Shaquille O'Neal (left), Kevin James (second from right) and Adam Sandler (far right) will be Grand Marshals and give the command to start engines at Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Shaquille O’Neal to rock the house at Daytona on Saturday

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In the last decade or so, there arguably has been no better version of the command to start engines prior to a NASCAR race than actor Kevin James.

He not only raised the bar, he sent it into the stratosphere prior to the 2007 Daytona 500.

In 2010, James and good buddy Adam Sandler tried a 1-2 punch (which likely didn’t go over quite as good as they may have hoped) at Michigan Speedway.

Then last October at Talladega, James reprised his 2007 Daytona classic at NASCAR’s other restrictor plate track.

Get ready for James to do it again this Saturday at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. And while he’ll do the start engines command with Sandler again, there’ll be a third member that’ll join the party, none other than the big man himself, Shaquille O’Neal.

All three will give not only give drivers the command to fire their engines, they’ll also serve as the race’s Grand Marshals, while also promoting the July 12 release of their new movie, “Grown Ups 2.”

“We’re pleased to welcome three of the stars of ‘Grown Ups 2’ and have them take part in the pre-race ceremonies for one of NASCAR’s most exciting nighttime races,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said in a statement. “Combining Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Shaquille O’Neal, we’re expecting a boisterous and powerful starting command in front of thousands of race fans and millions more watching on TNT.”

Even if the race winds up being a snoozer, something tells me the pre-race start is going to be unforgettable.

Monaco offers incredible lifestyle, sporting experiences (VIDEO)

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Both on and off the track, there are very few places like Monaco.

A hub for the rich and famous, through the Formula 1 race weekend, the city becomes the most exclusive place in the world. If you want to be seen, you need to be in Monaco.

Away from the glitz and the glamor, it is an F1 weekend with an added twist: the challenge is unlike any other on the planet as drivers have to retain their focus to take one of motorsport’s toughest circuits.

In this video, we hear from Mika Hakkinen (two-time F1 world champion, 1998 Monaco GP winner), Jenson Button (2009 F1 champion and Monaco GP winner), Sergio Perez (2016 Monaco GP podium finisher) and Stoffel Vandoorne (Monaco GP2 winner) about what makes the race so special.

Karam: ‘I know I’ll be charging if things fall into place’

Photo: IndyCar
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Editor’s note: Sage Karam, 3GT Racing Lexus driver in IMSA, a past Indy Lights and USF2000 champion and Verizon IndyCar Series podium finisher, will file a series of blogs for NBCSports.com this month for a second straight year (2016 archive here).

Here’s his third entry, as he recaps qualifying and final practice, and is prepared for Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil where he will start 21st.

You can read his firstsecond and third blogs of 2017 here. He’ll run the No. 24 Mecum Auctions Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, in partnership with Kingdom Racing. 

Hey there, Sage Karam back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We’re almost to race day, finally.

It’s been a hectic week since my last blog with you. We qualified two days last Saturday and Sunday. We trimmed out the downforce on the No. 24 Mecum Auctions DRR Chevrolet for Saturday and ran almost a 228-mile per hour average.

It wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful either. We worked in the garage on Saturday night and Sunday morning to improve the car for Sunday’s final day of qualifications. And, despite not running any laps in the practice, we came out strong.

I ran my first 230 mph lap on the first circuit of the four-lap average and I was super pumped up. The car felt good and I was thrilled with the 230. Now, I have to admit I was so excited with that lap that I messed up a bit on the next lap. I didn’t shift down to fifth gear for a few more RPMs on lap two. And I had to lift off the throttle just a bit in fighting some wind off of turn two.

After the four laps, we had a 229.380 mph average and I was excited. However, the other guys ran well too, and we’ll start 21st this Sunday. Last year, I started 23rd and moved up to fourth by lap 94. That’s before I got a little too aggressive and got caught outside with another car in turn one and hit the wall pretty hard.

I think I have learned a lot since that incident last year at Indy. This will be my fourth Indy 500 and I am still the youngest driver in the field at age 22. But I feel I have matured since last year. Heck, when I was 19 and in my first Indy 500, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just driving hard and trying to get to the finish. We came from 31st to finish ninth and I received the “Hard Charger Award” in 2014 as a rookie.

My Mecum DRR crew worked on getting back the race setup with my car for Monday’s final practice session and the car was good. Just like the final practice last year. I feel confident we can pass other cars. We did that in Monday’s runs.

Race week is always busy because you don’t spend much time on track. You do a lot of media and promotion for the race.

After Monday, it was off to Philadelphia with my neighbor, Marco Andretti. I grew up across the street from the Andrettis in Nazareth, Pa. So, we have been friends a long time. In Philly, we did the annual Indy 500 media day with a variety of interviews and appearances at Independence Hall, the Art Museum with the famous “Rocky Balboa” steps and posed with the “Rocky” statue.

Then we headed to Citizens Bank Field for the Phillies and Rockies game. Marco and I threw out the first pitches at the game. We saw the Phillies’ manager, Pete Mackanin, and former player Mickey Morandini, who knew a lot about the Indy 500 since he played at Indiana University. We also talked with Bud Black, the Rockies manager, who is a racing fan. His team has a driver pool in the clubhouse the morning of the race. Black has never seen the 500, but it is on his bucket list.

On Wednesday, we went to a local Indianapolis school with Scott Dixon and Ed Jones to have activities and some competition with the kids. It was fun. I was doing a little jump rope with them (below) as well as building an IndyCar out of Legos with a group of children. Dixon’s group beat us in that one. RATS!

It’s funny how all of the drivers can be so competitive off the track too.

Thursday was a little more relaxing for the drivers with media interviews and some sponsor appearances.

Friday was a busy Carb Day for us. The rain during the week made the IMS track surface a little different from Monday’s last practice session.

For some reason, the track had less grip than usual. I’m not sure if it’s because of the rain or the tire wear from the Indy Lights cars. A lot of people seemed to struggle with that today. But, I think we have a good race car like we did last year.

It was a good practice week and a good month overall. I’m feeling good about the car. It feels the same as it did when we unloaded, so that’s excellent.

We were in the Pit Stop Challenge, we placed second in that one in 2014. I thought we had a good chance again. However, Helio’s crew beat us in the first round. It was a disappointment but I am still excited about Sunday’s race.

We’ll see how the weather holds up for Sunday. We might have a few showers in the morning, but I’m hoping the race can get started at 12:15 p.m.

We are looking for a good showing and race to the checkered flag. I believe if we can get to the last 25 laps in a solid position that we can pass cars. I know I’ll be charging if things fall into place.

So, watch for the No. 24 Mecum Auctions DRR Chevy on Sunday. I’ll be fighting to drive to the front.

Photo: IndyCar



Vettel puts Monaco GP pole near-miss down to greed

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Sebastian Vettel was left to settle for second place on the grid for Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Monaco after falling short in the final Q3 shoot-out for pole, with the Ferrari driver blaming greed for his loss of lap time.

Vettel was the favorite to take pole after dominating practice on Thursday and Saturday morning, only to fall 0.043 seconds short of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s time in the final stage of qualifying.

Vettel’s primary F1 drivers’ title rival, Lewis Hamilton, finished a lowly 14th in qualifying, giving the German a golden opportunity to extend his points lead on Sunday.

However, Vettel was more interested in Ferrari’s team result as it secured its second front-row lock-out in the space of three races, even if his own push for more lap time ended up backfiring.

“I don’t really care about [Hamilton’s result]. I think we are both fighting for the best spot for tomorrow,” Vettel said.

“Well done to Kimi, I think he had a better end obviously. I think the car was fine. It was really nice to drive.

“I think I probably pushed a little bit too hard on the first lap in Q3. Went wide in Turn 5. Second attempt again, went a little bit deep, so the second sector, I was probably a bit too greedy, wanted a bit too much and lost a little bit the car.

“I’m sure if you ask anyone after qualy, we all have the feeling that there’s always more. Bottom line: it’s a great result for the team.

“Not as happy as I could have been but, as I said, well done to Kimi.”

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown starting on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET.

Button ‘chuffed to bits’ with Monaco F1 qualifying despite grid penalty

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Jenson Button’s remarkable one-off comeback to Formula 1 in Monaco took a bittersweet turn through Saturday as he qualified ninth, only for the result to become academic thanks to a grid penalty.

While regular McLaren driver Fernando Alonso prepares for his debut in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Button has been keeping the Spaniard’s Honda-powered MCL32 warm this weekend, seven months on from his last run-out in an F1 car.

Button impressed throughout practice, but was then able to make another step forward in qualifying to lead McLaren to its first double-Q3 finish of the year.

Button ended qualifying ninth ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, but will drop all the way to the back of the grid by virtue of a 15-place penalty following an engine issue.

“It was a lot of fun out there. Practice was fine, but in qualifying you reach a point where you really need to fine-tune the car’s performance, and that’s still a bit of a learning curve for me,” Button said.

“This year’s tires are completely different to last year’s in terms of how they work, how they fade away, how they last. It’s been tricky trying to find those last few per cent.

“But I’m happy. In my one and only race this year I qualify ninth, and start 20th! I never expected to have this opportunity, so this is a great memory for me, driving around Monaco in these monsters, such great machines.

“I’m very lucky. I’ll take that ninth position home with me at the end of the weekend – I should be chuffed to bits with that.”

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown starting on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET.