What to watch for: IndyCar at Iowa (Tonight, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

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A RACE TO HALFWAY?

Weather could have a major impact on how tonight’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 plays out. The forecast is calling for showers and thunderstorms around Iowa Speedway, and if the storms come as they’re expected to, the race could go in fits and starts – all the way to Lap 151, the point where it will be an official event. Remember, there’s a street course doubleheader coming next weekend in Toronto for all these teams. They won’t want to linger around Iowa for too long.

FAST AND FRENETIC

Iowa is a wicked little bullring. At 17 seconds per lap, drivers have to wrap their heads around the high sensation of speed. Then there’s the big bump in Turn 2, which has caused its fair share of havoc in past IndyCar races. A strong car set-up that can deal with the bump will be important to have.

HELIO VS. POWER

Helio Castroneves and Will Power are tied for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead going into tonight’s race, and neither of them can afford a stumble here. Simon Pagenaud, Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya, and Ryan Hunter-Reay are in striking distance, and would be more than happy to add horses to this 2014 title race.

GOTTA BEAT ANDRETTI

Short ovals are Andretti Autosport’s domain, and Iowa has been a great place for them (four consecutive wins and five wins in seven total IndyCar races there). Tonight’s race will be especially important for Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti – both of whom are past Iowa winners and are looking to push forward in the aforementioned championship.

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.