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.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.