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Pressure increases for drivers in new Indy 500 qualifying

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A new qualifying format has emerged at the Indianapolis 500. And the pressure of one of motorsport’s greatest challenges has increased to go along with it.

As part of the new rules, every car in the field will now have to undergo the four-lap, 10-mile blitz around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at least twice.

And Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 National Guard Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, has acknowledged that the stress for drivers and teams is certain to rise.

“I can tell you the biggest sigh of a relief as a driver is when you got in on Saturday, and on Sunday you didn’t have to think about doing four more laps,” Rahal said during an INDYCAR teleconference today that featured Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker.

“Now we have to think about that all the time. I’m sure there’s going to be more tension, a bit more nerve-wracking for everybody involved. But that’s what it’s all about. That’s why these drivers and teams are the best in the world.”

Saturday, May 17 will see the fastest 33 entries qualify for the race, with the fastest nine advancing to the next day’s Fast Nine shootout for the pole position.

However, those Saturday times will be erased and entries in positions 10-33 will re-qualify on Sunday in order of the slowest to fastest Saturday times to determine their official starting positions.

The Fast Nine will then take place, with each entry in that shootout getting one qualifying attempt.

While Rahal says it’ll lead to more tension among the competitors, he is also cognizant of the ultimate goal that INDYCAR hopes to achieve with the new format: Bigger TV numbers and attendance at the Brickyard.

Bump Day activity on Sunday has been a lowlight of the Month of May in recent times, with no bumping achieved at all in the 2012 and 2013 qualifying sessions. The new format should, at the least, put some more excitement into Sunday.

“I think everybody [in the paddock] is going to be very supportive,” Rahal said. “Of course, there are traditionalists out there that believe we didn’t need to change anything.

“The one thing I do know about IndyCar drivers and the teams alike is everybody is supportive and behind Mark and Derrick, everybody making these decisions because we all want to grow the sport. We all want to see the fan base increase.”

As for giving teams enough time to practice on their set-ups for Race Day itself, Walker said that INDYCAR is working to ensure that teams will have time available for that purpose – adding that the series hoped to get a final schedule out to teams sometime next week.

“In terms of allowing or helping any teams that are trying to get in the show, we’re going to do our best to make sure there’s always available time for every competitor, and every competitor gets an equal attempt to get in the race,” he said.

Even with that assurance, the margin of error has now thinned even further with this new format. With Sunday no longer there as a safety net, drivers and teams must be quick from the get-go.

“I would say what they’ve done here has added a lot of pressure to everybody involved to make sure you’re on top of your game on both days,” Rahal said. “So there’s no fall-back plan on a Sunday anymore. You have to make sure you get it done right away.”

Here are your TV times for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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The Verizon IndyCar Series rolls into Mid-Ohio this weekend for the Honda Indy 200.

Simon Pagenaud heads into the weekend as the championship leader, but with Penske teammate Will Power gaining ground after three wins in the past four races, the title race continues to heat up.

Here are all of your TV and stream times for this weekend on CNBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

NBC Sports Group continues its exclusive cable coverage of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend with live comprehensive coverage from Mid-Ohio, as Will Power (Penske) continues his pursuit of teammate Simon Pagenaud atop the championship standings. Pagenaud sits in first place with 432 points, 47 points ahead of Power, who has won three of the past four races, including the Honda Indy Toronto event on July 17.

Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi) has been dominant at Mid-Ohio in the past decade, recording five wins since 2007. Ohio native Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan) took the checkered flag at his home race last season.

Coverage begins on NBCSN with practice on Friday at 2 p.m. ET, and continues Saturday with live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET. CNBC presents live race coverage on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, and NBCSN will air an encore presentation Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, immediately following live NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage from Pocono.

Brian Till (play-by-play) will call the action alongside analysts and drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Reporters Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Robin Miller and Kevin Lee will report from the pits.

Date

Coverage

Time (ET)

Network

Fri., July 29 

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Practice

2 p.m.

NBCSN

Sat., July 30

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Qualifying

2 p.m.

NBCSN

Sun., July 31

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

2 p.m.

CNBC

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Encore)

5:30 p.m.

NBCSN

Here are your TV times for the German GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 20:  The drivers go round the first cornerat the start of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 20, 2014 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 returns to Germany this weekend after a two-year absence as Hockenheim hosts the final grand prix before the summer break.

Lewis Hamilton arrives in Germany leading the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016 after taking a fifth win in six races last time out in Hungary.

Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg will be looking to regain his advantage on home soil by taking a second German Grand Prix in victory, his first coming in 2014.

The German Grand Prix is live across NBCSN and the NBC Sports app this weekend. Here are all your times and channels:

The Formula One season drives into Germany this Sunday on NBCSN with a new points leader, as Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) now sits atop the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016 following a dominant win in Hungary on Sunday. Hamilton passed teammate and rival Nico Rosberg on the first lap of the race and never looked back. The win marked Hamilton’s fifth career Hungarian Grand Prix victory and his fifth win in the last six races overall. Hamilton (192 points) now holds a six-point lead over Rosberg (186 points), followed by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (115 points). Hamilton is a two-time winner of the German Grand Prix (2011 and 2008), while Rosberg won the most recent running of the event in 2014 at Hockenheimring.

Coverage begins Friday on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app at 4 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by Practice 2 at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN. NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app will stream coverage of Practice 3 on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, prior to NBCSN’s live coverage of qualifying at 8 a.m. ET. Live race coverage from Hockenheimring begins Sunday at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. NBCSN will air an encore presentation of the German Grand Prix on Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports Group’s lead F1 broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett will call the action. F1 insider Will Buxton will report on-site from Germany.

NBCSN will also air a brand new episode of Off The Grid on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET, immediately following German GP qualifying. Off The Grid takes fans off the track and into sights and sounds of the culture that surrounds motorsports. Hosted by Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales, this week’s episode visits Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix

Date

Coverage

Time (ET)

Network

Fri., July 29

F1 German Grand Prix – Practice 1

4 a.m.

Streaming

F1 German Grand Prix – Practice 2

8 a.m.

NBCSN

Sat., July 30

F1 German Grand Prix – Practice 3

5 a.m.

Streaming

F1 German Grand Prix – Qualifying

8 a.m.

NBCSN

Off The Grid – Montreal

9:30 a.m.

NBCSN

Sun., July 31

GP2 – Germany

6 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 Countdown

7 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 German Grand Prix

7:30 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 Extra

10 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 German Grand Prix (Encore)

8 p.m.

NBCSN

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Formula E confirms pre-season testing dates at Donington Park

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 3:  In this handout image supplied by Formula E Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01  during the London Formula E race on JULY 3, 2016 in Battersea Park, London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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Formula E has confirmed the dates for collective testing at Donington Park in England ahead of its third season.

The new campaign is due to start in Hong Kong on October 9, but teams have already been extensively testing their season three powertrains for many months.

Besides the 15 days of private testing, all 10 teams are able to take part in the two collective tests at Donington Park over the summer.

The first three-day test will take place from August 23-25, with the second and third days being open to the public.

The second test is scheduled to be held from September 5-7. Details regarding access for fans will be released at a later date.

Testing at Donington will offer the Formula E paddock a first chance to check out its rivals ahead of the new season, including the new Jaguar team.

Sebastien Buemi enters the new Formula E season as the defending champion after defeating rival Lucas di Grassi at the London ePrix finale earlier this month.

Red Bull GRC: Washington, D.C. set to kick off second half of year

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After six action-packed races to kick off the first half of the 2016 season, Red Bull Global Rallycross heads to the Northeast for another returning event, at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The championship has about five realistic contenders with now five races remaining in the 11-race season, following the official cancellation of the second MCAS New River race.

Tanner Foust of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross leads the way from Chip Ganassi Rallycross’ Steve Arpin and defending series champion Scott Speed, Foust’s teammate.

Those three are at 295, 286 and 279 points, and the three clear front runners. Brian Deegan (Ganassi) and Patrik Sandell (Bryan Herta Rallysport) have 248 and 243 points and could capitalize if the three top drivers hit a rough patch.

It gets tougher from there on back, for the pair of Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE Civic drivers (Sebastian Eriksson and Joni Wiman) and SH Rallycross/DRR, the latter team of which provides one of the weekend’s most interesting stories with the return of Nelson Piquet Jr. in the team’s No. 07 MET-Rx Ford Fiesta ST.

Piquet won last year at Washington, D.C., and his presence this weekend will provide a good baseline whether SH Rallycross’ tough 2016 season is more setup or driver-related. Jeff Ward hasn’t forgotten how to wheel it by any stretch, but Ward has only one top-five finish in the first six races of the year for the James “Sulli” Sullivan-led team.

“I’ve missed competing in Red Bull GRC with SH Rallycross/DRR,” said Piquet Jr. “I had such a great couple of seasons with the team and I love rallycross. Sulli and I are friends and have kept in touch. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to race again with the team that helped me get my first GRC victory.”

Behind Piquet at this race last year, Patrik Sandell and Ken Block completed the podium – a Ford podium sweep. Arpin made it a top-four sweep with Foust and Speed in fifth and seventh, respectively.

Only once since that race have the pair of Volkswagens been off the podium (Daytona 1, 2016), and that race saw both drivers in win and podium positions before both fell out in the final stages of the race.

Deegan and either Honda driver is still in search of their first win this year, with Deegan having been the closest to breaking through thus far this year. The “General” of Metal Mulisha came a hard-luck second at MCAS New River, having lost the win on the final lap by way of taking the Joker while Speed took the standard course to the inside, and moved ahead.

The D.C. course, a 10-turn, 0.899-mile course, switches to a clockwise direction from counterclockwise last year. Even more notable, the jump is right before the finish line.

There’s also a new fantasy game Red Bull GRC has introduced; details of which are linked here.

You can watch the action LIVE this Saturday, July 30, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC. Toby Moody, Townsend Bell and Kristen Kenney have the call from RFK Stadium.