Nearly 20 IndyCar-related 2013, 2014 drivers set for Rolex 24 next week

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More than a dozen IndyCar or IndyCar-related drivers from 2013 and 2014 will be participating in next week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round to the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The confirmed 2014 IndyCar drivers in action include:

  • Simon Pagenaud (No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports, HPD ARX-03b, P class, 2nd start)
  • Sebastien Bourdais (No. 5 Action Express Racing, Corvette DP, P, 5th)
  • Justin Wilson (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 7th)
  • James Hinchcliffe (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 3rd)
  • Scott Dixon (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 11th)
  • Tony Kanaan (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 3rd)
  • Ryan Briscoe (No. 3 Corvette Racing, Corvette C7.R, GTLM, 7th)
  • Graham Rahal (No. 56 BMW Team RLL, BMW Z4 GTLM, GTLM, 6th)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 91 SRT Motorsports, SRT Viper GTS-R, GTLM, 8th)
  • Mikhail Aleshin (No. 72 SMP/ESM Racing, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

That’s 10 drivers right there. Then add in these drivers who competed in one or more IndyCar Series events in 2013:

  • Katherine Legge (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P, 2nd)
  • AJ Allmendinger (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 9th)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 2nd)
  • Alex Tagliani (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 2nd)
  • Conor Daly (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 1st)
  • James Davison (No. 007 TRG-AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, GTD, 1st)
  • Townsend Bell (No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

After those seven, the top two from Indy Lights in 2013 are making their Rolex 24 debuts:

  • Sage Karam (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P)

Aleshin, Karam, Chaves, Daly, Davison and Bell are all making their Rolex 24 debuts. Considering Bell has been active in North America since the 1990s, his name on that list is the biggest surprise.

Four of the above drivers, Dixon (2006), Rahal (2011), Wilson and Allmendinger (2012) have overall wins at the Rolex 24. Dixon will be making his 11th straight Rolex 24 start with CGR.

Some other interesting tidbits: Hinchcliffe, by running a Mazda prototype, will have run three different types of Mazdas in three classes in three years (Mazda RX-8 in GT in 2012, Mazda6 in GX in 2013). Kanaan makes his third class appearance in as many starts, after running a GT1 Ford Mustang Cobra in 1998 and a Porsche GT3 Cup last year. Briscoe (six prior starts) and Hunter-Reay (seven) have only driven Daytona Prototypes; this year marks their first run in a GTE-spec car. Tagliani will start his first Rolex 24 since 2007, when he debuted in a Ford Mustang Cobra in the GT class.

Other IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball were part of the overall-winning team in 2013, but neither returns for 2014. Allmendinger has shifted back fully to NASCAR for 2014, but we’re including him in this list after his six races with Team Penske’s IndyCar program in 2013. There are others in the full entry list with past IndyCar or Indy Lights experience, but that would drag this post out even longer.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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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.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

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.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“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.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

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.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

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.”