Penske, ECR continue Chevrolet aero testing at Texas

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Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway for further manufacturer testing with the 2018 aero kit, with drivers Josef Newgarden (in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet) joining the ECR duo of Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot (in the No. 20 and 21 Fuzzys Vodka Chevrolets, respectively) for a full day of testing on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval.

The Chevrolet outing follows a similar one for Honda at the Texas oval, where Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe tested in October.

Newgarden explained that the aero package definitely makes the car feel different, but not as much as he was expecting on the Texas oval.

“It feels different; I wouldn’t say drastically different from a feel standpoint,” said the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “This type of an oval will be less change than some of the other tracks with aero configurations. There’s a small difference just running alone.”

Newgarden also added the car’s structure and aesthetics make it both look and feel like a proper racing car.

“Everything getting lower I think is preferred, the side pods getting pushed forward – those are the big aesthetic differences we really wanted,” said Newgarden. “There is more crush structure in the way of the driver with the side pods coming forward, but it looks more like an open-wheel car. The shaping of the side pod looks like a proper open-wheel car.”

Ed Carpenter echoed Newgarden’s sentiments, highlighting that the major difference in the big oval package is in the way the car produces downforce, rather than the amount it produces.

“Compared to Phoenix, it’s not as different but has a different feel. It makes downforce in a different way and (the way) you sense the feedback from the car for me is a little different,” said Carpenter.

Pigot, whose only oval races have been at the last two Indianapolis 500s – and neither with ECR – is chomping at the bit to get back to oval competition. He did test at Texas though filling in for JR Hildebrand in April, while Hildebrand recovered from a hand injury sustained at Long Beach.

“I’m excited to go oval racing again. It’s been awhile since I’ve consistently driven on ovals. I think it will only help that I will be in the car throughout the whole season rather than here and there,” he said.

Pigot added that he’s enjoying doing development work for the aero package, a role that he admits is new to him.

“It’s something I’ve never really been a part of before, developing somewhat of a new car with the team. On the road course side of things, it’s been all my feedback. Hopefully, it is a good thing and not a bad thing when we get to the first race!” he detailed about his role with helping ECR and Chevrolet develop the new bodywork.

“It’s a cool experience to step up into a full-season role and also step up in a development way as well. It’s nice to be here on the ovals and have Ed driving the car a lot. He’s got a ton of experience, someone I can ask questions to and relate to a lot more than when we’ve been doing road-course testing so far.”

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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.”