Travis Pastrana wins tight 2021 Nitro Rallycross championship on tiebreaker over Scott Speed
When the dust settled - literally - on the 2021 season of Nitro Rallycross (NRX), series founder Travis Pastrana was declared champion by the narrowest of margins. In fact, it wasn’t a margin at all as he and Scott Speed tied in points at 219. The title was determined by a tiebreaker.
Third-place Timmy Hansen was just one point back, making this one of the tightest battles in the series’ three-year history.
Fittingly, all three of the top points’ contenders won during the five-race season. Pastrana took the top spot in Round 3 at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Ariz. and Round 4 at Glen Helen in San Bernadino, Calif.
Speed won at ERX Motor Park, outside of Minneapolis, Minn. in Round 2, while Timmy Hansen took the checkers at Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville, Utah (Round 1) and The Firm Raceway in Starke, Fla. in the finale.
For both Pastrana and Speed, the season was a hill climb. Finishing sixth and fifth respectively in the opening round, in a series that showcases eight to 10 drivers in the Main, paid minimal points. Of course, feature wins are not the only important part of an NRX weekend as points are also doled out for head-to-head wins and with one point for “battle” victories, drivers had to be on their toes for the entire weekend.
Bouncing back from that early disappointment was critical.
Pastrana earned podium finishes in the next three races. Speed stood on the podium in the final four.
Round 4 proved to be pivotal. Pastrana’s win there - his first of the season - gave him the advantage needed over Speed, who finished second.
Glen Helen was just as important with Pastrana earning back-to-back wins. That was also the race that trimmed the championship field to three as Kevin Hansen had a disastrous weekend and finished ninth. He would go on to play a pivotal role in the finale, however.
On the opening lap of the Main, as Kevin set up for the first turn, he made heavy contact with Pastrana and sent the contender wide. Speed squirted through and took the lead before being overtaken by Kevin.
Kevin relinquished the lead to his brother Timmy, but was able to keep Speed and Pastrana at bay to create the tight points’ finish.
For Pastrana, it was a massive payout for his hard work. Wearing multiple hats during the season, Pastrana was also the series promotor, track builder, talent acquisitor and writer of most of the rulebook. Despite that, he finished just fifth in the standings in 2019 and watched helplessly from the sidelines as the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Speed the finish was bittersweet.
Before the race, Speed said, “the goal all year was to get Subaru this Championship. Travis and I have one of the tightest relationships I’ve ever had with a teammate, and we share that care for the brand and are in this for Team Subaru.”
Still, he wanted to be the one to hand Subaru the trophy.
Pastrana’s Glen Helen win proved to be critical for another reason in addition to the momentum it provided. With the points locked with Speed, the tiebreaker became the number of wins in a season. Pastrana’s two carried the day.