Target confirms exit from IndyCar at end of 2016 season

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Target has confirmed it will end its 27-year run with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, the longest team/sponsor relationship in North American open-wheel racing, on Wednesday.

The decision, first reported by the Associated Press although rumors of which have been swirling throughout the year, particularly in recent weeks, will see Target end its sponsorship of Scott Dixon at the end of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. A team spokesperson confirmed the news to NBC Sports as well.

Recent management changes within the company have driven this decision, although the AP report indicated and the team confirmed Target will continue with Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program through 2017.

“It’s the greatest sponsor in racing, ever.  They’ve been nothing but good to me,” Ganassi said in a team-issued quote. “They developed me personally and professionally. I’ve developed lifelong friends and relationships.  It is unfortunate they will be leaving the IndyCar Series but rest assured that the No. 9 Chevrolet and the reigning IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon will still be in the IndyCar Series next year and beyond, the car will just have different colors on it.  We are working through some of those options now.

“Also, we are happy they will remain in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Kyle Larson and the No. 42.  I understand things change and people have different marketing efforts. It’s one of the longest running sponsors in racing and they delivered for me and the team, and the team delivered for them.”

Dixon, Ganassi’s longtime stalwart driver, has driven a Target-sponsored car since 2002 when he joined the team midseason and won four championships.

“I can’t thank Target enough for their partnership on and off the track over the years,” Dixon said in a quote released by the team.

“They have been with the INDYCAR team for an amazing 27 years, which is unheard of in professional sports, and on the car I’ve driven for the past 15 seasons. I have nothing but great memories and much thanks for Target being great partners for so long. I’m looking forward to being in the 9 car for years to come and fighting for more wins and championships with Chip and the team.”

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman &. Co., INDYCAR’s parent company, said “INDYCAR would like to thank Target for its exceptional commitment to open-wheel racing and to Chip Ganassi Racing for its stewardship of the partnership for the past 27 years. The Target brand will always be an integral part of our sport’s history as the number of race victories, championships and Indianapolis 500 wins that occurred in the iconic red livery were unprecedented. We’re confident that the No. 9 will have new colors to carry in the near future as the team continues its success in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Target first joined the team in 1990 and while it was a presence on Ganassi cars for its first six years through 1995, in 1996 when the team shifted to an all-red livery with the yellow lightning bolt – a paint scheme which was brought back for the start of the 2016 season.

Together, Ganassi and Target have won 11 championships and four Indianapolis 500s. Champions for the team include its first champion, Jimmy Vasser, then Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

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.”