Urrutia wins Gateway as Kaiser all but seals Indy Lights title

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
0 Comments

MADISON, Ill. – Santiago Urrutia did all he could to keep the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title fight alive with his second win of the season, but Kyle Kaiser has all but cinched the title with one race remaining following a wild 75-lap affair at Gateway Motorsports Park.

For the young American, with a revised 31-point lead unofficially over Urrutia, merely starting at Watkins Glen next week will ensure he wins the title and the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship that comes with it.

Kaiser entered the weekend with a 42-point lead and only needed a 34-point margin to ensure he had the title clinched before going to the season finale at Watkins Glen International.

It looked early on in the 75-lap race that Kaiser would be able to pull it off outright, but a strong start quickly faded as the race went on.

After shooting up to third on the initial start from fifth on the grid, Kaiser delivered his statement of intent to wrap the title on Saturday night by making a move on Urrutia for second place on Lap 9, going to the outside of his closest title rival for the position into Turn 1 in an authoritative move.

Urrutia got Kaiser back five laps later on the inside of Turn 1, but with Kaiser not needing to fight it to ensure he had enough of a points gap to clinch at that moment, he kept the door open wide enough for Urrutia to come through.

Up front, Urrutia was left to focus on catching surprise polesitter Juan Piedrahita of Team Pelfrey for the lead and subsequent win of the race.

Kaiser ran in third place with the best battle on the road behind him in the form of Andretti Autosport’s Nico Jamin and Carlin’s Matheus Leist close for fourth.

On Lap 43, Urrutia, having closed the gap significantly on Piedrahita, powered past for the lead into Turn 1. This pass meant Urrutia was within 34 points of Kaiser, who was running in third.

Meanwhile Kaiser fell back into the clutches of Jamin and Leist, which had championship implications in terms of whether Kaiser would have enough points to win the title tonight.

Jamin was by Kaiser for third by Lap 49, and then Leist was by shortly thereafter. Zachary Claman De Melo soon closed in and made a move during the final 20 laps for fifth, and Kaiser then had to hold off Colton Herta for sixth.

On Lap 62 there was a heavy three-car accident that occurred. Contact occurred between Chad Boat, the series debutante, and Neil Alberico entering Turns 1 and 2 as Alberico attempted to lap Boat, and Garth Rickards also got caught up in it. That took out two of the three Carlin cars (Alberico and Rickards), with Boat the third Belardi car (along with Aaron Telitz and Shelby Blackstock) to be involved in an incident during the race.

The race was red flagged as a heavy amount of debris littered the track.

Following the restart, a chaotic battle for the lead occurred between Piedrahita and Urrutia, with Piedrahita briefly getting the advantage on the restart to take lead before another quick yellow was flown for a spinning Nico Jamin.

Jamin’s spin moved Kaiser up a position, again making it appear like he may clinch the championship outright. However, a restart with three laps remaining saw Urrutia finally edge passed Piedrahita, the two going side-by-side for a full lap before Urrutia cleared him for the lead with two laps left. Urrutia was able to hang on from there to take the win.

Colton Herta meanwhile moved up to third while Kaiser ended up fourth, with Nicolas Dapero completing the top five.

More to follow, unofficial results are below.

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
0 Comments

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.”