IndyCar: Crunching the numbers post-Barber

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I crunched some numbers after the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Even though the top few positions are a bit top-heavy, the ridiculously tight and competitive nature of the Verizon IndyCar Series field stretches through all 23 cars.

Qualifying Notes

  • After there were zero Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing entries in the Firestone Fast Six at Long Beach, they made up half of it at Barber.
  • Josef Newgarden was the lone non-Penske/Ganassi/Andretti Autosport driver in the Barber Fast Six. This also marked his first time making back-to-back Fast Six appearances, and was also his first career Fast Six on a permanent road course. His previous two came at the Baltimore and Long Beach street courses for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team.
  • Graham Rahal posted his best start of 2014 at Barber, although it was only 18th. Meanwhile Tony Kanaan and rookie Jack Hawksworth have seen some wild swings in qualifying form. Kanaan’s best start of second at St. Pete is balanced by 23rd at Barber; Hawksworth fell from fifth at Long Beach to 22nd at Barber.
  • Mike Conway and Marco Andretti’s qualifying positions have fallen off in each race, while Newgarden, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves have improved their grid spot each races. Castroneves, additionally, became the 12th driver to make the Fast Six this season.

Laps Led Notes

  • Of the 259 race laps in three races, Ryan Hunter-Reay (91) and Will Power (89) have led 180 of them for a grand total of 69.5%!
  • Sebastian Saavedra has led 14 laps, the first 14 of his career. That, right now, is more than Conway (4), Castroneves (2), Andretti, Newgarden and Justin Wilson (1 each), combined with 9 laps led this season.
  • No driver has led in all three races; 12 drivers have yet to lead a lap this year.

Post-Race Points Notes

  • Power (125) and Hunter-Reay (107) are the two drivers over 100 points through three races. Last year, no driver was able to do that.
  • Wilson is seventh in points (67) and Ryan Briscoe 16th (52), with only 15 points separating 10 positions. Additionally, Sebastien Bourdais in 17th (48) and Oriol Servia in 23rd (36) are only separated by 12 markers. A total of 31 points separate seventh from 23rd; meanwhile 33 separate Power from third-placed Simon Pagenaud.
  • Here’s a look at the breakdown of where each driver was after three races last year, and where they are now in terms of points position and points:
# Driver 2013 (Pos., Pts) 2014 (Pos., Pts) Chg (Pos, Pts)
20 Conway 27, 5 (1 start) 5, 82 +22, +77
12 Power 8, 62 1, 125 +7, +63
28 Hunter-Reay 6, 73 2, 107 +4, +36
77 Pagenaud 13, 58 3, 92 +10, +34
17 Saavedra 25, 25 13, 55 +12, +30
67 Newgarden 19, 46 10, 58 +9, +12
10 Kanaan 12, 59 9, 62 +3, +3
11 Bourdais 18, 48 17, 48 +1, 0
9 Dixon 3, 89 4, 87 -1, -2
19 J. Wilson 5, 81 7, 67 -2, -14
25 Andretti 4, 87 6, 73 -2, -14
27 Hinchcliffe 10, 61 18, 46 -8, -15
15 Rahal 7, 66 20, 46 -13, -20
16 Servia 14, 57 23, 36 (2 starts) -9, -21
83 Kimball 11, 60 22, 37 -11, -23
3 Castroneves 1, 99 8, 66 -7, -33
14 Sato 2, 93 15, 53 -13, -40

Different Driver, Same Car 

# Driver 2013 (Pos., Pts) 2014 (Pos., Pts) Chg (Pos, Pts)
2 Montoya 26, 18 (2 starts, Allmendinger) 11, 56 +15, +38
18 Huertas 24, 30 (Beatriz) 19, 46 +5, +16
7 Aleshin 21, 42 (Vautier) 14, 54 +7, +12
34 Munoz 16, 52 (Viso) 12, 55 +4, +3
8 Briscoe 16, 52
98 Hawksworth 17, 50 (Tagliani) 21, 42 -4, -8

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.

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“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.”