Best way for Newgarden to forget Iowa: Earn third win in four years at Toronto

IndyCar
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Josef Newgarden loves everything about Toronto: the people, the food and the cosmopolitan feel.

Oh yeah, one other thing: he loves to win INDYCAR races there.

The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion has won two of the last three Honda Indy Toronto races on the temporary street course around Exhibition Place just west of downtown T-town.

This Sunday, Newgarden goes for 3 wins in the last 4 starts at Toronto – not to mention what he hopes will be his fourth win of 2018, adding to wins already at Phoenix, Birmingham and nearly three weeks ago at Road America.

“Toronto has been kind to us, for sure,” Newgarden told MotorSportsTalk. “I think with both of our victories there, we had a little bit of luck thrown in, no doubt.

“We had a fast car there last year and capitalized on it when we got the lead. I thought we were a podium threat before that, but the yellows are really the story of Toronto because they can happen at the wrong moments or the right moments.

“And for us, they generally happen in the right moments. You just don’t want to get caught out there. I think if you start from pole around Toronto and have a fast car, you want to make sure you don’t get caught out by something like that. It’s capitalizing if you’re not in the right position or protecting if you are in the right position around that place.”

Needless to say, racing at Toronto is something Newgarden looks forward to each season.

“It’s certainly one of my favorite events,” he said. “The track itself is very fun to drive.

“It’s very unique. I mean, all the IndyCar circuits are, but Toronto is kind of its own thing. It’s probably most closely related to Detroit, but even Detroit is different because of the changes from asphalt to concrete to asphalt in the corners, so that’s a really big challenge on the setup.

“But the event is so well supported and we have such great Canadian fans, I love going there. It’s a fun city, kind of like New York, great fan support, awesome atmosphere and yes, it’s a fun, challenging track to drive.”

Newgarden will be going to Toronto this weekend still feeling the impact of losing this past Sunday at Iowa. He dominated more than the first three-quarters of the race before being passed by James Hinchcliffe with 42 laps to go.

The Canadian native would hold on to claim his first win in over a year (last win came in 2017 at Long Beach).

Now that he’s going to race on Hinchcliffe’s home turf, Newgarden isn’t necessarily seeking revenge for falling short of Iowa. Rather, he is determined to finish what he didn’t at Iowa and once again leave Toronto exclaiming to himself in celebration, “Oh, Canada!”

“I feel motivated and I know the team is motivated to do our job and just go do it again,” Newgarden said. “That’s really all you can do.

“It’s always tough to lose a race at the end of the day. We had a car that was capable of winning, but the thing is we just got beat at Iowa. For three-quarters of the race, we had a car to beat, and the last quarter, we didn’t.

“We just have to learn from that and try to make it better next time, try to go to Toronto and work harder and try to win again. No doubt, we feel motivated that we have speed and can find it if we don’t have it, and we can execute as a race team, so that gives a lot of confidence to just go do a great job at Toronto and try to win.”

There are six races remaining on the schedule and Newgarden finds himself second in the standings, trailing series leader Scott Dixon by 33 points. There’s still plenty of time for Newgarden to overtake Dixon and earn a second consecutive IndyCar crown.

But at the same time, Newgarden is not obsessing about it. His philosophy is fairly straight-forward: he’ll do the best he can in the remaining races and if the championship happens, it happens.

“It’s simple in my mind,” he said. “I’ve always said that a championship takes care of itself.

“You focus on each individual weekend in its own section. Each weekend is its own individual thing and you just try to maximize your performance for each weekend you go to and each track you’re at.

“If you can do that, you maximize your potential for each individual weekend and, to me, the championship kind of sorts itself out. I just kind of focus on that from my standpoint, but the team, mainly Tim (strategist and Team Penske president Tim Cindric) and the engineers, they really try to see the whole picture and if we need to protect for something in the championship in a certain race, then I think they look at that and try to make that decision.

“But me as a driver, I’m more so just trying to maximize our potential and our result every weekend. That simplistic way of looking at, to me, has always worked out well.”

While Dixon is the main guy right now in Newgarden’s sites, he’s not the only one.

“There’s a lot for sure,” Newgarden said. “Dixon, without a doubt, is in the mix and he’s always going to be tough to beat.

“And (Alexander) Rossi and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay from Andretti (Autosport), and for sure Will Power is always going to be in the mix and he needs to be. We’re representing Team Penske both, so I think both of us want to be as high as possible.

“I think those five (including himself) are the real strong championship contenders. There’s always the potential for someone else to creep up in there like Robert Wickens, who has had a great season, or maybe you see more of an emergence from Graham Rahal.

“I think this top five is really, to me, the guys you have to compete against. You never say never because it can flip so quickly in IndyCar, so you have to be careful not to get too confident. But to me, looking at the landscape, I think that’s probably the best bet, to look at those five the most clearly.”

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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.”