Tyler McQuarrie living it up in a ridiculously diverse 2016 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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SCORE off-road trucks, Stadium SUPER Trucks, IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Formula Drift.

And that’s just the first four series Tyler McQuarrie has competed in this year.

McQuarrie, 37, has done a little bit of everything throughout his career after rising through the open-wheel ranks, but also dabbling in short track and stock car racing before marking himself a standout in the drift world and adding sports car racing for good measure.

But nothing is comparing to what he’s undertaking this year, in more than 20 weekends and at least a half dozen series of competition in what has to be one of the most diverse racing seasons on record.

IMSA, CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport

He’s doing a little bit more of everything throughout a jam-packed 2016 season. Next up this weekend is his second race in the No. 35 Safecraft Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport for CJ Wilson Racing in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class, co-driving with Till Bechtolscheimer at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; the pair finished fifth on debut of the new car at Sebring in mid-March.

The Sebring result came after the new pairing barely had any testing to prep.

“That was my first time in that car!” McQuarrie noted to NBC Sports. “The only other time in a GT4 Cayman was coaching at Chuckwalla about a month (before the first race). I literally did two laps. I had kind of an idea of what to expect, but that was my first time in the car and getting in, dissecting how it was.

“The car is awesome. It’s a perfect car for that category, to open up to drivers, mainly because of the gearbox. The long runs at Sebring were new to us. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were competitive.”

McQuarrie and Bechtolscheimer barely knew each other and Bechtolscheimer was adapting to modern machinery after primarily racing vintage material in Europe, but he impressed McQuarrie with how quickly he acclimated at Sebring.

“The test day on Tuesday you could see it in his eyes, it seemed like, ‘What have I got myself into?'” McQuarrie said. “It was system overload and after a mistake he was really questioning things. I thought this might be a long six races.

“But he worked super hard with feedback, data, video, he just started building more confidence. His talent started to show in qualifying and the race. He did exactly what he needed to do. It was good for me to not pass judgment!”

Gonna turn to the left sometimes, in ARCA 

This weekend’s start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, however, comes after McQuarrie made his ARCA Racing Series debut at Salem, driving for Lira Motorsports and also with Safecraft sponsorship as part of its #RaceEverything campaign.

McQuarrie described the run up to his debut, and how his old CJ Wilson Racing teammate, stock car veteran Chad McCumbee, helped with pointers. McCumbee continues to race a Mazda MX-5 in the Continental Tire Challenge series for Freedom Autosport, after winning the ST class crown with CJWR last year.

“Basically at St. Pete the opportunity came up,” McQuarrie explained. “Lira Motorsports asked if I wanted to run with them, and the first thing we’ll do is test on (March) 29 and see how the test goes, and then the plan would be to run Salem, April 24. It’s something I wasn’t expecting, but that goes with the season. Throw a stock car in the mix!

“It’s funny, the first person I called was Chad. So it’s him saying, ‘What do you know about this, and can I help you?’ I can’t imagine a better person to lean on. We’re all so different as teammates. Even not being teammates anymore, we’re all such really good friends.”

Hitting the Stadium SUPER Truck shows on the streets 

So that hits sports car and stock car components. So what about two kinds of trucks?

McQuarrie’s prior weekend just before Salem was in Long Beach – a track he seemingly knows inside and out from his drifting career – in one of Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks.

He’d debuted in the series at St. Petersburg, following one test at Gordon’s shop in Charlotte.

The sheer power and menacing force of these trucks are unreal, McQuarrie explained.

“I went into it not really knowing what to expect with the racing,” he said. “It was all second gear stuff. But going there, you get 30 minutes of practice/qualifying before the first race.

“You’re learning so much, because it so different than what you’re used to. At the end of the day, whatever car you’re in, your manipulating it. This thing is unreal; it brakes terrible. It’s all rear brake. You’re dancing the truck through this brake zone. It doesn’t put the power down. But that stuff makes for very good racing. It’s so easy to screw up! Then throw the jumps in there, and I’m like obsessed with jumping. I was stoked to walk out of St. Pete with two third places.”

Almost no rules truck racing in Mexico

Stadium SUPER Trucks are one thing. Off-road trucks are quite another.

And more than the driving itself – McQuarrie called the jump into a truck the equivalent of moving from a street (Porsche) 911 into a GTE-spec 911 RSR – is the atmosphere.

“Racing in Mexico, there’s no rules!” McQuarrie said. “I’m so used to IMSA, FD… ‘This is your pit box, and here’s the speed you can do in paddock.’ You go down there and the pit is at the house you rent, in this development in Mexico. It’s go from waking up to clothes, helmet, garage, out of the driveway to this nice street and straight into downtown San Felipe – get on this dirt road and rip it! It’s so cool to me  to have this freedom. It was so different from all the regulations in IMSA.

“The regulations they do have are nuts. I’m telling my wife, even for like the spectators, we’re going through Whoops and it’s the length of truck, and there’s spectators lining the road. And if you want to stand there, go for it. But fine, go do it. They picked to stand there. It’s a huge adventure.

“In testing and pre running, we learn the course and our satellite phone died. So me and my navigator are stuck in the middle of desert. We’re out there 4-5 hours fixing an axle. No one knew where we were… except you’re in middle of Mexico desert.

“It’s so quiet, it’s loud. You’re waiting for a chupacabra. It’s such a cool adventure.”

The rest of the action

Think this is enough? McQuarrie also has his usual FD commitments – he says that “doing all the other stuff will help my drift stuff, where I’m not focusing on judging, so I can just go out and have fun.” But there’s still nothing like drifting his 1,000-horsepower Mobil 1 Camaro, he says.

More sports car action? How about the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint-X series in a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 (Super Trofeo car) at Utah Motorsports Complex and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later this year.

Partners making it possible

Safecraft Safety Equipment, Mobil 1 and Synergy are some of the key partners that has made McQuarrie’s mental season of racing possible. The run at Monterey this weekend is the fourth in a row with Safecraft as part of its #RaceEverything campaign; it began in Mexico with the aforementioned SCORE San Felipe 250, while April has seen McQuarrie pound the streets of Long Beach on consecutive weekends in Formula Drift and Stadium Super Trucks, before their stock car debut in ARCA at Salem.

The schedule itself

Per McQuarrie, here’s his schedule for this year (subject to change), which is as diverse as it is jam-packed:

2016 race schedule

San Felipe SCORE Feb 28
St Pete SST March 13
Sebring IMSA March 17
Long Beach FD April 9
Long Beach SST April 17
Salem ARCA April 24
Laguna IMSA April 29
Atlanta FD May 7
Baja 500 June 1-5
Detroit SST June 5
New Jersey FD June 17
Watkins Glen IMSA June 30
Toronto SST July 15
Montreal FD July 15
Lime Rock IMSA July 22
Road America Aug 5
Seattle FD Aug 5
Miller PWC Aug 14
Boston SST Sep 2
Texas SST Sep 10
OC SST Sep 15
Irwindale FD Oct 8
Laguna PWC Oct 8
Las Vegas SST Nov 3
Baja 1000 Nov 20

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”