Updated: Feb 4, 2022
For Minnesota, we don't get very many professional racing events throughout the year, but one did make a special stop to Elk River. Nitro Rally Cross came through with Minnesota on their schedule on October 2nd & 3rd and boy was it a fun one. As stage 2 on the schedule, ERX Motor Park was given credit from race organizers, and Travis Pastrana, as the fastest track on the tour. After conquering the 130ft gap jump at the Utah Motorsports Campus, the teams of NRX headed out to the upper mid-west to test their speed and control on the bumps and jumps of ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota.
The one-mile long track of ERX is a purposely built off-road track that runs all year around with dirt trucks, bikes, snowmobile races and more. It is one of the best all-around dirt tracks built in the nation and one of the best overall spectator friendly designed layout of almost any track. Through the main gates, you walk through and past the pits where you can see the most of the magic happen of upkeeping and maintaining all the vehicles in competition. Passing through sponsor displays and working you way up to the grandstands to catch all of the action.
Speaking of sponsors, NRX brings a lot of them including Pastrana's Nitro Circus and Team Subaru USA Rally team. Other big time sponsors like Yokohama Tire and Red Bull made themselves at home with a large presence with interactive displays and games for everyone. Yokohama, the official tire provider for Nitro Rally, displayed many tires for various conditions and situations as well as offering everyone a chance to get a free set of their magnificent products. The Red Bull tent came out with hosting the VIP ticket holders with an exclusive area for VIP ticket holders and participants.
Outside of the "Super Car" series of NRX, there was also the NRX Next series cars as well as some (Side-by-Side) racing which featured NRX drivers like Travis Pastrana, Tanner Foust, and even famous off roader Brian Deegan made a special visit to ERX to participate. Although Brian was able to make the trip with his Can-Am Maverick, his daughter Hallie could not due to NASCAR obligations and the ,at the time, upcoming Truck Series debut. The Nitro Can-Am was through invitation only and is, so far, a one off event for the NRX schedule. Others participating in the SXS races were ERX owner Andrew Carlson and Extreme E Driver Catie Munnings as well as SXS Regulars Scottie Lawrence, Corry Weller, Mia Chapman, and such for the weekend.
Differentiating themselves from the NRX Super Car class, the NRX Next cars run on a rear-engine and rear-wheel drive setup versus the front engine, all-wheel drive. This set up makes for wonderful competition between the drivers and throws lots of dirt up in the corners. For the most part, the high acceleration pushes the cars up into the air and nose dive towards landing. Between the two styled cars, the NRX Next cars took more damage with as much or as many mechanical parts and pieces in the front allowing for more "rubbin & racing" amongst the drivers. With a smaller roster of drivers, the competition is more fierce as everyone is always in the running. In fact, watching the finals on Sunday, driver Sage Karam certainly proved that.
As for the Super Cars, the event takes over 2 days with an evenly spread out race format for the weekend. On day 1, each driver attempts a solo qualifying lap for positioning within the head-to-head tournament bracket. From there, the drivers go on a head to head battle against one another for the pole position on day 2's shootouts. Points are awarded along the way until the pole position winner is determined. On day 2, there are two heat races between 8 cars with 4 overall heading to the finals. And the rest to participate into the semi-finals. The semi-finals take the remaining cars and puts the top finishers into the mix of the finals and the the remaining drivers going to the Last Chance Qualifying (LCQ) race. The finals overall carry 10 cars in the longest race (lap wise) to finish off the weekend.
Let's remember that in all motorsports, that safety, is always the number one priority. And with speed, comes danger. And with the safety crews, everyone was able to go home safely to their families and friends. Major wrecks with flying dirt and car parts going everywhere, it was easy to find pieces of dirt pelting the track spotters, camera crew, and even a few fans here and there. Nitro Rally Cross is an entirely different event from most rally events like what the WRC brings or more traditional timed rally events. It even allows camera crews in their bright orange vests to cross the track at several points to cover the event rather than keeping them in one stationary spot like most major events like the Pikes Peaks hill climb and such.
The races itself bring fierce competition amongst all drivers and all classes as well as providing an experience for everyone of all ages. With the design and layout of ERX, you can also find drivers and crew members crossing you path and typically are always will to take a minute for an autograph and/or photo. There was even an scheduled autograph session with all of the drivers at the end of day 1. Quite a few drivers even tend to wander and mingle with attendees like Travis Pastrana working out the pull-up challenge at the US Marine Corp. booth or Brian Deegan riding around on his electric scooter. Outside of the Yokohama Tire and the Red Bull tent, you can easily find food through local food trucks, experiences with the Jeep and Fox Racing test rides or even memorabilia in the junk pit of parts from the race cars, free for the taking. I even saw someone walking around with a busted windshield getting autographs on it. So if Nitro Rally Cross is coming to a track near you, I would certainly recommend on attending as you wont regret it. I can only hope that next year, Nitro Rally Cross will come back to ERX for another exciting race event. Until then, hopefully I can catch Team Subaru and the others at next year's Ojibwe Forest Rally in August 2022. As for now, you can catch up on all the action from previous races, and upcoming events, on the Nitro Rally Cross Youtube Channel and on NBCSports.
Links to visit:
Nitro Rally Drivers:
NRX Next Driver Links:
Photos provided by: Drive Cartel