Nur Ali on GRC Lites: “I can tell you wholeheartedly, I’m having a blast”

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Versatility in terms of competing in different forms of motorsport, and learning once you’re in a new one, are keys to success in modern racing.

This is, in a sentence, the description that sums up Nur Ali’s first season in the Red Bull Global Rallycross GRC Lites division.

Ali, now 40, is embarking on his first season in the rally championship after a diverse career that has included past stints in A1GP, NASCAR and ARCA.

The atmosphere and adaptation to the world of GRC has been an eye-opening experience, which is saying something since Ali’s originally from Pakistan, moved to Germany as a youth where he got bitten by the racing bug and then moved to Texas (as an eight-year-old in 1983).

That blended experience ties in nicely as Red Bull GRC heads to Washington, D.C., this weekend, which serves as something of a homecoming for the Texan, who drives the No. 42 AF Racing entry with support from Valvoline and Tweaker Energy Shot.

Ali interned under U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and besides racing, has been a diehard political junkie. He got his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from American University.

“Yeah I’m looking forward to D.C. – it’s my second home. I was fortunate enough to live there as a student,” Ali told MotorSportsTalk.

“My dad has been involved in local politics since I moved. I was 8 years old and intrigued on what my dad was doing, whether it was events, functions, or other things. I remember he was a polling judge at elections. He was fully involved.

source: Getty Images
Ali with A1 Team Pakistan in A1GP. Photo: Getty Images

“Growing up in U.S., but having been born in Pakistan, lived in Germany, then adapted to the American system – not instantaneously – he fell in love with the system in the U.S. I started going to polling systems and I got interested in the political system.

“In some sense, yeah I’m a political junkie. I’d be doing something in D.C. if I wasn’t racing. To work with Congressman Barton showed me how it works. We may not have a perfect system, but in my estimation it’s the best one around.”

Politics may be the side job but in terms of the day job, Ali’s numbers are trending upward as he enters the second half of the season.

He’d finished sixth in the first two races but after a series of three tough races, recorded a season-best fourth in the most recent round at Detroit Belle Isle, race two. He now sits seventh in points.

Having only had a brief preseason test to acclimate to racing on dirt, Ali has spent the first half of the year learning, while being optimistic of better results in the second half.

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Ali at Fort Lauderdale. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

“Halfway through the season, with Detroit past and heading to Washington next weekend, I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “The first weekend, luckily the dirt portion was really small there. It wasn’t too difficult.

“I’ve had some coaching and testing in Austin at some facilities there. By New River, I felt a lot more comfortable. At one point I pulled the hand brake/e-brake too early in the race. I wish it would have happened in practice. But I’ve gotten comfortable; I’m not 100 percent there yet but much more compared to where it was.”

Besides driving, Ali also spoke highly of the GRC open paddock and overall atmosphere. It was one of the elements that attracted him and his partners to the series.

As a tentative plan, Ali is looking to do a second season in GRC Lites before any jump to Supercars, which could come as early as 2017.

As a whole though, having been in open-wheel cars and stock cars, adding rally cars only adds to his career record.

And being from Pakistan originally, being able to embark on a full career is something Ali fully appreciates since it’s a rarity.

“I feel very humbled honestly; I come from a culture without race car drivers. I only had a passion,” Ali said.

“I was very fortunate I had supportive parents, so long as I got my education. I wanted to race cars. I grew up in Germany watching Formula 1. I was a student of the Autobahn, my father drove on it, it was instilled or built in me as a young child.

“It was difficult but having had 17 years in the industry, 17 years as a driver, I’m humbled and fortunate to do A1, small stint in NASCAR, ARCA, some Indy Ligths testing.

“Now it’s a new challenge. I never thought I’d be driving on dirt. But circumstances have brought us here.

“Without even thinking, this is the most fun I’ve had this year. The paddock is wide open and the races aren’t that long. I can get the result in 10 minutes! Don’t have to wait three to four hours. We’ve done six races, had five or six different winners, and many are rookies. There’s an opportunity to podium or even win this year. It makes it an equal level playing field.

“A1 was fun, NASCAR fun, but this has been awesome. Today I can tell you wholeheartedly I’m having a blast. I hope it grows from year-to-year.”

IndyCar results, points after 107th Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS — With his first victory in the Indy 500, Josef Newgarden became the first repeat winner through six race results of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season and made a move in the points.

Newgarden, who celebrated with fans in the grandstands, moved from sixth to fourth in the championship standings with his 27th career victory and second this season (he also won at Texas Motor Speedway).

The Team Penske star won his 12th attempt at the Brickyard oval, tying the record for most starts before an Indy 500 victory with Tony Kanaan (2013) and Sam Hanks (1957). Newgarden, whose previous best Indy 500 finish was third with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2016, became the first Tennessee native to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the first American since Alexander Rossi in 2016.

He also delivered the record 19th Indy 500 triumph to Roger Penske, whose team ended a four-year drought on the 2.5-mile oval and won for the first time since he became the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar in 2020.

Newgarden, 32, led five laps, the third-lowest total for an Indy 500 winner behind Joe Dawson (two in 1912) and Dan Wheldon (one in 2011).

The race featured 52 lead changes, the third most behind 68 in 2013 and 54 in ’16, among 14 drivers (tied with ’13 for the second highest behind 15 leaders in ’17 and ’18). Newgarden’s 0.0974-second victory over Marcus Ericsson was the fourth-closest in Indy 500 history behind 1992 (0.043 of a second for Al Unser Jr. over Scott Goodyear), 2014 (0.0600 of a second for Ryan Hunter-Reay over Helio Castroneves) and 2006 (0.0635 of a second Sam Hornish Jr. over Marco Andretti.).

It also marked only the third last-lap pass in Indy 500 history — all within the past 17 years (Hornish over Andretti in 2006; Wheldon over J.R. Hildebrand in 2011).

Ericsson’s runner-up finish was the ninth time the defending Indy 500 finished second the next year (most recently four-time winner Helio Castroneves in 2003).

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the 107th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:


RESULTS

Click here for the official box score from the 200-lap race on a 2.5-mile oval in Indianapolis.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Indy 500 with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (17) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (10) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 200, Running
3. (4) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
8. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (21) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
10. (2) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (27) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (25) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 200, Running
14. (14) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (20) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 200, Running
16. (9) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (24) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
18. (32) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running
19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 198, Running
20. (13) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 197, Contact
21. (11) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 196, Contact
22. (33) Graham Rahal, Chevrolet, 195, Running
23. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 195, Running
24. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
25. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 192, Contact
26. (26) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
27. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
28. (15) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 183, Contact
29. (23) David Malukas, Honda, 160, Contact
30. (19) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 149, Contact
31. (31) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 90, Contact
32. (28) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 75, Mechanical
33. (29) Katherine Legge, Honda, 41, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 168.193 mph; Time of Race: 2:58:21.9611; Margin of victory: 0.0974 of a second; Cautions: 5 for 27 laps; Lead changes: 52 among 14 drivers. Lap leaders: Palou 1-2; VeeKay 3; Palou 4-9; VeeKay 10-14; Palou 15-22; VeeKay 23-27; Palou 28-29; VeeKay 30-31; Rosenqvist 32; Rossi 33-34; Palou 35-39; VeeKay 40-47; Palou 48-60; VeeKay 61-63; Rosenqvist 64-65; O’Ward 66; Power 67; Herta 68; Rosenqvist 69; O’Ward 70-78; Rosenqvist 79-81; O’Ward 82-89; Rosenqvist 90-94; Ilott 95-99; Rosenqvist 100-101; O’Ward 102; Rosenqvist 103-107; O’Ward 108-109; Rosenqvist 110-113; O’Ward 114-115; Rosenqvist 116-119; O’Ward 120-122; Rosenqvist 123-124; O’Ward 125-128; Rosenqvist 129-131; Ferrucci 132; Ericsson 133-134; Castroneves 135; Rosenqvist 136; Ericsson 137-156; Newgarden 157; Ericsson 158; Ferrucci 159-168; Ericsson 169-170; Rossi 171-172; Sato 173-174; O’Ward 175-179; Hunter-Reay 180-187;
O’Ward 188-191; Ericsson 192; Newgarden 193-195; Ericsson 196-199; Newgarden 200.


POINTS

Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the GMR Grand Prix:

Drivers

Entrants

Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 219, Ericsson 199, O’Ward 185, Newgarden 182, Dixon 162, McLaughlin 149, Rossi 145, Grosjean 139, Power 131, Herta 130.

Rest of the standings: Lundgaard 122, Kirkwood 113, Rosenqvist 113, Ilott 111, Ferrucci 96, VeeKay 96, Rahal 94, Malukas 84, Armstrong 77, Daly 73, Castroneves 69, Harvey 65, DeFrancesco 63, Canapino 61, Pagenaud 55, Pedersen 51, Robb 47, Sato 37, Carpenter 27, Hunter-Reay 20, Kanaan 18, Andretti 13, Enerson 5, Legge 5.

Next race: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which has moved from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown, will take place June 4 with coverage starting on Peacock at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.