[media-credit name=”Mary Jo Buchanan” align=”alignright” width=”127″][/media-credit]While New Hampshire Motor Speedway is traditionally a NASCAR track, Tanner Foust, Global Rally Cross points leader, has made himself at home, qualifying his No. 34 ROCKSTAR Ford Fiesta for the pole.
Foust could not feel more at home than amongst the NASCAR Whelen Modified, Nationwide and Cup Series and has been most pleased about how the NASCAR fans have embraced the sport.
“I’ll be honest, it’s amazing how positive the feedback is from the NASCAR fans,” Foust said. “I’ve got strange connections with a lot of NASCAR fans through Top Gear and hosting with Rutledge (Wood), who is embedded in the NASCAR culture.”
“But a lot of people I’ve talked to come up and say, ‘Oh, you’re the guy from Top Gear’ and they had never seen a small car like this race before and they absolutely love it,” Foust continued. “It’s really been very, very positive, much more so than I would have thought, to be honest.”
“Hopefully we can continue to put on good shows and take advantage of this very amazing opportunity to put this sport in the homeland of NASCAR, right in the SMI tracks, and show it to them for the first time.”
Of course, Foust had to have a little bit of fun with his NASCAR compatriots, especially fellow Top Gear host Rutledge Wood. Foust, however, would definitely not recommend Rutledge to drive one of the Rally cars.
“No, no way,” Foust said of putting Wood in a car. “He screams a lot, which as a passenger is sort of understandable, but when you’re screaming and driving, it’s a little weird.”
Foust also sees some of his fellow competitors as actually finding a place in NASCAR eventually. And he cites Travis Pastrana as the prime example of that.
“I think there are a lot of different avenues to go and these are guys that are not brand new to their sponsors or their fans,” Foust said. “The doors have been opened for a lot of these guys to do what they want to do for a long time and I think Rallycross is a home they’ve landed at right now because it’s in the X Games.”
“You get guys like Pastrana, who was a motocross racer in the day, and these guys on two wheels pick it up so quickly.”
Although the Rallycross track may be a bit shoehorned into the NASCAR venue, Foust strong believes that this is their best track to date.
“I think this is the best course so far in New Hampshire,” Foust said. “I think this is the best course because of the added asphalt inside of NASCAR Turn 1.”
Foust described the track as more of an interesting layout, with a water splash and the over-under, where the cars go underneath the jump.
“It’s a pretty dynamic track with 100-115 mile per hour top speed on the little straghtaways,” Foust said. “It is a track that creates a lot of chaos.”
“There is a lot of interesting elements and we’ll see how those come together once you get multiple cars on the track together.”
Fellow racer Travis Pastrana agreed with Foust regarding the challenges of the track.
“The course is absolutely awesome,” said Pastrana, who is pulling double-duty at New Hampshire by competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race before running the SilverStar zXe GRC event. “It’s the most challenging course we’ve had out here at GRC.”
Foust also likened the Rally car racing to their NASCAR compatriots in terms of safety, especially given the incredible wrecks and crashes that have occurred in that form of racing.
“Among the NASCAR fans and around the rest of the country, not a lot of people have heard of the term rally racing,” Foust said. “Rallycross cars translate a lot of that safety over.”
“The rollcages are all FIA-approved and are very sophisticated,” Foust continued. “They have automated fire safety systems inside.”
“We had two huge crashes at X Games, very big crashes, almost 100-g crashes,” Foust said. “But the fact that those drivers are OK, I think is really attributed to the safety systems in the cars.”
“Both of them were in the Fiestas, but the cars are wickedly fast and they do have to have a lot of safety features thankfully.”
Since the Rallycross course has to be manufactured on the NASCAR track, Foust was asked if he thought that the program was being a bit shoehorned into the NASCAR model.
“We are certainly adjusting the cars and the driving to fit the venue because this is a great opportunity to come into the number one motorsport in the U.S. and show them this sport for the first time,” Foust said. “In order to take advantage of that opportunity, we need to fit into the actual venue itself with big, long straightaways, instead of natural jumps coming out of rolling hills.”
“Rallycross has been going on for 45 years in Europe and I’ve been lucky enough to compete there for the last three years and there are tracks specifically built that have been around since the late sixties and early seventies,” Foust continued. “They’re little battlegrounds.”
“So, there are a lot of components that in the US the sport will move towards as it gets a bigger following I hope.”
“Right now, there is real racing going on,” Foust said. “There are hard battles, but it is limited a little bit by the venue because of we are fitting within the confines of an unorthodox rallycross format.”
“But I still think the show is awesome.”