Tanner Foust - Xtreme Motorsports Dept

Pej Behdarvand

Their careers followed similar trajectories until Foust got an unexpected break - a job hosting an obscure cable show called Auto Access. This led to gigs on somewhat higher-profile programs such as Import Racers, Redline TV, Supercars Exposed, and RM Auctions. Foust was clearly learning on the job, and the shows provided more exposure than income. But the experience made him a natural choice when BBC Worldwide America started auditioning talent for Top Gear.

The pilot was assembled this past summer. BBC barred the media from the studio taping, but fans who attended the session - most of them die-hard devotees of the British show - generally gave it high marks. Foust insists that, even if the show becomes a hit, it will take a back seat to his racing career. Still, as his manager, Steve Levy, points out: "Top Gear pushes him up the ladder as a presenter. And, obviously, he isn't going to be a race driver for the rest of his life."

At the moment, Levy is standing on the floor of the Home Depot Center a few hours before the rally portion of the X Games will commence. In front of him is the daunting, motocross-style jump that's the signature element of the event. Behind him, the Rockstar crew is working frantically to replace a broken sump guard and repair a front suspension deranged when Foust clouted a wall during practice a few minutes ago.

Foust's car suffers more damage during each subsequent run. But he's not the only one. "Carnage" is the watchword for today's competition, and hardly anybody makes it through the entire course - which features awkward jumps and sections of dirt, pavement, and polished concrete, all circumscribed by concrete barriers - without breaking something. Foust advances through the quarters, the semis, and, eventually, into the final against Pastrana.

Foust opens the heat by nailing the jump. But then, thanks to damage suffered earlier, he understeers into a wall, which gives Pastrana a huge lead. Down on power and hampered by a tweaked suspension, Foust fights back, and an increasingly untidy Pastrana tags several barriers as he feels the heat. At the finish, Foust is close but no cigar. "I saw what happened to you," Pastrana tells him later, "and I said to myself, 'Just drive conservatively.' "

For Foust, the silver medal is a bittersweet prize. "I really wanted the gold," he says with a sigh. "But to be honest, I'm just glad the car made it through all three runs."

A photographer grabs his attention. Foust snugs his Rockstar hat back on his head and smiles for the camera.

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