel like (Olsbergs MSE) have put the most time and improvements into the Ford Fiestas. You can just tell the team is a league above all the others. (But) I feel like everyone’s catching up, and the other teams are getting harder to beat, and our advantages are getting shortened every race. It’s just up to Andreas (Eriksson) and the other guys to run the team and keep us ahead as far as technology goes.

Finally, you’re tied with Foust for the lead in the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, which concludes at Las Vegas. Are you thinking about the bonus, and does it make you view the race as sort of a head-to-head battle with Tanner? Do you think that it’ll take a victory to bring that prize home?

Pretty much. It depends who beats who to get that one. That’s the way I like it—I like it to come down to the wire and come down to who wins or who beats each other to win the prize, and that’s why I do it. I love the pressure, I feed off it. So I’m glad I’m even in that position to battle, and my goal is to win that.

– Chris Leone

New Discount Tire Partnership Provides Fans With Opportunity To Meet Travis Pastrana

Image via @TravisPastrana

Count 2012 among the busiest – but most exciting – years of Travis Pastrana’s life.

Besides a foray into the world of stock car racing, Pastrana, 28, has signed up for the full slate of Global Rallycross Championship rounds with the backing of new sponsor Discount Tire. The result has been one of the strongest new partnerships in the racing world, culminating in Discount Tire’s sponsorship of a three race mini-championship within the GRC and a contest to send two lucky fans to this year’s X Games.

The contest, which runs on Discount Tire’s Facebook page through June 21, gives the winner and a companion $500 spending cash, airfare to Los Angeles, a car rental and a hotel room. But more importantly, the winner gets to enjoy X Games, particularly the GRC section of the event, and a meet and greet opportunity with Pastrana.

“X Games is by far the highest pedestal in action sports,” says the 17-time medalist. (The contest winner will) see the best of the best in any discipline that you want to go check out while you’re out there, and we’ll have some time to hang out, and talk about racing or whatever, and just get the whole experience of what it’s like to be in those shoes. It’s a busy time, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Image via @TravisPastrana

It won’t be the first promotional appearance of its kind for Pastrana, who has been working on behalf of his sponsors all season long. But for one of motorsports’ most personable drivers, such appearances are far more play than work.

Before the GRC season opener at Charlotte, Pastrana and Brad Keselowski, Discount Tire’s NASCAR driver, had a particularly fun autograph session. “The coolest part about Discount Tire with the autograph signings, everything they set up, was that was at Dave and Buster’s. (Today’s) is going to be at a go-kart track with video games. They make it so everyone’s having a good time.

“And their athletes, or drivers, or whatever you want to call us,” Pastrana laughs, “we’re really excited when they set that up, because it’s fun for us, too. And it really gives us a chance to communicate and talk to the fans that come out.”

X Games will mark the third of six rounds on this year’s GRC schedule, and it serves as its marquee event. But as an additional caveat for drivers to perform well in other rounds, the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, plus a $25,000 cash bonus, will be awarded to the driver who scores the best finishes at Texas on Saturday, New Hampshire on July 14, and the season finale at Las Vegas on September 29.

“It really gives us something to shoot for. I mean, we had a pretty bad event in the first round,” Pastrana says, noting accidents in both a heat race and the final that weren’t of his doing. “Dallas is the first round of the three-round, second championship within a championship. We’re definitely looking forward to putting our best foot forward here and having a great race and getting that started off well.”

Image via @TravisPastrana

For Pastrana, having strong corporate partners, especially ones that he works well with, makes his job easier both on and off the track. “It’s a really neat program with the Discount Tire guys. (We were) really just looking at sponsors that attract a few different marketplaces.

“With my background in action sports, now coming into the rally and with NASCAR, and then with Discount Tire starting to get involved with supercross, it seemed like it was really a good fit. I liked how the company works and how they are into NASCAR, (and) felt like they’d be a good fit for rally car as well.”

In Pastrana’s mind, a program with such a good fit can prosper for years to come. “What I’ve learned is invest, if it’s time or effort or whatever. Invest in people, invest in companies. Don’t necessarily take the short road for money.

“When you have a company that feels like a good fit, work hard for it, and try to do the best you can to support them and they’ll do the best they can to support you. It’s been a short time with Discount Tire, but I really liked who they were, what the company was about, and they think the same. It can be a great partnership for years to come.”

– Chris Leone