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NASCAR returning to NBC Sports starting in 2015

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NASCAR and NBC Sports Group announced a 10-year agreement that will bring America’s most popular form of motorsport back to the NBC networks starting in 2015. The new pact will give NBCUniversal exclusive rights to the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup events, the final 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series events, select NASCAR regional and touring series events, and other live content through the 2024 season.

Seven of NBC Sports Group’s 20 Sprint Cup races will be shown annually on NBC, while the other 13 races will be shown on the NBC Sports Network. As for the Group’s 19 Nationwide races, four of them will be on NBC and 15 will go to NBCSN. Additionally, NBC Sports Group has also obtained the rights to practice and qualifying sessions for NBC’s national series events during its portion of the NASCAR calendar.

“NBC Sports Group brings so much to the table for NASCAR in terms of its overall presentation of live sports and a track record of being an exceptional partner,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said. “[NBC Sports Group chairman] Mark Lazarus and his team shared a vision for presenting NASCAR that was appealing to us from the start and we look forward to innovating and growing together to deliver the best possible product to the fans. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this partnership.”

The agreement also gives NBC Sports Group “TV-everywhere” live streaming rights for its Sprint Cup and Nationwide events, and Spanish-language broadcast rights on Telemundo and Mun2 for national series events and the Mexico-based NASCAR Toyota Series.

The full press release can be seen below.

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. and NEW YORK (July 23, 2013) – NASCAR and NBC Sports Group announced today they have reached a comprehensive agreement that grants NBCUniversal exclusive rights to the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, final 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series events, select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events and other live content beginning in 2015. Financial terms of the agreement, which runs through the 2024 season, were not disclosed.

With this partnership, NBC’s 20 Sprint Cup race schedule includes becoming the exclusive home to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s final 10 races of the season, including its season-ending championship event which will return to network television in 2015 for the first time since 2009. Of NBC Sports Group’s 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, seven will be carried on NBC annually, with 13 airing on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). Four of NBC Sports Group’s 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series races will air on NBC, with 15 airing on NBCSN.

“NBC is known for being an exceptional partner and delivering outstanding production quality and presentation of live sports, as well as its broad portfolio of broadcast and digital properties so we are thrilled with the commitment they have made to NASCAR and its future,” said NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Brian France. “We know this partnership will yield great value to our entire industry, provide a premium experience to our most important stakeholders, the fans, and help us achieve a number of strategic growth objectives. Our new partnership with NBC and the recent extension by FOX validate the strength of our fan base and the many bold steps we have taken the last several years to provide fans with better, more accessible racing.”

In addition to rights to NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series races, NBC has also obtained exclusive rights to practice and qualifying sessions for NBC’s national series events during their portion of the season, as well as rights to broadcast the NASCAR K&N Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Toyota (Mexico) Series, the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony and NASCAR’s season-ending banquets. Further, NBC has been granted Spanish-language rights, certain video-on-demand rights and exclusive TV Everywhere rights for its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events.

“Acquiring the rights and bringing NASCAR back to NBC comes at an important point in time for NBC Sports Network, NBC, and all of our distributors and affiliates,” said NBC Sports Group Chairman, Mark Lazarus. “We look forward to working with Brian and his management team, who have brought a renewed focus to NASCAR’s intersection of sports and technology.”

“We are excited about the cross-promotional opportunities NBC provides, especially in the timeframes right before NBC’s NASCAR schedule and during the Chase,” said NASCAR VP of Broadcasting and Productions, Steve Herbst. “We’re confident NBC will utilize its powerful Championship Season lineup, including the NHL Playoffs, Premier League, the French Open, the Kentucky Derby and other events, to build interest and excitement for NASCAR. Those opportunities, combined with the opportunity to lead into the number one show on television – NBC’s Sunday Night Football – for select Chase races, were both very attractive prospects when considering this partnership.”

Summary of key NBC Sports Group Exclusive Rights – 2015-2024:

  • Final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races (7 on NBC, 13 on NBCSN
  • Final 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series races (4 on NBC, 15 on NBCSN)
  • NASCAR K&N Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events
  • NASCAR Toyota (Mexico) Series events
  • NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony and season-ending banquets
  • ‘TV Everywhere’ live-streaming rights for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series
  • Spanish-language broadcast rights on Telemundo and Mun2 for national series events and NASCAR Toyota (Mexico) Series

Longtime Knoxville Raceway promoter, Ralph Capitani, dies

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Photo via @KnoxvilleRaces Twitter
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Knoxville Raceway likely wouldn’t be what it is as one of the country’s most renowned short tracks without the work of Ralph Capitani.

Capitani has died following a battle of cancer (according to Speed Sport), news of which was announced Monday by the track. The longtime promoter at the track was born in 1932.

Capitani, better known as “Cappy,” oversaw a huge rise in the stature and popularity of the track’s premier event – the Knoxville Nationals – after taking the reins as the track’s new race director and promoter in 1978.

Some of the elements Capitani worked to implement were improved facilities, purses, safety standards, car counts and audience, the latter of which saw the Knoxville Nationals eventually make it to TV. He also established the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame.

In his 40th year at Knoxville in 2007, Capitani said the prestige of the Knoxville Nationals remained incredible.

“I think the Knoxville Nationals is the best sprint car race of the year, bar none,” he said in 2007, via InLappedTraffic. “It is the only time you see ALL of the best sprint car drivers competing on the same playing field. It is a United States and Internationally wide event.”

He retired from the track at the end of 2011.

Knoxville Raceway released a statement confirming Capitani’s passing, and thanking him for all he did to put the track and race on the map.

A portion of the statement reads: “A visionary in the sport, Cappy aimed to make sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway grander, the purses bigger and the grandstands fuller. He achieved them all with a smile on his face and a hearty handshake for every team owner, driver, crew member and fan that ever crossed his path.”

IndyCar’s last big pre-season test occurs this week at Sebring

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Conor Daly. Photo: IndyCar
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Pre-season testing for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will conclude this week with all eight full-season teams having two days at Sebring International Raceway’s short course on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sebring marks the closest venue to simulate street course conditions; four of the first eight races are street races while only one street race, Toronto, occurs in the second half of the season.

Although this is private testing, this will be a de facto “spring training” on the 1.5-mile road course for teams to see what the others are running all at once. IndyCar’s official spring training, the Prix View test at Phoenix International Raceway’s 1-mile oval, occurred on February 10-11.

The bulk of the field runs tomorrow, with seven of the eight teams set to test – the only exception is Andretti Autosport. Andretti is listed to test on Wednesday.

All but one of the 21 full-season drivers expected for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener on March 12 will test this week. The one not listed is Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing; Bourdais and Ed Jones tested at Sebring in January prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

They’ll be joined by the three drivers making their test debuts, all for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Robert Wickens, Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani and Luis Michael Dorrbecker.

Wickens tests tomorrow as part of his planned ride swap with James Hinchcliffe, with Derani and Dorrbecker set to test on Wednesday.

Sebring is usually a hotbed for tests over the IndyCar offseason. This year saw A.J. Foyt Enterprises (in late January with Chevrolet) and Chip Ganassi Racing (in early January with Honda) premiere their new manufacturers and aero kits at Sebring, among other teams that have tested here.

Although the test season has seen an increase in interest this year, the regular season starts in St. Petersburg and returns to NBCSN with Long Beach on April 9.

F1 Paddock Pass: 2017 launch roundup (VIDEO)

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The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass returns today with a recap of the remaining launches of the 2017 Formula 1 cars that occurred over the weekend.

Williams was first to reveal a rendering of its 2017 car, but it wasn’t a formal launch. Sauber’s online launch properly kicked off proceedings last Monday, before Renault, Force India and Mercedes did actual launches, and then Ferrari (online) and McLaren (in Woking) both launched on Friday.

Official launches then followed for Williams, Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso over the weekend. Haas had pictures of its car leak the day before its planned launch as it was a filming day on track.

In this edition of Paddock Pass, NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales recap the remaining cars revealed over the weekend.

Previous Paddock Pass editions from this week are below:

Testing continues this week with days two through four of the first test at Barcelona.

Alonso’s McLaren struggles on first day of F1 tests

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Troubled Formula One team McLaren has gotten off to a wretched start in preseason testing.

Fernando Alonso spent most of the first day waiting to get back out of the garage after his car broke down following just one lap at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

What the team identified as an “oil system” malfunction to its Honda-made engine kept the two-time world champion out of action until after the lunch break. Back behind the wheel, his 29 total laps was the lowest amount of the 11 drivers who participated.

Alonso also posted the second-slowest time, more than three seconds off the leading pace set by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes. Only Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was slower.

“It’s disappointing,” Alonso said. “You work for three months and at the track on the installation lap something breaks down and you lose the day.”

This misstep is the latest technical hiccup to plague McLaren since it paired up with Honda.

One of F1’s most successful teams with eight constructor titles and 12 driver titles, the British outfit has struggled since it switched from Mercedes to the Japanese automaker before the 2015 season.

After earning just a combined 27 points from Alonso and Jenson Button in the first year with Honda, the team showed some growth last season with 76 points and two fifth-place finishes. But that is still a far cry from the glory days of the Woking-based team whose last race win was in Brazil in 2012.

For his part, Alonso hasn’t won a race since he claimed his 32nd victory back in 2013 at the Spanish Grand Prix while with Ferrari.

“It is fair to say that after the difficulties we had the last three seasons, it’s a nice temptation for the media,” Alonso said.

“From the point of view of the team, we are disappointed and sad to arrive to the first day of testing and not run.

“We are focused on what we have to do to make up the lost time. We know that we have four days for each driver and now one day is gone to prepare for the world championship.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, who has replaced Button, will get his turn for McLaren on Tuesday.

McLaren team chief Eric Boullier acknowledged that the relationship with Honda is far from perfect.

“It is like any marriage, you can have some ups and downs,” Boullier said. “We went through a lot of stress through the last couple of years, but we have a positive and constructive relationship and I don’t expect this to change in the future.”

The opening test will run through Thursday.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian GP on March 26.