IndyCar at Long Beach highlights this weekend’s racing coverage on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series begins this week with the IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, highlighting more than 15 hours of motorsports coverage this week.

NBC Sports Live Extra – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets – will stream coverage of the Grand Prix of Long Beach via “TV Everywhere.”

NBCSN’s presentation of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series from Long Beach begins Saturday at 6 p.m. ET with qualifying. Coverage continues on Sunday afternoon on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET with the Indy Lights Streets of Long Beach race, leading into live coverage of the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

NBC Sports Group’s lead IndyCar and Formula One play-by-play voice Leigh Diffey will call the Grand Prix of Long Beach on-site, alongside former drivers Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Tracy joins NBC Sports Group’s IndyCar telecasts for select races this season, and is a four-time winner at Long Beach, including the first of his 31 career victories in 1993.

Reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits. Lee will be joined by Anders Krohn and Jake Query to call the Indy Lights Streets of Long Beach race.

In addition, NBCSN and Esquire Network will combine to present more than 15 hours of Mecum Auctions live coverage from Houston this week. Coverage begins on Esquire Network tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET, and continues on NBCSN at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Esquire Network’s live presentation continues Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET, and shifts to NBCSN at 4 p.m. ET, with the final installment of Mecum Auctions from Houston airing Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

To find Esquire Network, please visit: http://esquiretv.com/channelfinder

Scott Hoke will host NBC Sports Group’s Mecum Auctions coverage on-site at Reliant Center in Houston, Texas, alongside analysts John Kraman, Stephen Cox, and Bill Stephens. Mecum Auctions is led by Dana Mecum, Founder and President of Mecum Auctions for the past 27 years.

NBCSN will also present coverage of the GP2 Series, Formula One’s developmental series, with the GP2 Bahrain race this Friday at 1:30 a.m. ET. NBC Sports Group’s F1 insider Will Buxton will have the call from Sakhir International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain.

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Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/