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We've elected a reality television star as president and the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. 

Congerville's Tanner Whitten now plans to complete the trifecta by visiting a country where Hell actually does freeze over.

Whitten, 24, recently inked a deal to become the first American driver to compete for the RX2 International Series rallycross title. The tour serves as a support class for the Monster Energy-sponsored FIA World Rallycross Championship Series.

After the opening two events in Belgium and Great Britain, Whitten and the series are slated to visit a track in the village of Hell, Norway on June 9-11, where the springtime weather forecast for Friday night calls for a low of 27 degrees and snow. There's still no report of flying pigs or donkeys, however.

It's important to note that in the Nordic tongue, the word "hell" has a totally different meaning than it does in English.

To the average Norwegian, "hell" means "luck" and Whitten had some of that in securing his ride with the powerful Olsbergs MSE (OMSE) team.

"I was working on a program here, trying to put together a third year in (rallycross in the United States)," Whitten said. "At the last minute, just six weeks before the season was set to begin, I had the rug pulled out from underneath me and I had to figure out what we were going to do."

Whitten's rebound from a tough break began with him immediately contacting OMSE to share his predicament. In short order, the Eureka High School graduate was able to secure a spot in the organization where he will join reigning RX Lites champion Cyril Raymond and Swedish driver William Nilsson as teammates in the global rallycross effort.

Whitten will leave for Europe on May 2. His effort will be primarily sponsored by Traction Factory, a Milwaukee-based international marketing communications and business development firm.

"It's crazy to see how things work out," Whitten said. "It was a bummer to see things fall apart here and then in a matter of 24 hours or so have things look better than they ever were before."

Rallycross, which is basically motocross on four wheels, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as an organized sport when the FIA World Rallycross series visits the Lydden Hill Race Circuit in Kent, England, on May 26-28.

Despite being around for a while "across the pond," it wasn't introduced to a mass U.S. audience until it was added to the ESPN X Games in 2010. With those events garnering a relatively hefty television audience, the wheels were put in motion to establish a professional rallycross series "stateside" with Red Bull backing the effort. 

For his part, Whitten grew up dreaming of someday winning at Daytona or Indy and, as a teenager, set his sights on the former, hoping to follow in the footsteps of NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth and a host of others by attempting to carve a path into the big leagues through short-track, asphalt late models.

His early efforts garnered him NASCAR All-American Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 while racing primarily on short tracks in Wisconsin. After graduating from Eureka High the following year, Whitten moved to Charlotte, NASCAR's competition hub, to compete full-time in the lower-rung K&N Pro Series. That's where being in the right place at the right time came into play.

OMSE, which is based in Sweden, had established a U.S. headquarters in Charlotte and began building cars for the launch of what would become the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series.

To find drivers, they needed to look no further than their new Carolina backyard. With the Charlotte area chock full of young, eager and ambitious young drivers like Whitten hoping to prove themselves by chasing their dream in NASCAR's epicenter, OMSE began offering them test drives.

Whitten took them up on the offer and absolutely fell in love with the twists, turns, obstacles and jumps of rallycross racing.

"I love every aspect of the sport, from the cars to the competition and the extremely dedicated fans," Whitten said. 

Competing for the past two years in GRC Lites, an American parallel to the international RX2 Lites, Whitten won two races, six podiums and four pole positions. One of the wins came at Daytona International Speedway in a car fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold, an Indianapolis-based racing team that has Indy 500 roots dating back to the days of Pop Dreyer and the Duesenberg. 

While looking forward to testing his prowess on an international stage this year, Whitten also hopes to make the best of the opportunity on a personal level. While the plurality of races are in Europe, events are also slated for Canada and South Africa.

"I'm going to try to set aside some time, maybe a day on each end of a weekend event, to do some sightseeing," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to this."

Bruce Yentes covers motor sports for the Pantagraph. He can be reached at


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