Foust’s third win of Red Bull GRC season huge for VW Andretti team

Photo: Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
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Tanner Foust’s win in Round 5 of the Red Bull Global Rallycross season at Daytona International Speedway was big enough for him, but probably even bigger for his Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

The driver of the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Drink Volkswagen Beetle GRC’s Saturday race was compromised when he hit a hole on the track, which pitched him into the perpetually luckless Patrik Sandell of Bryan Herta Rallysport. A fire for Scott Speed’s second Beetle then followed and suddenly Steve Arpin secured his first GRC win.

Foust, meanwhile, rebounded with a vengeance on Sunday after his Andretti crew completed repairs on his car and also got Speed out and rolling in a backup car. A 1-2 finish was the perfect reward for the team.

“It was obviously nice to win after an unfortunate race on Saturday. But really, the vindication and the greatest part about winning on Sunday was for the team,” Foust told NBC Sports.

“These mechanics were working the entire weekend overnight, piecing cars together, replacing items on a time crunch, it was hot, and just not ideal conditions to be cranking like that.

“When we got to Sunday, everyone was basically getting together and said, ‘This is like doing the Daytona 24-hour race!’ You recognize that you’re tired, but you press on. For Scott and I to deliver the 1-2 finish was amazing.”

The win for Foust was his third this year, after sweeping the season opener in Phoenix in mid-May. He’s also won a number of preliminary races, either heats or semifinals, from the opening three weekends.

While it’s been a dream start for Foust, who won three races in total in 2015, he’s not taking anything for granted thus far.

“You like to be confident, optimistic and hope your team has worked harder, had better night’s rest and breakfast than others. But the fact is, even with qualifying pole on Saturday, and winning all the heats doesn’t necessarily mean there’s that great a chance of winning the race,” he explained.

“The devil is in the details. You have to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. On Saturday, the heat and semifinals, I don’t think I finished the first corner in first position, even starting on pole. That first turn, was quite a bit of carnage going on. So you have to keep the car together, then make some passes if you could in the first lap.”

Foust said he loved the enhancements and track changes to Daytona, particularly after the road course hairpin portion of the circuit.

“Going into the dirt at such a high speed, then onto the base of the jump, braking just enough to not smash the car on the landing, it was a complicated sequence of turns. But that was awesome to have that sequence to work out every single lap,” he said.

“That turn happened, and then you had a really tricky turn leading onto the straightaway.

“The strange thing about those sequences, is that the more brave you were and the harder you pushed, the harder you get through there. The exercise is one of discipline at most tracks and you don’t want to push too hard. I think the rally guys like Sandell and myself liked the fact you could throw it in there, survive and be rewarded.”

Foust heads to MCAS New River this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, NBC) with a 32-point lead over Arpin (265-233). Speed sits third in points on 226.

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”