Grant Enfinger dominates to win second straight ARCA season opener at Daytona

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Grant Enfinger earned his second consecutive ARCA Series season-opening race, dominating en route to victory in Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

Enfinger led at the halfway point of the 80-lap race around the 2.5-mile high-banked racetrack.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Enfinger told FoxSports1 after the race. “A few weeks ago there was a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t know when I was going to get back in a car. … I can’t say enough about GMS racing and this opportunity they gave me. We’re going to savor this one for a while.“

Xfinity Series rookie Daniel Suarez, who will compete for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished a strong second.

“A few days ago, I was thinking where do I need to be have to be to win this race and normally that would be second place,” Suarez said. “Ten laps to go, I said, ‘Well, here we are, second place, let’s try to win this thing.’

“I was trying to pass the 23 car in the last couple laps, but I just didn’t know how to make that pass. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but I’m happy with a second place.”

Outside pole-sitter Cody Coughlin, 19, finished fourth in his first-ever race at Daytona.

“We had a lot of fun in my first time at Daytona,” Coughlin said. “To come away with a top-five finish is cool. We were up front all day and could taste the victory, so it’s a little bit bittersweet in that aspect. We had a wicked fast Toyota today, I learned a lot and next time we’ll get the checkers.”

ARCA veteran and 10-time series champion Frank Kimmel once again fell short of his bid to finally win at Daytona.

Kimmel, who has earned 80 ARCA wins in his career, finished fifth, adding to the three-runner-up finishes he’s had in career starts at DIS.

A pit road problem cost Kimmel the win. He was leading the race just short of halfway when he came in to pit.

The connector part of the fuel can came loose, dumping the entire contents of the fuel on the gasman and on the ground.

Kimmel had to come back around to take another can, dropping him from the lead to 34th position.

Wrecks were few and far between, but one must be noted.

On Lap 54, Leilani Munter bounced off the left rear of Blake Jones, sending her into Terry Jones and then bounced off and into Buster Graham and Bobby Gerhart.

Gerhart needed assistance to get to the ambulance. It seemed he was pretty shaken up, but he said he was fine after being discharged. Gerhart finished 39th.

“The tape will tell it all,” Gerhart said. “I’m not pointing any fingers or placing any blame. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re three-wide. Everybody was just at the right place at the wrong time.”

J.J. Pack appeared to run over debris from the five-car wreck that punctured the fuel line on his car, leading to a spectacular fire. Pack was uninjured.

NOTES:

* Mark Thompson, who at 63 became the oldest driver to ever win a pole in DIS history (in Friday’s qualifying), finished 14th.

* Former NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. finished 26th in his first race of any series in nearly four seasons. It also was Hamilton’s first race in an ARCA car since 1999.

* Vancouver, B.C. native Sarah Cornett-Ching made her Daytona debut, ultimately finishing 31st out of the 40-car field. She fell behind in the first two laps, and was forced to pit to fix a motor issue.

Competing in the first of what she hopes to be at least 10 races on the ARCA circuit this season, Cornett-Ching came back on the track

* Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell qualified fifth, but suffered overheating problems that left him with a 35th place finish.

FINISHING ORDER:

1 Grant Enfinger

2 Daniel Suarez

3 Brett Hudson

4 Cody Coughlin

5 Frank Kimmel

6 Mason Mitchell

7 Matt Kurzejewski

8 Scott Sheldon

9 Josh Williams

10 Will Kimmel

11 Tom Hessert

12 Daniel Hemric

13 Austin Hill

14 Mark Thompson

15 Austin Wayne Self

16 David Levine

17 Blake Jones

18 Tyler Audie

19 Terry Jones

20 Cole Powell

21 Patrick Staropoli

22 Brad Smith

23 Bo LeMastus

24 Thomas Praytor

25 Karl Weber

26 Bobby Hamilton Jr.

27 Bill Catania

28 Barry Fitzgerald

29 Sean Corr

30 Ed Pompa

31 Sarah Cornett-Ching

32 Roger Carter

33 John Lowinski-Loh

34 Garrett Smithley

35 Clay Campbell

36 J.J. Pack

37 Buster Graham

38 Leilani Munter

39 Bobby Gerhart

40 James Swanson

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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.”