Lake Norman & Mooresville

Patrik Sandell finds Global Rallycross home in the U.S.

Patrik Sandell, center, celebrates his first victory of the season. Scott Speed, left, and Sebastian Eriksson, right, finished second and third, respectively, in the Global Rallycross event at Detroit.
Patrik Sandell, center, celebrates his first victory of the season. Scott Speed, left, and Sebastian Eriksson, right, finished second and third, respectively, in the Global Rallycross event at Detroit. COURTESY OF PATRIK SANDELL

For 14 years Patrik Sandell was a tough competitor in international rallying, earning world and national championships, but it wasn’t until two years ago that he received an opportunity to focus on Global Rallycross in the United States.

That’s when Lowe’s contacted him about representing the company. It was an opportunity Sandell couldn’t ignore, so he packed and headed for Huntersville, where he now lives. Currently in his third full season in Red Bull Global Rallycross, Sandell has earned two career victories, 10 heat wins and two X Games medals. The 33-year-old driver’s most recent victory came in late July at Detroit.

“We mainly dominated the whole weekend,” said Sandell, who left the event sixth in the series standings.

Sandell won four heat races, a pair on each day of the doubleheader event, and the feature race on the second day. It was a mechanical failure on the first day that kept Sandell, who’s in his first season with Bryan Herta Rallysport’s Ford Fiesta team, from sweeping the weekend. With three laps remaining, Sandell was leading when his car’s drive shaft failed.

For the man who adopted the motto, “If you doubt, flat out” at the beginning of his career, the weekend’s events mirrored the way he always has raced.

“I always like to go for the win,” Sandell said. “A few times when I was younger I did quite a lot of stupid (things) where I could have had a safe second or third place, but I always wanted to go for the win. Now I’m a bit older, so sometimes I can actually be happy with a second place, but I like to win.”

Sandell, who is Swedish, made his Rallycross debut at age 16, but he didn’t begin his professional rallying career until seven years later when he earned the Swedish Rally championship. His other titles include 2006 Junior World Champion. In the X Games, he’s earned a silver medal and a bronze.

In addition to rallying, Sandell owns an event firm – FlatOut Sweden; a company name “I believe represents me and everything I stand for, especially when I’m driving.” The company consists of driving schools for corporate events, individuals and race-car drivers who would like to improve.

Since winters in Sweden allow people to drive on frozen lakes, Sandell said it provided him with the opportunity to create anevent company that focuses on piloting cars on frozen lakes.

“You can become such a good driver driving on a frozen lake because you race the car around all the time and it’s so easy for you to test your limit,” Sandell said. “The worst thing that can happen is that you get stuck in a snowbank. You get out, there’s no damage to you, no damage to the car and you just keep on going. That is how I learned to drive a race car.”

Sandell enjoys Global Rallycross because of the youth involved in it.

“The group that is around it right now, including the drivers, are the ones creating Rallycross in America,” Sandell said. “They are so smart. Instead of trying to get people to go out and see the sport, we are bringing the sport to the people. We are always setting up the track in the middle of cities so it’s easy for people to come and see the races.”

Sandell believes Global Rallycross resonates with millennials because the events are short.

“Our races are 10 laps, 10 cars,” Sandell explained. “I don’t think the younger demographic wants to sit around the whole afternoon to watch a race. They want to be able to take their Smart phone out, put on the race, watch it for 10 minutes and then continue to do what they’re doing. I think this sport attracts a younger demographic than other motorsports (because of that).”

Sandell now splits his time between Huntersville and his native Sweden. He’s adjusted to North Carolina but says that when he first moved to the United States his biggest challenge was finding healthy food.

“Now I find a lot of good places, but in the beginning I thought it was all about hamburgers,” Sandell said with a laugh. “I realize now there are more than hamburgers in America. It took a while for me (to adjust); when you go into a grocery store and you don’t recognize anything. I just had to find my new favorites in everything when it comes to food and grocery shopping.”

The next Global Rallycross event is scheduled for Aug. 15 in Washington, D.C. The 12-event season concludes Nov. 4 in Las Vegas.

Baize making ARCA debut with KSR

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Baize is scheduled to make his ARCA Racing Series debut Aug. 8 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich., in a Chevrolet fielded by Concord-based Ken Schrader Racing. A Bremen, Ky., native, Baize is second in the ARCA/CRA Super Series Super Late Model standings. He recorded his first career super late model victory in only his fifth start earlier this year at Illiana (Ind.) Motor Speedway.

Eckes joins LFR driver development

Christian Eckes has joined the Mooresville-based LFR Driver Development Group for selected races in 2015 and 2016. The 14-year-old Greenville, N.Y., native earned his first career late model victory in June at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro.

Cindric grabs point lead

Mooresville’s Austin Cindric grabbed the point lead in the GRC Lites Series with a third-place finish on the second day of the two-day Detroit Red Bull Global Rallycross event. The 16-year-old Cindric drives for Mooresville-based Olsbergs MSE.

Byron takes second in ARCA debut

Driving for Concord-based Venturini Motorsports, Charlotte’s William Byron led a race-high 120 laps before having to settle for a second-place finish in his ARCA debut at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Byron currently leads the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings. The rookie drives for Mooresville-based HScott Motorsports in that NASCAR series.

Hemric, Ruston announce engagement

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Daniel Hemric and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Kenzie Ruston are engaged. The 24-year-old Kannapolis native who now lives in Mooresville proposed to his long-time girlfriend on a trip to St. Lucia following the Eldora truck race. Hemric has been in a relationship with the 23-year-old Ruston for six years. Entering the Pocono race, Hemric was seventh in the truck standings. Ruston, an Oklahoma native now living in Mooresville, was 14th in the K&N East standings entering the Iowa event.

Deb Williams is a freelance writer: