Foust: “Winning the Red Bull GRC title is a bigger deal now”

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Tanner Foust won the first two Red Bull Global Rallycross championships in 2011 and 2012.

As he seeks his third this weekend, and potential first with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, the significance of one this weekend in Los Angeles (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC) would mean even more.

Such a title would come in the VW to give the team its second in a row – and it’s assured it will go to either Foust or teammate Scott Speed. Foust leads Speed, 465-452, heading into the doubleheader Red Bull GRC Los Angeles presented by Honda weekend at the Port of LA. Volkswagen clinched the manufacturer’s championship at Seattle.

“Winning the championship in GRC now is a bigger accomplishment than it was four or five years ago,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It’s so much more competitive… everyone is switched on, you have teams like Andretti, Herta, Ganassi in the mix, there’s more pressure on the drivers and the cars are more equal.

“The teams are more prepared going into a weekend, so it’s on the driver to not mess it up. It’s a greater feeling to win. It would be a sweet win.”

Foust, driver of the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Volkswagen Beetle GRC, scored a pivotal fourth win of the season last time out at Seattle, which put him back in the points lead over teammate Scott Speed following a rough midsummer stretch.

The dominant win at Evergreen Speedway came after a three-race stretch at MCAS New River, Washington D.C. and Atlantic City when Foust finished eighth, third and fourth, and Speed won each of those three.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a year,” Foust said. “There’s been the puncture, suspension failure and an engine failure all with a comfortable lead to grab maximum points. It’s left a lot of points on the table.

“So the feeling with two laps to go in the last race in the lead, I was really nervous! Many things have happened thus far. The track was rough enough where it could have puncture a tire. But if you try to be overly conservative, that opens the door for punctures. It’s not necessarily about just trying to play it safe.

“It was great to follow through and overcome after the mishaps. We’re really driven hard. We’re hoping to follow through on it in LA.”

Foust heads into the doubleheader weekend having swept the Phoenix doubleheader to open the year, then missing a second straight double in Daytona after contact between he and Patrik Sandell in Daytona race one in the waning stages. He rebounded to win race two.

He explained the challenge that lies ahead:

“It can be double the benefit, or double the trouble,” Foust said. “Phoenix, I got it all figured out and could take advantage for maximum points.

“This LA track will be very tight. A lot of hairpin turns and it will favor the smaller cars. We will have our work cut out for us to be competitive. It’s a little bit difficult because other cars will be in the mix.

“You’re forced to deal with it for two rounds instead of one. But if you find something in the track, you may be able to get an advantage in day one that others haven’t found. But by day two, all that advantage is gone. It’s two different events, and you have to seize your chance at both.”

Having been a staple of Red Bull GRC since the start, Foust said this year has been one of the biggest ones yet for the series.

“I think we have got the racing bug into a lot of people that have never been into a motorsports event. That’s huge for rallycross,” he said.

“I’ve seen a big percentage of ‘Top Gear’ fans. That’s been really great – it’s the melding of my professional world. And at more than most, you see so many kids. That’s critical is to keep kids involved and get them hooked with the racing bug at the early age for this sport we love so much.

“If you look at rallycross, that’s the vehicle it is. It’s a way to put motorsports on the map for people that wouldn’t watch racing otherwise.”

And Foust will look to be at the top of that mountain if he can hold on to that points lead through the weekend and claim his third Red Bull GRC title.