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Canadian GP, IndyCar on NBCSN highlight 40+ hours of weekend coverage

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NBC Sports Group will present more than 40 hours of motorsports coverage this weekend, highlighted by live coverage of the IndyCar Firestone 600 on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.

NBC Sports Live Extra – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets – will provide streaming coverage of both the Firestone 600 and Canadian Grand Prix this weekend. Additional motorsports coverage this week includes the debut of KURT BUSCH: 36 on NBC, and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross coverage from the Thunder Valley National on Saturday on NBCSN.

INDYCAR FIRESTONE 600 – SATURDAY AT 8 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

Beginning this weekend, NBCSN will provide exclusive coverage of the final 11 races of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, culminating with the MAVTV 500 in Fontana, Calif. on August 30 on NBCSN.

Coverage of the Firestone 600 begins on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET with qualifying, followed by live race coverage Saturday on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET. Brian Till (play-by-play) will call the action alongside former drivers Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Jon Beekhuis and Kevin Lee will report from the pits.

FORMULA ONE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX – SUNDAY AT 2 P.M. ET ON NBC

NBC’s Formula One coverage continues with the Canadian Grand Prix live from Montreal. Coverage begins Friday on NBC Sports Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by NBCSN’s coverage of Practice 2 at 2 p.m. ETLive Extra will stream coverage of Practice 3 on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, prior to NBCSN’s live coverage of qualifying at 1 p.m. ETF1 Extra, NBC Sports Group’s pre-race show, will air Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into live race coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix at 2 p.m. ET on NBC. As usual, Leigh Diffey (play-by-play) will be joined by analysts David Hobbs and Steve Matchett, with F1 insider and pit reporter Will Buxton joining the trio on site in Montreal.

KURT BUSCH: 36 – SUNDAY AT 4:30 P.M. ET ON NBC

KURT BUSCH: 36, an all-access look into the intense preparation, 200+ MPH competition and extreme logistics surrounding Kurt Busch’s racing in IndyCar’s famed Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day just two weeks ago, will debut this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC. NBC Sports’ Emmy Award-winning NASCAR production team, led by Executive Producer Sam Flood, teams with the Emmy Award-winning NASCAR Productions to create KURT BUSCH: 36, featuring in-depth interviews, on-track footage, team communications and a seat right next to Busch throughout his races against drivers from IndyCar and NASCAR.

A 60-minute “director’s cut” of KURT BUSCH: 36 will air the following day, Monday, June 9, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In addition, NBCSN will present episodes of NASCAR AMERICA, NBC Sports Group’s new 30-minute daily show dedicated to speed and stock car racing, today and tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET.

LUCAS OIL PRO MOTOCROSS THUNDER VALLEY NATIONAL – SATURDAY AT 5 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will present six hours of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships coverage this weekend from the Thunder Valley National in Lakewood, Colo. in the third round of the 12-race championship series. Coverage begins on NBC Sports Live Extra with practice at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by pre-race coverage on Live Extra at2:30 p.m. ET. 1st Motos coverage begins live from Thunder Valley at 3 p.m. ET on Live Extra, followed by 2nd Motos on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET.

Veteran play-by-play voice Jason Weigandt, analyst and two-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion Grant Langston, and pit reporter Georgia Lindsay will call the action from Thunder Valley on Saturday.

Following is this week’s motorsports coverage schedule on NBCSN:

Date Program Time (ET) Network
Wed., June 4 Off The Grid: Barcelona (Encore) 4:30 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR AMERICA 5 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR: The List 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Auctions America: Auburn (Encore) 8 p.m. NBCSN
Auctions America: Auburn (Encore) 11:30 p.m. NBCSN
Thu., June 5 NASCAR AMERICA 5 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Kansas City (Encore) 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Houston (Encore) 8:30 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Indianapolis (Encore) 11:30 p.m. NBCSN
Fri., June 6 F1 Canadian Grand Prix – Practice 1 10 a.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
F1 Canadian Grand Prix – Practice 2 2 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Indianapolis (Encore) 3:30 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar Firestone 600 – Qualifying 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Sat., June 7 F1 Canadian Grand Prix – Practice 2 (Encore) 2 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Canadian Grand Prix – Practice 3 10 a.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
AMA Motocross Thunder Valley – Practice 12:30 p.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
F1 Canadian Grand Prix – Qualifying 1 p.m. NBCSN
AMA Motocross Thunder Valley – Pre-Race 2:30 p.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
AMA Motocross Thunder Valley – 1st Motos 3 p.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
AMA Motocross Thunder Valley – 2nd Motos 5 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar Firestone 600 8 p.m. NBCSN
Sun., June 8 F1 Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying 1:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 1:30 p.m. NBCSN
F1 Canadian Grand Prix 2 p.m. NBC
Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour 4 p.m. NBCSN
RACER TV 5 p.m. NBCSN
TORC: Las Vegas 5:30 p.m. NBCSN
F1 Canadian Grand Prix – Encore 7 p.m. NBCSN
“1” – F1 Documentary 9:30 p.m. NBCSN

CJ Wilson completes first test in Porsche GT3 Cup car

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Photo courtesy of CJ Wilson Racing
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CJ Wilson’s new career is officially underway, following his retirement from professional baseball and now having completed his first test last week at Texas World Speedway in his new 2017 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

Wilson, who formally announced the news he’d be transitioning into racing full-time during Rolex 24 at Daytona race week, did a two-day test at the still active oval/road course combo track in College Station, Texas. Wilson tested one of the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports (the team runs two in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge) and then advanced into the Cup car.

Wilson got fairly close to teammate Marc Miller’s times during the test as he acclimated to both the Cup car and the Yokohama tires.

“It’s great to take another step towards my goals,” Wilson said. “We had a chance to burn through two sets of tires today and I made a lot of progress. Having Marc as my coach was incredibly helpful because we have a lot of faith in each other and communicate using the same terms. Having sat in driver debriefings for the past six years with the race team, I was able to take all the input logically and make progress each session.

“The only odd thing about the test is that nobody else was here, which was the first time I have ever been on a track completely alone, so when we did a race simulation I had to use my imagination. TWS is a really fast and bumpy track. Looking forward to getting back in the car in ten days and pick up where I left off.”

Miller added, “CJ did great job, but I expected as much. He is logical and methodical which makes him easy to help and that translated into a very quick progression along the learning curve. Like any professional athlete though he is never truly satisfied because he wants to be perfect. He took quickly to the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. It is confidence inspiring and such a capable platform so that suited him well in getting up to speed. Overall, it was a successful first outing and I look forward to working with CJ this season. I expect he will have a solid debut at Sebring. He better or I’m likely fired.”

A teaser of on-board footage is below, along with a couple other social posts from the test:

Danny Watts: ‘Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain’

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  (l to r) Strakka Racing drivers Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane pose during the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship Photo Call on March 22, 2013 at Potters Fields in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Watts (left) with Leventis and Kane in 2013. Photo: Getty Images
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Sports car veteran driver Danny Watts has announced his retirement from active competition, but is in the news for an entirely different reason on Monday.

The 37-year-old Brit has announced he’s gay, penning a first-person piece for the Huffington Post and also doing interviews with both Daily Sportscar and Autosport. The latter article features a well-written op-ed from author Matt Beer.

In the Huffington Post piece, Watts, an eight-time starter and 2010 LMP2 class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, wrote that hiding his sexuality in the heavily white male heterosexual world of motorsport was simply becoming too much to keep under wraps.

“There isn’t any one moment that stands out in my mind as the moment I realized I would need to live in the closet if I wanted my motorsport career to go anywhere; it was just a general feeling I got,” Watts wrote.

“All the other guys in the paddock had girlfriends, so I got one to blend in. When that relationship ended, I got another one, and so I continued pretending to be straight for seventeen years.

“Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain.

“I hope that there are a few people who are supportive. If the response I’ve had from the queer motorsport community thus far is any gauge, I feel hopeful that I’ll find a supportive group to start driving change for my queer siblings in the sport I love.”

Within the motorsports world, Watts’ name is best known to the sports car paddock, and he was a regular with the Strakka Racing team alongside co-drivers Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis. But he isn’t particularly known to the racing world at large.

This announcement comes as Watts has opted to call time on his full-time driving career and instead will focus on coaching for the future. It also represents one of the higher profile names in racing announcing his sexual orientation, which makes it newsworthy.

Despite some detractors (as you might expect), a number of other drivers and key motorsports figures have revealed their support for Watts, and why this news matters, on social media today:

Marino Franchitti returns to Mazda at Sebring

SEBRING, FL - MARCH 15:  Left to right, Marino Franchitti, Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett celebrate after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 15, 2014 in Sebring, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Franchitti (left) won at Sebring in 2014. Photo: Getty Images
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Marino Franchitti will make his return to a Mazda entry for next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, to be run March 18, as third driver in the team’s No. 70 Mazda RT24-P with Joel Miller and Tom Long.

The Scotsman competed in the team’s RX-8 and 6 models in the GT ranks but has been out of a drive since his role with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing last season in one of the team’s Ford GTs in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Franchitti replaces James Hinchcliffe, who was the third driver in the No. 70 car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’ll test for the team later this week at Sebring prior to the race run in the second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the year.

“A big part of those results are being with great teams and having great teammates. I’ve been fortunate in that regard,” said Franchitti, who co-drove to win overall at Sebring in 2014. “I love driving there, I always have since the first laps I did. It’s a proper old-school track. If you go over the limit, you crash, simple as that, rather than going onto some tarmac run-off like many tracks. I love the challenge of walking that tightrope. Of course, there’s the challenge of the bumps too, trying to get the car to handle over them and the beating the car and driver takes. There’s a reason people come from all over the world to endurance test their cars here, it’s the ultimate test of a vehicle and its durability.

No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“It’s so cool to be coming back into the Mazda family,” said Franchitti. “Like everyone else, I was blown away when I saw the first shots of the RT24-P and how incredible it looks, so there’s a lot of excitement at getting to drive it. I’m relieved I get a chance to test the car, as many times I’ve just jumped in and raced, so this is a bit of a luxury! Being a part of the development process of a car is something I’ve been lucky enough to do several times and it’s something I really love.”

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan added, “He’s a proven winner there, and he’s been a part of the Mazda family for years. Just look at his record at Sebring! He has the experience that can really help our team. Because he’s driven with Mazda before, we know his personality is a great fit. That’s important to us, and it goes a long way in helping the team chemistry remain strong. He’s a great fit with Tom [Long] and Joel [Miller], just as Spencer Pigot has been great with Nunez and Bomarito.”

Pipo Derani set for IndyCar test with SPM at Sebring

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Pipo Derani has become a star in the sports car world the last couple years, courtesy of his drives primarily with Tequila Patron ESM.

Meanwhile for at least a day, the 23-year-old Brazilian will be returning to his open-wheel roots in a big way.

NBC Sports has learned Derani will test for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on March 1 in a rookie test for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Derani joins Mexican driver Luis Michael Dorrbecker, who will also make his test debut that day at that test at Sebring International Raceway’s 1.5-mile short course.

Derani raced a partial season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series in 2014 with Team Pelfrey, before shifting to sports cars later that fall, starting with Murphy Prototypes.

Derani excelled with G-Drive in 2015 before his star turn with ESM last year. This year, his schedule grows even greater, as he’s been confirmed with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for the first three races of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the No. 67 Ford GT with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

It’ll be interesting to see what Derani does on the Sebring short course in one of SPM’s Honda-powered entries. He’ll be back at Sebring a couple weeks after his IndyCar test, as he prepares to defend his win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with ESM.