Miles: After “two-sided pancake” Fontana race, IndyCar may crack down against stakeholder comments

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Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company Hulman & Co., said Wednesday INDYCAR may crack down against critical comments against the series in the future.

Following in the wake of driver, team and other critical key stakeholder comments following Saturday’s MAVTV 500, Miles said stakeholders can still express opinions, but more likely in a private setting compared to a public one.

Miles opened his comments about the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. by making an odd comparison.

“It’s a serious subject, so I hope this attempt at humor is not misguided, but I have a very good, very colorful friend that’s pretty well known in Indiana who wrote a book that is entitled, “It Takes a Mighty Thin Pancake that Ain’t Got Two Sides!” The way I think about it, the Fontana race definitely had two sides,” he said during today’s media teleconference.

After extolling the value and positive aspects of the race, Miles then launched into the criticisms he’s seen of the race in the days since.

“What I didn’t love about it, was it’s one thing for our fans and audience and all that and people that care about us to weigh in and have opinions and that’s great. If they don’t, then we really are in trouble as a sport.

“What I didn’t love was our members, I think of them as members, some of our stakeholders, by whom I mean representatives of teams and certain drivers, I thought, really going too far with their public statements.”

Miles attempted to explain the reasoning and rationale why that occurred.

“One way to look at it is that at a moment when people were exhausted from the stimulation of watching that race, even during it, comments started to be made that weren’t so much just opinions about the setup, but were really very, I thought, potentially damaging to the sport, to the Series,” he said.

“I don’t view the Series as Hulman and Company, Inc. I view this Series as the drivers, the teams, and us, and our investors and stakeholders, by which I mean broadcasters and sponsors, and comments can be damaging to the interest of the whole, and I personally think our sport has been probably too lax in that regard.

“So I expect to see a change in our attitude about that going forward. I don’t think it makes sense to go from off to on, from one day to the next without any warnings, but I do think we need to be more forceful in ensuring that no one individual or individuals are really damaging the value for the group.

“On the other hand, it’s incumbent on us to be a place where stakeholders can feel like they can express their views and they are heard and they are absolutely taken into consideration. Again, most of them understand that their view doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a universal view and sometimes timing of a discussion affects outcomes.

“That was one take away for the weekend from me, that I think as a sanctioning body we got to step up a little bit where it makes sense, and I think you can look for us to take that approach going forward.”

Miles said there would not be penalties issued for Fontana directly, but it opens up the floodgates for the future.

“I think really stakeholders, but the short answer to your question is I’ve talked to a couple [drivers], but many I haven’t,” he said.

“We’re not going to be levying sanctions based on comments that were made last weekend, but I do think they provide an important reason that I do need to have a number conversations and will have them, and I think we will have them with some individuals and we’ll have them with team owners and drivers generally.

“Anyway, all I’m trying to do today is make it clear I’m not pleased with some of that, I’m not naming any names, and I’ve said it’s incumbent upon us to be a responsible, responsive, intelligent sanctioning body. But we will ‑‑ I will change this culture to some extent going forward by being more activist and whether we’re pounding our chests about that or not, you can be sure it’s going to happen if it needs to.”

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.”