Red Bull GRC: Tanner Foust triumphant in the Big Apple (UPDATED)

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Tanner Foust is king of the hill, A number 1, in New York, New York.

The Andretti Autosport driver survived an incident-filled final to take the checkered flag in today’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Volkswagen Rallycross NY event.

Andretti teammate Scott Speed finished second on the track behind Foust, but after today’s race, Speed was dropped to ninth place as a result of a penalty:

With that, Nelson Piquet Jr. moves up to the runner-up position and Ken Block moves up to third. Piquet now also has a 35-point lead in the championship going into next Saturday’s race at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.

The final was marred by several run-ins that necessitated two restarts, but Foust endured through it all.

“The final was really brutal,” Foust told NBC Sports. “I was in the unlucky position of monkey in the middle, just sandwiched [on the front row] in two starts. It was absolute chaos. I can’t believe this Polo keeps running after all of that, because it was a brutal first two starts.

“[But] I’m just really excited. It’s exactly what we have to do. It’s still a tight points championship between [Speed and Piquet], and I’m just glad to get in front of them this time. For the rest of the season, there’s a lot of pressure to do well.”

In Semifinal One, Ken Block grabbed the holeshot from the middle of the front row. The Hoonigan man maintained his lead up to a Red Flag at Lap 2 for Bucky Lasek, who appeared to suffer damage to his car and slowed on the track.

That gridded the field again for a restart, which had Piquet and Block go side by side through the first few corners before Piquet, the former Formula One and NASCAR driver, managed to take the lead.

While Block kept up the pressure on Piquet, Steve Arpin tried to take second from him when he took his joker lap on Lap 3 of the six-lap semifinal.

Block staved off the challenge, but Arpin would hold back Joni Wiman for third place and a transfer into the final along with semifinal winner Piquet and runner-up Block.

Semifinal Two saw Foust and Sverre Isachsen rocket into first and second out of the start, while Speed surprisingly fell all the way back to last place.

But Speed was able to get into the final the hard way.

After moving into fourth on Lap 3, he set his sights on Rhys Millen, who occupied the last transfer spot to the final. On Lap 5, he made contact with Millen before taking the critical position from him, and in the end, Faust, Isachsen, and Speed all advanced to the main event.

With Wiman, Austin Dyne, Patrik Sandell and Millen finishing first through fourth respectively in the Last Chance Qualifier, the 10-car grid was set for the final.

The 10-lap trophy dash started in wild fashion. Block spun out in the first corner, while Arpin was turned around at the Turn 4 hairpin and couldn’t get himself going again, triggering the Red Flag.

The subsequent restart quickly turned chaotic when Isachsen, who had gotten the lead, was hit coming out of the gate and could not return to the race.

Eight cars then took the second restart that ran for six laps. On this go, Faust was able to get the lead over Piquet into the first corner and went on to the checkered flag from there.

Piquet fell back as far as fourth before using his joker to reclaim the second position. But as the field headed for the white flag, Speed was able to wrestle second from Piquet, securing the 1-2 finish for the Andretti team.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.