Andretti Autosport took the wraps off its 2014 IndyCars on Monday at its Indianapolis shop. Three of the four entries have new liveries compared to 2013, and the fourth has a new (old) number.
The 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay retains the yellow, white and red DHL colors and returns to the number 28 after his title defense with No. 1 in 2013 featured myriad bad luck.
His teammates all have different colors. Marco Andretti, who retains sponsorship from the Dr Pepper Snapple group, shifts to a yellow-and-blue livery on his No. 25 Honda. The Snapple brand itself takes over from RC Cola, which it had been the last two seasons. This marks the group’s eighth season with the team; Andretti’s car had previously featured Venom Energy Drink, Dr Pepper, Dr Pepper TEN and RC Cola liveried cars.
James Hinchcliffe’s new United Fiber & Data entry, the No. 27, carries a blue-and-white livery that almost brings back memories of another Canadian era of motorsports: the Player’s/Forsythe liveries driven by Canadians Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani and the late Greg Moore. Villeneuve won the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in the No. 27.
Meanwhile rookie Carlos Munoz rounds out the lineup with the No. 34, rather than the No. 26, with sponsorship from Cinsay, an Austin-based social/online video commerce company. Munoz steps up to a full season of IndyCar after racing two full years in Indy Lights, and also making three outstanding cameo appearances in IndyCar in 2013.
The reason for the No. 34, which had previously been run by the mid-pack Conquest and Coyne teams, is due to a partnership with the 34 Solutions group. Cinsay was named one of the Forbes Top 100 Most Promising Companies in 2012 and formed a relationship last March with 34 Solutions, a company co-chaired by All American football legend Herschel Walker. Under the 34 Commerce banner, the relationship names 34 Solutions as the licensed reseller of Cinsay’s Smart Store technology and provides payment gateway services to process the Smart Store platform transactions.
Munoz’s car is still run in partnership with HVM Racing, same as E.J. Viso’s car was in 2013.
There were two other announcements at the team launch. Andretti Autosport will expand into the Global Rallycross Championship as the factory team for VW; Andretti Sports Marketing is involved in some promotion with the series, so this was a natural progression.
The team also confirmed its Mazda Road to Indy lineup with the previously announced Matthew Brabham and Zach Veach in the team’s Indy Lights cars, with Garett Grist and Shelby Blackstock in the team’s Pro Mazda entries. The team will not field a USF2000 lineup as they have; Grist moves up for 2014 and Austin Cindric’s future is now to be determined as a result.
To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.
The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.
“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”
In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.
“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”
Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.
He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.
In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.
Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.
The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.
After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.
“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.
“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”
Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.
The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.
Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.
The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.
“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.
“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.
“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”