Motorsports fans heard the phrase “with age comes a cage” many a time as many of action sports’ finest traded in their bikes or skateboards for cars and trucks later in their careers. From Jeremy McGrath and Brian Deegan in short course off-road to Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra in rally and rallycross, racing has given plenty of the most legendary names and faces of the X Games era a successful second career over the years.
If you didn’t know Conner Martell until his rallycross exploits, you might not realize that he was a top two-wheel prospect as recently as three years ago. Boasting a number of victories in motocross and Arenacross, it was only after suffering injuries that he made the choice to switch to four wheels.
The good news for Martell: much like a motocross course, the dirt sections of a rallycross track change every lap, forcing the sport’s best drivers to read the roads quickly in order to find success. Martell found an opportunity with Rhys Millen Racing in a Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites car at Marine Corps Air Station New River in 2015, and impressed enough in his first experience in the car to earn a callback in Los Angeles.
Based on those results, when DirtFish Motorsports was looking for a new driver in 2016, they put their faith in Martell. He rewarded them by immediately taking a victory in the season-opening Phoenix doubleheader, tallying a number of podiums along the way, and even adding a win in the team’s home race at Evergreen Speedway in Washington to land fourth in the GRC Lites standings.
Having overachieved in his first full season, 2017 was set to be a breakthrough year for Martell. Once again, he won in the season-opening event, this time at Memphis International Raceway. In fact, even as drivers like Christian Brooks and Travis PeCoy frequently popped onto the podium, Martell seemed to be the only driver who could regularly challenge Cyril Raymond for victory, and was his closest competitor in the championship standings.
But that all came to a crashing halt, literally, in Seattle. At the same track where he’d won the year before, a sudden tire issue sent Martell hard into the outside wall, and kept him out of competition the next day.
Martell won the season finale in Los Angeles, but after scoring five wins and nine podiums in the previous two years, elected to take the next step in his career for 2018. Having already added the occasional stage rally to his competitive schedule, the Vermont native now competes in multiple rallycross series, running a SuperCar Lites in both RX2 (for Team Fären) and ARX2 (still for DirtFish). Coming off of the first ARX2 victory at DirtFish ARX of Circuit of the Americas, this weekend he’ll pull double duty at Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, and look to become the first driver to win in both classes on the same weekend.
If his dominant performance in Austin is any indication, don’t be surprised if he pulls it off, either.