Offseason events confirmed for Mazda Road to Indy divisions

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Over the last week Andersen Promotions has confirmed two of the now-annual events on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

Last Thursday Andersen confirmed the third annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test will occur December 9 and 10 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The test features all three ladder series – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 – and the event is named for the late Chris Griffis, a longtime crewmember and team manager for Sam Schmidt’s Lights team who died unexpectedly in September 2011.

Each of the first two years the test was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but it shifts this year due to the necessary track alterations ahead of the IndyCar road race there next May.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the promotional organization also announced details of the Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship, opening it up to Pro Mazda and Indy Lights after it had just been for USF2000 the last two years. $30,000 in prize money is on offer for both series.

USF2000 will race two tripleheaders (six races) and Pro Mazda two doubleheaders (four races). The first event will be at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Feb. 21/22, and a few days later the two series shift to Barber on Feb. 25/26. All four days will also feature open testing for Indy Lights.

This is all the latest steps the Andersen Promotions group, led by Dan Andersen, is taking to unify and market the Mazda Road to Indy as one cohesive unit under a single umbrella. All three series will also race on Cooper tires next year; Cooper replaces Firestone for Indy Lights in 2014.

“It’s amazing what Dan Andersen has created in such a short time,” Chris Pantani, Director of Motorsports for Cooper Tire said in a release. “By unifying the Mazda Road to Indy, the growth and awareness of the entire open-wheel program seems to be at an all-time high, but we all know that it’s just the beginning and Cooper Tire is proud to be part of that growth.”

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)