Big Names Look To Improve In Standings After Rough Season Opener
What do Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, and Liam Doran have in common, besides being former X Games gold medalists?
All failed to finish the season opener at X Games Foz do Iguacu, leaving them over 10 points behind current championship leader Scott Speed.
They weren’t the only ones, either; full-time drivers and championship contenders Ken Block and Bryce Menzies were also caught up in the same incidents, with Block getting involved with Foust and Pastrana during the main event and Menzies running into the back of Doran during the last chance qualifier.
But while they’re all going to have to make up some points to return to their more familiar positions at the head of the pack, a bad first race doesn’t have to set a precedent for the entire season. In fact, most drivers remain unfazed despite their disappointing Brazilian results.
“The end result of the event was only bad luck on my part and good luck on others,” notes Doran, who suffered from contact in his heat and a stall in the last chance qualifier on his way to a 13th place finish. “Qualifying fastest should have put me in a good position to get a good result, but that’s motorsport sometimes.
“Points don’t even go through my head this early in the season. All I try and do is drive as fast as I can and get best result possible at each event. I take each event at a time and hope the points add up in the end.”
Drivers looking to make up ground need only look to Brian Deegan for inspiration. Last season, a burned-out clutch in Charlotte left him tied for 15th in points after the first event—a full 20 behind points leader Marcus Gronholm. As a result, the only way he had a chance to challenge from the title was to make the rest of his races count.
“When trying to make up points you have to stay focused, not throw away the race and still drive smart,” Deegan explains. “You can’t afford to have too many bad races, but you have to take chances to make up points. There is a balance.”
For Deegan, that meant scoring podium finishes in each of the remaining five races. In fact, he had more podiums than anybody, although they weren’t enough to topple eventual champion Foust.
Following that road map is easier said than done, but keeping the car clean is a good start. Of last year’s top five in points, only one—Block, who ranked fifth—had more than one DNF, missing the Charlotte final and falling out in the finale due to a cockpit fire.
“It’s all about consistency,” Deegan says. “Last year, I was the second best on odds because of how consistent I was through out the season.”
Even Speed, fresh off of a victory in his rallycross debut, isn’t hedging his bets based on what happened in Brazil. “I think that, after seeing what I saw in the first race and how short and unpredictable things are, before you think of anything championship-related, things are going to have to play out a lot more,” he says.
“Certainly there are guys that you’re going to be more worried about than others for the championship, and you try to keep them behind you. But if you win races, and you get medals and good results, the championship stuff takes care of itself.”
That’s exactly what his competitors will look to do starting in Barcelona.