Almirola: Goal is to help RPM teammate Ambrose get into the Chase

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Thanks to Aric Almirola’s rain-shortened win last weekend at Daytona, Richard Petty Motorsports will be represented in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Now comes the next task for RPM: Getting their second man, Marcos Ambrose, into the post-season as well.

Following Cup practice today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Almirola called the matter a “priority.”

“Marcos is obviously really good at Watkins Glen, so we’re going – the week of Indy – when we leave Indy, we’re gonna go to Watkins Glen and test that week,” Almirola said.

“We want to give Marcos the best shot we can to win at Watkins Glen, because that would be unbelievable to have both of our cars [in the Chase]. For as small and as underdog of a team that we are, to have the possibility of having both of our cars in the Chase is phenomenal.”

Sprint Cup teams are given four opportunities to test during the season, and this Watkins Glen test would be the third of RPM’s four tests (they have tested so far at Charlotte and Michigan).

Obviously, if Ambrose were to score an upset win this weekend at New Hampshire, that could certainly change their testing strategy a bit.

Almirola himself noted that if Ambrose won this weekend, they’d likely not bother to test at the Glen since Ambrose is a good enough road racer as it is.

But with one team test available to them, Almirola figures that RPM will use it for one of the early Chase tracks like Chicagoland, New Hampshire, or Dover.

Those tracks host the first, second, and third events in the Chase respectively, and they collectively make up the Challenger Round of the playoffs.

“Our philosophy still is that it doesn’t do us any good to save and hold on to those tests,” Almirola said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to be the best that we can in the first round of the Chase.

“I’m assuming, after talking with [crew chief] Trent [Owens], that we’re probably going to test on one of the tracks with the first three races of the Chase.

“It doesn’t do us any good to save a test for Homestead if we’ve already been knocked out of the Chase. That’s kind of our motto – go big or go home.”

Almirola is currently 10th on the Chase Grid thanks to his Daytona win, while Ambrose – without a win – is 22 points back of the 16th-place cutoff position currently occupied by Austin Dillon (Ambrose in 19th overall in Sprint Cup points).

F1 Mexican Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

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Lewis Hamilton is poised to wrap his fourth Formula 1 World Championship early at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, as NBC Sports covers the 18th of 20 rounds this season from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

All sessions will air live. Both Friday practice sessions are live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. Saturday third practice airs live via the NBC Sports App at 11 a.m. ET with a practice replay show at 12:30 p.m. before live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET, those two on NBCSN.

On Sunday, race day, F1 Countdown starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC for one hour, from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Mercedes AMG Petronas has won both Mexican Grands Prix since the race was reinstated in 2015 after a 23-year hiatus. Nico Rosberg won in 2015 a race after Hamilton had clinched that year’s title, while Hamilton won last year in a 1-2 with Rosberg continuing to close on his first title.

Controversy reined about third place in Mexico last year with all of Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and ultimately Daniel Ricciardo ending in third, Ricciardo getting the podium after post-race penalties were assessed to the other two. Valtteri Bottas is the other active podium finisher in Mexico, having come third in 2015 with Williams.

Vettel enters Mexico 66 points behind Hamilton and can only keep the title alive to Brazil if he gets the gap under 50 points; any top-five finish for Hamilton will ensure the Englishman equals Vettel on four titles. So if Vettel doesn’t finish first or second, he can’t score enough points (either 25 or 18) to get that gap under 50 markers.

Last year’s race featured a bit of a “Noah’s Ark” finishing order with just the top five teams in the championship scoring points at this race, almost in descending order of just two-by-two. It was two Mercedes, then two Red Bulls, then two Ferraris, then Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India before the two Williams, and finally hometown hero Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

Perez is the lone home favorite this race with Esteban Gutierrez not on the grid this season.

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

  • Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.-3:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix, on November 12.