Tanner Foust: Biology major turned professional racer

Tanner Foust was pursuing a career in pre-med after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Colorado. However, he veered off course from his original plan. Tanner took a job working in a garage during college, essentially trading seat time in racecars for mechanic work. It was because of this that Tanner seriously looked into how he could turn his childhood passion for cars into a career.

We had a chance to catch up with Tanner to learn how he got started in racing, what it’s like to be a stunt driver and his favorite moments.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.28.16 AMHow did you go from earning a biology degree and studying pre-med to becoming a professional racer?
I had always been a car enthusiast since I was a toddler, but never thought of it as a profession. At one point in my collegiate career, I worked for an inventor who taught me the value of doing what you think is most fun for a living. In the last year of college I looked into what steps would need to be taken in order to make a living with a steering wheel.

If you had the opportunity to race anyone, who would it be?
I’ve been lucky to race against my main driving heroes Colin McRae and Rod Millen, and I would love to do it again.

What is it like being a stunt driver for some of the biggest movies?
Stunt driving is an absolute blast. You get to crash on purpose. It’s a great experience. The stunt community is a brotherhood. Every day I get to work on set – whether it’s a commercial or movie – and watch how they come together.

What was your favorite movie to work on?
Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift. It was the first, real big screen exposure to a sport I was heavily vested in. It was kind of an honor to showcase [drifting]. 60 days of door-to-door battling with one of my best friends Rhys Millen in downtown LA – you can’t beat that.

What was the hardest stunt to pull off?
Movies can be technically challenging because the director may have a vision of what they want to get across, but applying that to physically what is possible can be difficult.

In Need For Speed, the director wanted these supercars to be chasing each other at over 100 mph with the actors driving. That isn’t necessarily a safe thing, so the stunt drivers sat on the roof of the car with another set of pedals and steering wheels and drive from the roof. We did that at over 100 mph with helicopter blades clipping next to us, and other cars battling it out on narrow roads next to the Pacific Ocean cliff edge.

Top Gear just aired its final season. Just a few questions about the hit show:

  • How did you get involved in Top Gear?
    Ten years ago I got a call from the BBC to audition for Top Gear on NBC. We shot a pilot that didn’t end up getting picked up, by the channel but the History Channel jumped on it. I was lucky enough to stay on the show.
  • What was your favorite memory from the show?
    At the end of the first season we essentially mobbed through the wilderness of Alaska in trucks that we were trying to kill. We jumped and splashed through every puddle we could and crashed into each other. It was the most adult, pure Disneyland adventure for a car lover. Driving to the top of a volcano in Iceland wasn’t bad either.
  • Who was your favorite guest appearance?
    I had a crush on Lake Bell. I took her for a hot lap around the track and it was awesome. I also sat down with Kid Rock for a bit and that was cool.
  • Who would win a race out of the Top Gear team?
    If we were racing tricycles backwards to the ice cream store… I’m just kidding. I don’t know if there’s anything on this planet that I would lose to Rut or Adam. It’s not that I’m particularly fast, they’re just bad.

What’s the one technique all drivers should know – both everyday and race car drivers?
Having control over where you look. A lot of people recognize that in sports – where you look is really important for success – and with driving it’s just as critical. Where you look is where the car goes.

How were you introduced to ODYSSEY® batteries?
It began with rallycross three or four years ago – they got in touch with me. I was aware of the various battery technologies, but didn’t realize how many innovations there were. I also wasn’t aware of EnerSys, the manufacturer of ODYSSEY® batteries, and all the capabilities they hold. We are most definitely in the age of the battery. It’s been a good learning experience for me, and a great partnership overall. As I get to play with a lot of different things, whether it’s motorcycles, boats, planes or clubs I’m really excited to see where that partnership can extend with EnerSys.


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