Sandell claims 2nd Rallycross race on Belle Isle

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Patrik Sandell pumps his fist in victory after he won the Supercar event Sunday on the final day of the Red Bull Global Rallycross on Belle Isle.

Detroit — In recent races, Patrik Sandell’s luck has been entirely consistent in Red Bull Global Rallycross — all bad.

But as he encountered “the joker” Sunday, fortune changed.

And, as it is so often in racing, it happened in an instant.

“The joker” is a diverging section of track that eventually rejoins the circuit, in rallycross. It is intended to shuffle the field and pose a strategic challenge to the drivers, who can use it but once in a race.

When the field arrived there on lap one of the supercar final, championship leader Ken Block anticipated room to pass between Sandell and Tanner Foust.

There was room, but not enough.

A red flag greeted the ensuing accident.

Foust was largely uninjured, but his car destroyed. Race officials penalized Block for his carelessness, forcing him to the back of the field for the restart.

But Sandell fired off the restart from the first row, never looked back and won the sixth race of the supercar season, which is at the halfway point.

“We had a fantastic car,” the Swede, 33, said. “My team (Bryan Herta Rallysport) put together a perfect package for me.

“We’ve been able to be fast for a while now, but not be able to get it all of the way to the finish.”

Sandell seemed comfortably in the lead of the first supercar rallycross race Saturday on Belle Isle

. But a mechanical problem suddenly dropped him well back. Then, he did not finish and was awarded ninth place.

In North Carolina, last month, he appeared destined for victory once again, until the race was stopped. After faring better on the restart, Block won.

Sandell was second, 3.1 seconds back.

“Today, Bryan Herta and his guys and Kobalt Tools just put everything together for me, said Sandell, who marked his second career victory in the supercars. “I’m so happy for them. This victory goes to them.”

Scott Speed of VW Andretti Rallycross finished second, Sebastian Ericsson of Red Bull Olsbergs MSE third, Joni Wiman also of Red Bull Olsbergs MSE fourth and Brian Deegan of Chip Ganassi Racing fifth.

It was a big weekend for Ford. Both Sandell and Block drive Fiestas.

Miles Maroney, of Dryer & Reinbold Racing, won the GRC Lites race Sunday, with Alejo Fernandez placing second and Austin Cindric, Olsbergs MSE in third.

Maroney also drives a Ford Fiesta.

Alex Keyes, 18, formerly of Brighton, competed only early in the first heat of the Lites division, retiring due to a mechanical problem.

Despite the late booking of the event on Belle Isle and some early difficulty constructing the long ramp that provided the only jump in the three-quarter mile course, the racing weekend seemed a success.

While no official attendance figures were released, Red Bull and other sponsors are keen on returning to Detroit. The manufacturers would like it.

Promoters of racing on Belle Isle are keen about it, too.

When the IndyCar series began, again, on Belle Isle, first in 2007 and the again in 2012, Roger Penske said he was determined that the national and international publicity that attended Super Bowl XL in the city, in 2005, is important enough to have annually, to provide a different image of the city from what is routinely negative publicity.

That said, some area residents continue to object, and traffic on Jefferson Avenue during the weekend, amid a slew of orange construction barrels, was a problem for some of them.

The drivers also say they would like the return.

“I really enjoy this,” Block said.

“This is a great spot, here, with the fountain on Belle Isle; a pretty famous spot in motor racing. So, I am enjoying being here.

“I absolutely love Detroit, the good, the bad, everything here,” Block said. “It’s part of the history, and I really enjoy studying that history and seeing all the different parts of this place.

“For me, I really hope they do come back next year.”