Will Power on pole again in St. Pete

Photo: IndyCar
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Will Power’s dominance on the streets of St. Petersburg continued Saturday as he secured pole for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg despite brushing the wall during Round 2. However, the car suffered no damage, and his fastest lap was just over the 1:00 mark, and came in at 1:01.064. It is Power’s seventh pole in eight years at St. Petersburg. He noted afterward that a decision to make one run in the first round helped set him up for later rounds. “It takes obviously a very good team and kind of getting through that first round there,taking the risk on just doing one lap was good for me, I definitely had a bit more meat on the tires in the last round there.”

Power also explained that and the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske group nearly went the wrong with chassis adjustments and had to backtrack before their pole run. “(We) made a bit of a wrong setup change there for the last round and kind of just made it and went back and did something else. So yeah, very happy to be on pole. It’s really tight competition.”

Power was one of only two Chevrolets to make the Firestone Fast Six, the other being his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who qualified fourth.

The other four slots went to Honda teams, who continued to show the strong pace they demonstrated in all three practice sessions. Scott Dixon led the Honda contingent in second, with James Hinchcliffe in third. Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan qualified fifth and sixth. This marked the first time in the manufacturer aero kit era Honda has done so; Honda’s best effort in the Firestone Fast Six last year was at the IndyCar Grand Prix when Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal and Jack Hawksworth all made it.

Dixon later explained that a crucial error on his part might have cost him the pole. “I think the team and Honda did the job. I just did not. I made a pretty big mistake on my first lap, which definitely disappointed, and we had a pretty smooth weekend. The car was super fast and came up short, but it’s qualifying. Hopefully tomorrow I can redeem myself and we can snap up an extra spot, but good round for the weekend, especially for the whole team.”

Honda’s strength was not the only surprise in qualifying. A number of high-profile drivers who had been running quickly failed to make it out of Round 1 of qualifying. Chief among them, Team Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud, sporting the No. 1 as the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion, and Helio Castroneves failed to advance to round two. They will start 14th and 16th. “Well, we’re certainly disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to pack up and go home,” Pagenaud asserted after qualifying. “The PPG Chevrolet team and I will go to work and figure out how we can improve. They are the best in the business. We have our work cut out for us, but once the race starts, all sorts of things can happen.”

Also failing to advance was Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti, who was fastest in opening practice on Friday and noted that he and team overcompensated for an oversteer issue when they ran on the primary black tires. Andretti will start 15th.

Two drivers made contact with the wall during qualifying, ending their sessions prematurely. Sebastien Bourdais speared off course entering turn 13 on his out lap during Round 1, an incident that caused a red flag and parked Bourdais for the session. He will start 21st. Meanwhile, Ryan Hunter-Reay flirted with the wall several times before eventually brushing it in Round 2. It did not stop the session, but Hunter-Reay ‘s car was damaged enough that he did not continue. He will start 12th on Sunday.

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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.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“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.”