The third stop of Nitrocross 2023-24 packed Phoenix, Arizona’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsport Park for two nights of heart-pumping racing over Veterans Day weekend, culminating with a sold-out event on Saturday.
Fans eagerly watched as Robin Larsson (SWE) reclaimed first place hardware in Group E, global icon and series founder Travis Pastrana (USA) won in Side-By-Sides, and burgeoning star Casper Jansson (SWE) not only swept in NEXT, but nearly stepped onto the Group E podium in just his first weekend of topflight competition. Lia Block, also a rising force, repeated her podium finish on Saturday – with Phoenix marking her first top-three Nitrocross finishes.
Overall attendance from this weekend’s event represented a 58% increase from its 2022 stop.
After Saturday’s final, Larsson said: “A big shoutout to all the Phoenix fans. It was amazing driving with the stands packed, and it’s also great driving under the lights. This was a good showing for Nitrocross and it really shows the potential of this sport and this series.”
Fraser McConnell (JAM), who won in Group E on Friday in a contentious final and then made a huge comeback in Saturday’s final - surging from P6 in to second place - added: “Phoenix was amazing... All you could see were people. The grandstands were loaded, and I wish the cars were even more quiet so I could hear them screaming and cheering even louder. Big shoutout to the Phoenix crowd for their support. I can’t wait to come back with Nitro in the future.”
With Larsson’s second victory of the season, the Group E series standings have narrowed considerably. Kevin Eriksson (SWE) remains on top, but Larsson is now right on his heels, just one point behind him. The gap between third and fourth is almost as tight, with Larsson’s teammate, last season’s runner-up Andreas Bakkerud (NOR) sitting in third, but McConnell trails him by only two points. Pastrana, currently fifth, is also a very much a threat: he earned crucial series points in Phoenix, finishing third on Friday and winning Top Qualifier on Saturday.
For Jansson, Saturday’s win not only marked a NEXT sweep in Phoenix, it also extended his win streak in the class to three straight. Then, after Benito Guerra (MEX) had to withdraw on Wednesday due to illness, Jansson found himself pulling double duty, making his Group E debut while continuing to compete in NEXT.
While Jansson had tested twice previously in Group E’s 1,000+ hp FC1-X, piloting it in competition was an entirely new arena. But in just his second day of racing, Jansson not only advanced to the final, he also beat Pastrana, Bakkerud, and action sports legend Brian Deegan (USA), narrowly missing third place by less than four tenths of a second.
After his busy weekend Jansson said, “This was a great chance to get into the FC1-X. Then, to make it into the final and compete for the podium, it was incredible.”
Block continues to progress as well, finishing in the top three both nights in Phoenix after coming up just short and getting tough steward calls at prior stops in Oklahoma and Utah. Following her medal ceremony Saturday, she said, “It feels really good. A lot of hard work was put into these two rounds… Coming in here it felt really good to go back-to-back on the podiums.”
In Side-By-Sides, Pastrana took his first win of the season, and his second podium in the class. He had stiff competition, though, holding off 15-year-old phenom Kainan Baker (USA), who already has four wins this season, and Tyler Remmereid (USA), who currently tops the series standings.
Classic Baja Bugs desert racers brought more fun – and more drama – to the event. Ryan Rodriguez (USA) defended his win on Friday to sweep the weekend. But UFC legend and motorsport enthusiast Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (USA) had a huge crash after launching off the start and ended up upside down after a slamming into the sand berm along the main straightaway. He soon emerged from his vehicle though, waiving to the crowd in acknowledgement.
Road to the Championship Continues:
Nitrocross’ 2023-24 season includes 10 rounds at venues across North America, set in a variety of locations ranging from the desert Southwest to the frigid Canadian Rockies.
Next up, Nitrocross returns to Southern California’s legendary Glen Helen Raceway for more double-header action December 9-10. Tickets are available now at nitrocrossracing.com,
Looking ahead to defending his title and keeping the Ken Block Trophy, Larsson said, “At Glen Helen, we need to aim for the same type of consistency we had here (in Phoenix) and pick up points wherever we can. Glen Helen has such wide banks and corners but is such a tight track, and last year, everyone was within a second of each other. It’s a track that you can go really hard and go for passes, so I’m really looking forward to getting back there.”
Block added, “That track [Glen Helen] is so fun because it’s not too technical, but it’s very fast. I’ve been there before, so I’m excited to go back.”
For fans that cannot make it out to Glen Helen and experience Nitrocross in person, Rumble Sports, the leading platform for live-streaming action sports, will livestream the pulse-pounding action, all live and all for free.