VW Andretti Rallycross Team, Driver Have Red Bull Championship Sweep
The Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team, which campaigned a pair of Beetles this season, came out on top with its drivers Scott Speed and Tanner Foust taking first and second, respectively, in the driver’s championship. The top spot seesawed between Speed and Foust throughout the season. Foust took a slim lead two weeks ago in Seattle when he finished first in that event. Speed, who finished fourth, gained enough points to remain on Foust’s heels.
Speed and Foust finished first and second, respectively, in the season’s final event in Los Angeles Sunday. Volkswagen had already wrapped up the Red Bull GRC Manufacturer’s Championship with the team’s strong showing in Seattle. Overall, VW earned a total of eight wins and 14 podium finishes in 2016.
Second Consecutive Championship
Speed’s victory led him to his second consecutive Driver’s Championship. Foust, who nursed a 13-point lead going into the race, had to settle for a second in his quest for the championship.
Speed’s weekend started out on a strong note. He set the fastest qualifying time and won each of his heat and semifinal races. Foust ran into trouble. He qualified fourth and had second-place finishes in his heats. This ended a 25-race winning streak in prelims. His Saturday semi win earned him a second-place starting position for that day’s final. This made Speed and Foust one and two on the starting grid.
Blasting away from the starting line, Speed and Foust moved away from the field, easily finishing in the top two spots. Speed’s victory was his fourth win of the season. Foust grabbed second place. It was the team’s fourth double podium finish this year, as well as its third 1-2 sweep this year.
Things became more complicated on Sunday as Foust qualified second, while Speed turned the fourth-fastest time in the session. Both drivers started in the same heat, with Foust leading Speed to the checkered flag. In his semi, Speed’s last-lap pass enabled him to take the win. This put him into one of the top starting positions in the final. Jostling a bit, Foust ran into trouble in his semi as he was pushed out of the lead in Turn 1. Dropping back, he had to climb back up to third which is where he ended up when the flag fell. Problems continued for Foust as he was issued a penalty that cost him a place, to fourth. This meant that he had to win the Last Chance Qualifier to stand a chance at holding onto the top spot.
Foust handily won the qualifier and earned a spot in the field for the last final of the season. At this point, the point lead was shaved from 13 to four so whoever finished up ahead at the end would win the Driver’s Championship.
Final Start Was Huge
Foust’s start in the final was huge. For the first few laps, he held an outside line, quickly chewing up nearly half the field for the first few turns. At this point, he found himself in third behind his teammate Speed. Speed clung on to second fiercely, not allowing Foust to pass. Foust was on Speed’s tail challenging him, but his No. 34 was unable to pass Speed’s No. 41. When the checkered flag dropped Speed and Foust finished two and three.
“Today was the most emotional day of racing in my entire career,” Speed enthused. His second-place finish had enabled him to win his second consecutive Driver’s Championship with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. “I expected to come out and run at the front without problems today, but had some troubles in qualifying. After racing in the same heat with Tanner, with him winning. I thought our chances were done, but then he ran into his own issues, so the championship was in our hands going into the final. This is the culmination of so much hard work from everyone on the team this year, and I couldn’t be prouder to stand on the podium with everyone.”
Foust’s second-place finish in the championship bettered his third-place effort in 2015. He set a record of 25 prelim wins and he added four victories to his Red Bull GRC total this season. “I’m gutted for our team with this result,” he said after the race. “We started the day leading the points, but events outside our control put us in a hole. I put everything I had into that final, and we came up just one or two points shy Everyone’s worked so hard this year: I’m proud of the team, but wanted to get my guys to the top step of the podium today.”
In accepting the Driver’s Championship trophy, Speed said that the “Volkswagen Andretti guys are the best in the paddock. It’s an honor to work with them and with such a great teammate. I’m so happy to share this moment with everyone right now, and I can’t wait to get back to work next year.”