Photo courtesy of Bristol Motor Speedway
BRISTOL — A different type of car and a modified track, but the same old Bristol.
Toomas Heikkinen of Finland got through the carnage of the first lap to win Saturday’s Global Rallycross race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Heikkinen, who started fourth, bumped past leader Ken Block as all 10 cars that started the 10-lap main event piled into the first turn. He emerged with the lead in his No. 57 Ford Fiesta and never looked back .
“It was so crazy,” Heikkinen said. “Like 10 cars all go the same time into the tight corner. I chose the inside line and it was right.”
Heikkinen beat the Block's Ford by 2.7 seconds on a track which had been modified with a gravel path through the infield and a large jump on the backstretch.
“You have to keep your speed up the whole race,” Heikkinen said. “Ten laps are a lot of laps in these cars. This is great. I’ve read about this place my whole life and I’m so thankful for Ford that I’m here.”
Block, who had the fastest time in practice and won his heat race, was upset to lose the race in typical Bristol fashion. He had the best start, but it didn’t matter when the cars made their first turn. He was knocked sideways as Heikkinen raced past.
“Everyone was banging around me and unfortunately I didn’t come out of the first turn very good,” Block said. “I did everything I could, but it kind of sucked. Every heat I was in, every practice I was the fastest, but it means nothing when you get bumped out of the way in the first turn. It’s just frustrating when you do everything you can to win and it doesn’t work out.”
Brian Deegan finished third, and like Block wasn’t happy about the start of the race. He had to make the main event by winning a last-chance qualifying race and was on the back row at the start of the feature.
“In rallycross everything just happens in the first turn,” he said. “I started down low and even if you’re in the third row in the start on the inside, you have a better chance than a guy in the first row on the outside. Everyone just barrels into that first turn and just pushes through it.
“I think until they have stricter regulations on the rough driving, it’s going to be that way every time. You roll the dice and if you come out with a car that’s not broke, you’re in the race. It’s a lot of carnage, you know.”
Block, an extreme sports star who has competed in skateboarding, snowboarding and motocross, but best known as the chief brand officer of DC Shoes, closed within a couple of car lengths with two laps to go, but wasn’t able to reach Heikkinen.
“I wasn’t going to give up,” Block said. “I could see I was getting closer and closer. I was hitting everything possible trying to find the fastest line. I wished there would have been three or four more laps. I might have had him.”
Deegan, a freestyle motocross and off-road racer, wasn’t able to make such a charge after damaging his Ford in the last-chance race.
“I broke the frame in half, but the guys worked so fast,” Deegan said. “All (the time) they had was 15 minutes, but they pulled the frame back together and welded it. They said, ‘Just take it easy on the car.’ Once I got in that position, I hung where I was because I couldn’t push it. A lot of rally is survival. It’s a tough sport.”
Sverrre Isachsen of Norway and Patrik Sandell of Sweden rounded out the top five. Sixth-place was Tanner Foust, the last driver running at the finish.
Formula One veteran and occasional NASCAR Sprint Cup racer Scott Speed failed to make the feature after getting caught up in accidents in both his heat race and the last-chance qualifier.
Joni Wiman, a protege of rally racing legend Marcus Gronholm, made it a sweep for Finland with his victory in the GRC Lites division. The race was started over after Kevin Eriksson flipped his car on the opening lap. Austin Dyne of Los Angeles finished runner-up in the GRC Lites, 3.4 seconds behind Wiman.
The Global Rallycross action was the featured action in a doubleheader which included Monster Trucks and an exhibition of FMX freestyle motorcycles.
The famed Bigfoot, driven by Dan Runte, won the Monster Truck portion of the show. Bigfoot defeated Red Solo Truck in the final round.