Ganassi Racing aims for 100th IndyCar win Saturday at Iowa Speedway

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How much weight is there on the shoulders of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam?

There could be a lot.

This hypothetical weight isn’t the kind that comes with winning yet another Indianapolis 500 (four) or series championship (10 in CART/IndyCar).

It’s the kind that comes with your next win possibly being Chip Ganassi’s 100th as an IndyCar owner.

The wait for No. 100 began as soon as Scott Dixon won last June’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway for his second win of the year.

It continues this weekend in the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, a track Ganassi has won at twice (2008, 09′) before Andretti won the next five races.

source:
Michael Andretti celebrating his 1994 win at Surfer’s Paradise. (Source: Chip Ganassi Racing)

The road to No. 100 for Ganassi began when the former CART driver became a team owner on April 1, 1990. Four years later, CGR scored its first win with Michael Andretti in the season opening Australian FAI Indy Car Grand Prix at Surfer’s Paradise.

Thirty drivers have competed for Ganassi, who has 99 wins and 10 championships with five of those drivers.

The current stable of Ganassi drivers have combined to win 38 races for the owner: Dixon has 36, Kanaan and Kimball each have one and Karam has none in his part-time rookie season.

These drivers have a mixed bag at Iowa. Dixon, who earned his first win for Ganassi in 2003 at Homestead, and has two poles to his name at the .894-mile track (2007, ’08).

“Iowa is such a little bullring, it’s so fast,” Dixon said in a release. “The G-loadings that you’re getting and how quick they get the cars to perform around the track is spectacular.”

But in Dixon’s eight starts there, he has yet to finish on the podium. His best finish is fourth, three times.

“I’ve got a little bit of work to do,” Dixon said.

Kanaan, who earned his only Ganassi win thus far in the 2014 finale at Fontana, may represent CGR’s best chance to win at Iowa. The Brazilian started Andretti’s Iowa dominance in 2010, when he led 62 laps on the way to the win.

Kanaan has finished on the podium in all four races since, leading a total of 334 laps. That included leading 247 last year, before he stayed out on a final caution and then lost out to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who pitted for fresh tires and won the race.

“I can’t wait to get back to Iowa this weekend – there’s just something about these short ovals that I love,” said Kanaan, who has three podium finishes in 2015, with two on ovals. “It’s always such an exciting race, and with the way we’ve been running this season, I don’t see this weekend’s race being any different.”

Kimball’s only win came in 2013 at Mid-Ohio. His best result in four starts at Iowa is 10th last year.

“Iowa Speedway is definitely a physically and mentally demanding track, but I think that’s one reason we enjoy the challenge of it,” Kimball said. “I know the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet will be fast in clean air, but we’ll just need to work on running in traffic to make sure we can stay up front.”

Karam has ran in 10 races in two years for Ganassi. If Karam were to win, he’d be upstaging three veterans and two former champions to earn his first and Ganassi’s 100th win.

Saturday is Karam’s first IndyCar start at Iowa, but in his championship-winning single year in Indy Lights, the Nazareth, Pa., native scored one of his three wins at the track.

Despite crashing out of the Milwuakee race Sunday, Karam has shown improvements as the season’s progressed. He qualified a career-best third at Milwaukee, a race after leading the first five laps of his career at Fontana and earning his best finish in fifth.

“I feel like we have some momentum on our side with the No. 8 car program,” Karam said. “I love Iowa and was a big fan of driving this track in the ladder series. We need a good result and to continue to move forward, and I hope we can get it this weekend and capitalize on all the hard work that’s gone into this program.”

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.”