BEMIDJI, MN – Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana has a healthy early lead at the Ojibwe Forests Rally, after teammate Ken Block rolled early in the contest and Polish driver Andi Mancin lost ground to an overheating engine.

Pastrana said he and Block had both been pushing hard to earn a good position on the road as night fell and dust became a serious issue. Then Block crashed hard.

"It was an epic battle with Ken," said a disappointed Pastrana, who enjoys the rush of competition. "Now all we have to do is finish in the top five to get championship points."

Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were unharmed in the Stage 3 crash, but it dealt a serious blow to their championship hopes. Block entered this round a distant second to Pastrana and, with just two rounds remaining in the season after this event, he needed serious points here to gain ground on his teammate.

In second place after the Day 1 stages was the Subaru Rally Team USA Super Production class entry of Dave Mirra and co-driver Derek Ringer. The duo suffered a flat tire early on, but made up ground as Mancin struggled to push his ailing Mitsubishi through the night stages. Even so, they were nearly four minutes behind Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom.

Mancin said he spent the first day just trying to hold onto a reasonable position until his mechanics could dig into the overheating car's engine overnight. He and co-driver Maciej Wislawski finished the night in third – a minute and 50 seconds behind Mirra and Ringer.

With Block already out and contenders Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard and Tanner Foust absent from this round, a strong finish by Mancin could give him an edge in a tight points battle for the top-three.

The Super Production battle saw class leader Piotr Wiktorczyk out with turbo trouble on the second stage, leaving the door open for a late-season championship charge by challengers Mirra, Pat Moro and Jimmy Keeney.

The two-wheel drive competition at this event is strong, with the MaxAttack! sub-series concluding this weekend. MaxAttack! Drivers are competing not only for a podium finish, but a cash purse totaling $5,000. After seven stages Friday, Lauchlin O'Sullivan and co-driver Karen Wagner led the two-wheel drive charge, and were sitting in fifth-place overall in their Dodge SRT 4.

This event features a smooth and fast course through the region's beautiful forest and lakes. Cars began a Super Special stage on Friday afternoon at the Bemidji Speedway and then headed out for a series of forest stages where the glow of brake rotors and the gleam of headlights illuminate the dark forests. Competition resumes midday Saturday for the second and final day of competition.

About Rally America, Inc.:

Based in Golden Valley, Minnesota, Rally America sanctions the premier rally racing series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series. In 2009, Rally America will conduct nine National Championship events at venues across the country, from Portland, Ore., to Newry, Maine. Rally America competitors reach speeds well over 100 mph in modified street-legal rally cars on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt or snow.