Iowa Update: Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves fighting for the front

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After taking the lead from Helio Castroneves on Lap 77, Tony Kanaan is your leader at the halfway point of the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway.

Kanaan led Castroneves by 1.1 seconds at halfway, with Ryan Briscoe in third, Will Power in fourth, and Sebastian Saavedra a surprising fifth.

Under threatening skies, the race began around 8:30 p.m. ET with Scott Dixon and Kanaan, both from Target Chip Ganassi Racing, on the front row.

Dixon narrowly held off Kanaan for the lead on the opening lap, but Kanaan went high and cleared Dixon off Turn 2 on the next lap.

He held the point all the way up to Lap 34, when a small shower began to fall on the 7/8-mile bullring. Five laps later, the caution went to a red flag and cars were brought down to pit road.

Luckily, the shower was a short one and after a bit of drying, engines were refired after a 26-minute delay. The pits opened at Lap 41, and in the ensuing wave of stops, Castroneves was able to beat Kanaan out for the lead.

The field was set for a Lap 49 restart but at the rear of the field, rookie Mikhail Aleshin went below the yellow line, lost control and took Takuma Sato into the wall to bring out the yellow again.

Aleshin and Sato had contact with each other during Race 1 of the Houston doubleheader at the end of last month. Sato’s car owner, A.J. Foyt, was frustrated after that Houston incident and he was of the same disposition after this one.

Both Sato and Aleshin were checked, cleared, and released from the infield care center, but Aleshin was spotted holding a bag of ice on one of his wrists. However, the Russian told NBCSN that there was “nothing serious.”

The green returned at Lap 64 with Castroneves holding off Kanaan for a time. But on Lap 77, Castroneves was held up by the lapped cars of Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Huertas.

That gave Kanaan the opportunity to strike, and he pulled to the inside of Castroneves on the front stretch before completing the pass in Turn 1.

While Kanaan took control of the race, Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya had the left rear wing endplate come off of his car. The endplate landed on the inside of Turn 3, and on Lap 89, the caution came out for the debris.

The leaders pitted again in this yellow, and this time, Kanaan was able to beat Castroneves out and retain the point. But Montoya had a slow stop, causing the Colombian to gesture noticeably from his cockpit before he finally left his pit box.

After two waved-off starts on Lap 98 and 99 (Lap 98 for a slowing Sebastien Bourdais, Lap 99 for a bad single-file formation), the field went racing again at Lap 100.

Kanaan quickly pulled away from Castroneves, who had to stave off a good challenge from Power for second. Briscoe was eventually able to drop Power for third, and a few laps before halfway, Sebastian Saavedra was beginning to put pressure on the Australian for fourth.

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.