Hinchcliffe makes most of ‘mulligan’ in Indy 500 qualifications

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INDIANAPOLIS – When INDYCAR President Jay Frye added a “Last Row Shootout” to Indianapolis 500 qualifications, it was designed to give teams and drivers that had bad luck on Saturday an extra chance to make good.

In golf, it’s called, a “Mulligan.”

At the Indianapolis 500, it should have been named the “Hinchcliffe Rule.”

Last year, Hinchcliffe picked the wrong day to have a bad day in Indy 500 qualifications. He was bumped out of the field by Conor Daly but remained confident he could easily get back into the race with another qualification attempt. But when he went out, his car suffered a bad vibration that brought him back to the pits.

The issue was corrected, Hinchcliffe got back in the tech line, but the qualification time ended before he got a chance to make another attempt as Pippa Mann was still on track when the gun sounded to end qualifications.

The most popular driver in the NTT IndyCar Series was left out of the starting lineup and he vowed that would never happen again.

But it did.

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During his first qualification attempt on Saturday, Hinchcliffe’s car slammed into the Turn 2 wall on the second lap of his four-lap attempt. The Arrow Honda was damaged, and the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew quickly prepared the backup.

Hinchcliffe made a few attempts late in the day but could not get the car up to speed to make the top 30. That put him in a group of six drivers vying for the final three positions in the 33-car starting lineup in Sunday’s “Last Row Shootout.”

Rain delayed the schedule 12:15 p.m. Shootout to 4:30 p.m. Hinchcliffe was the first of the six drivers to make an attempt and his four-lap average was 227.543 miles per hour.

He had to wait to see if three of the five remaining drivers could top that speed. The only driver out of that group that went faster was Sage Karam, who qualified at 227.740 mph over four laps.

When Kyle Kaiser was the last of the six drivers to make an attempt, he bumped Fernando Alonso from the field and Hinchcliffe had made the race.

He will start 32ndin Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

INDYCAR Photo“I just want to say congrats to the other guys that made it in and comprised the last row,” Hinchcliffe said. “And just my heart goes out to the ones that didn’t make it, to Max (Chilton), Pato (O’Ward) and Fernando (Alonso). We all know how much goes into this race and how much this means to everybody, and I’ve been on the other side of this a year ago, so I know how much it sucks. I hate that we have to send guys home today.

“When I got out of the Med Center, I told everybody there’s no way we’re getting back on track yesterday. It just shows what I know. Everybody on Arrow Schmidt Peterson rolled up their sleeves and went to work, and we had the backup car out on track two and a half hours later, which is just incredible.

“It’s a road course car, it wasn’t really built for speedways, it didn’t have all the trick bits on it. But being able to get out there with enough time left to do three runs gave us a lot of information, a lot of data that we could kind of look at overnight and spend long nights working on the car trying to make sure we had the speed today, and man, it’s a nerve-racking feeling knowing that you only have one shot to get it done at this point, and with the weather moving in and being first, that was the same thing that happened to us last year, which was certainly not lost on anybody in the garage.

“Ultimately everybody at Arrow Schmidt Peterson, we took some parts off Marcus Ericsson’s car, everybody from Honda that pitched in to get us in there, man, it’s crazy. It’s way more dramatic.

“I’m getting too old for this stuff. I need a week off now, but we’ve got to be back in the cars tomorrow.”

Hinchcliffe’s situation is perfect proof at why Frye’s idea to give teams and drivers that had trouble on Saturday, one last chance to make the 33-car starting lineup, was a great idea.

“I liked it (the format) before, but I really like it now,” Hinchcliffe said. “What happened to us was weird. In a lot of ways what happened to us last year was part of the reason that rule was created and what happened to us this year is exactly the kind of situation that benefits from it.

“We got a car back on track yesterday, and had it been the old rules, we would have had three more chances and we just would not have got in. We’d be sitting here 365 days later in the same seat we were a year prior, which would have been just devastating.

“For me I think it’s great. It does add a little bit of drama. I think as long as we have enough cars to make it a cool session, which today we did, and — I mean, it was close.

“Good job, man, that was crazy. I was nervous. But yeah, no, I think it’s a cool thing. Hopefully the fans enjoyed it, and it kind of made today a little extra special for everybody.”

After getting a “Mulligan” after Saturday’s crash, Hinchcliffe delivered on Sunday by hitting it, “straight down the fairway.”

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.

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“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.”