IndyCar: Karam, Saavedra to split Ganassi’s No. 8 car for season

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File this one under the “we didn’t see this coming” department – past Indy Lights champion and Chip Ganassi Racing development driver Sage Karam and several-year Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Sebastian Saavedra will split the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for the remainder of the season.

Both will race at the Indianapolis 500, with Saavedra in a fifth car “overseen by CGRT,” per a team release, not necessarily under the CGRT banner (essentially, what Karam’s Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing entry was last year).

The pair lined up 31st and 32nd in last year’s Indianapolis 500, the only IndyCar race thus far that has featured both of them.

The release is below:

Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (CGRT) unveiled its upcoming plans today for the No. 8 Chevrolet entry in the Verizon IndyCar Series, which includes races for both CGRT development driver Sage Karam and team newcomer Sebastian Saavedra– who will pilot the No. 8 AFS Chevrolet at this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Saavedra will be backed by AFS Racing/Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., one of the western states largest full service fire sprinkler companies, for the races in Long Beach, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Sonoma, with an additional race at the Indianapolis 500 through a fifth entry overseen by CGRT.

After starts in St. Petersburg and New Orleans this season for CGRT, Karam will rejoin the team in the No. 8 Chevrolet for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and the Indianapolis 500, and is scheduled to run the balance of the season until Sonoma.

“I’m grateful to Chip and the team for their ongoing commitment to me, and I can’t wait to get back in the car at Barber,” Karam said. “I just take things one day at a time and nothing has really changed for me since I started as a development driver here– when Chip calls, I’m ready to go race.”

“It’s good to be back in the Verizon IndyCar Series,” Saavedra said. “This is an amazing opportunity for me with AFS to work with one of the most prestigious teams in all of racing. I’m very grateful to Chip and the team, which have had an incredible history in the sport, and specifically in the Indianapolis 500. I’m looking forward to Long Beach and doing everything I can to help get the No. 8 car to the front.”

“We’ve been committed to Sage and to running the No. 8 car in the full Verizon IndyCar Series season since day one, and this plan reflects our continued investment in the series and in the team,” Ganassi said. “Sage continues to grow his race craft in his development role with us, and we look forward to having both he and Sebastian contribute to the No. 8 team moving forward this season.”

“I’m excited about this coming together quickly with the Ganassi No. 8 entry,” Peterson said. “It looks to be a great alignment between AFS Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Sebastian Saavedra. My heart has always been in racing and it will be great to see Sebastian have the chance he deserves with a great team. With the opportunities being limited for AFS, we had planned to sit this season out until this fantastic opportunity!”

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.”