Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio highlights extensive motorsports coverage this weekend on NBCSN, NBC

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* Live Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Airs Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN; Qualifying on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

* Jay Leno Appears on Auctions America Coverage This Weekend from Burbank on Friday at 3 p.m. ET

* New Reality Series – Mecum Dealmakers – Debuts Tonight at 10 p.m. ETon NBCSN; Encore on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC

* Honda Indy Toronto Race 2 Is Most-Watched IndyCar Race on NBCSN in Three Years; Season-To-Date Up 46% vs. 2013

 

NBCSN will present live coverage of the IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, highlighting more than 30 hours of motorsports coverage across NBC and NBCSN this weekend.

Coverage also features Jay Leno in the broadcast booth for NBCSN’s presentation of Auctions America on Friday at 3 p.m. ET, and the debut of NBCSN’s new reality series, Mecum Dealmakers, tonight (Thursday) at 10 p.m. ET. The reality series dovetails off of Mecum Auctions, providing car enthusiasts with a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the high-intensity of the auction floor.

Here’s what fans have to look forward to:

 

HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO – SUNDAY AT 3 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins with qualifying on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET. Live race coverage begins on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by a presentation of Race 2 of the Indy Lights series from Mid-Ohio at 6 p.m. ET.

Two weekends ago, Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing) and Mike Conway (Ed Carpenter Racing) took Races 1 and 2 at the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader. Rain on Saturday led to both races being run on Sunday, making it the first same-day doubleheader since June 28, 1981 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the CART series.

Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) currently leads teammate Will Power by 13 points in the championship points standings with four races remaining in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar season. Last year, Charlie Kimball (Chip Ganassi Racing) took the checkered flag for his first career IndyCar win. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) is a four-time winner at Mid-Ohio, but both he and Chip Ganassi Racing are still in search of their first victories of the 2014 campaign.

NBC Sports Group’s lead motorsports voice Leigh Diffey will call the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, alongside former driver Townsend Bell and veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs.

Reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits. Lee will be joined byAnders Krohn and Jake Query to call the Indy Lights Mid-Ohio race.

 

JAY LENO APPEARS ON AUCTIONS AMERICA COVERAGE THIS WEEKEND FROM BURBANK ON FRIDAY AT 3 P.M. ET

NBCSN will present eight hours of Auctions America coverage from its Burbank auction, highlighted by a live guest appearance from former Tonight Show host, and known car-enthusiast, Jay Leno on Friday at 3 p.m. ET. NBCSN will also air an encore presentation of Friday’s live coverage that evening at 10:30 p.m. ET, followed by Saturday’s live coverage at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Leno will sit in the announcer booth alongside veteran broadcaster Bill Patrick, NBCSN F1 analyst and former race mechanic for the Benneton F1 team Steve Matchett, and reporter Carolyn Manno, providing live commentary on the various cars on the auction block. This week’s auction lot includes a 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra, once owned by British Touring Car Champion Frank Sytner, a 1990 Ferrari F40, formerly owned by rock legend Rod Stewart, and a 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS 396 delivered new to “King of Cool” Steve McQueen.

 

NEW REALITY SERIES – MECUM DEALMAKERS – DEBUTS TONIGHT AT 10 P.M. ET ON NBCSN; ENCORE ON SUNDAY AT 2 P.M. ET ON NBC

NBC Sports Group will launch a new reality series – Mecum Dealmakers – tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN, providing car enthusiasts with a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the high-intensity world of Mecum Auctions, as collector cars change hands with the smack of an auction gavel.

Mecum Dealmakers dovetails off of the Mecum Auctions series on NBCSN, and tells the story of President and Founder Dana Mecum and his son Frank Mecum. The father-son tandem works together to manage the high pressure of the auction floor, where buyers and sellers hope to make the deal of a lifetime, often with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

Mecum Dealmakers debuts tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the 2014 Houston auction. The debut episode features a 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype on the auction block that was purchased by Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller formore than $7 million, as well as segments with former Houston Rockets owner Charlie Thomas, and NFL TE Kellen Winslow Jr., who had his eyes set on a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS. NBC will also air an encore presentation ofMecum Dealmakers: Houston on Sunday, August 3 at 2 p.m. ET.

 

HONDA INDY TORONTO RACE 2 IS MOST-WATCHED INDYCAR RACE ON NBCSN IN THREE YEARS; SEASON-TO-DATE UP 46% VS. 2013

As previously announced, Race 2 of the IndyCar Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on NBCSN on Sunday, July 20 (3:53-5:37 p.m. ET), averaged 484,000 viewers, making it NBCSN’s most-watched IndyCar race since the 2011 Grand Prix of Baltimore (9/4/11, 591,000 viewers).

Through eight races, NBSCN’s coverage of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series has averaged 400,000 viewers, up 46% from the 2013 average viewership (274,000) through eight races.

 

Motorsports Coverage This Week on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra (subject to change):

Date Program Time (ET) Network
Thurs., July 31 NASCAR America 5 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions (Encore) 7 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Dealmakers: Kissimmee (Encore) 9 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Dealmakers: Houston 10 p.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports 11 p.m. NBCSN
Fri., August 1 Motocross Highlight Series 12 a.m. NBCSN
Global RallyCross: Charlotte (Encore) 2 a.m. NBCSN
Auctions America: Burbank 3 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR America 5 p.m. NBCSN
Auctions America: Burbank (Encore) 10:30 p.m. NBCSN
Sat., August 2 Auctions America: Burbank 1:30 p.m. NBCSN
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio: Qualifying 5:30 p.m. NBCSN
Sun., August 3 TORC: Bark River 1:30 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Dealmakers: Houston (Encore) 2 p.m. NBC
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio 3 p.m. NBCSN
Global RallyCross – Season Recap 4 p.m. NBC
KURT BUSCH: 36 4:30 p.m. NBC
Indy Lights Mid-Ohio: Race 2 6 p.m. NBCSN

 

MOTORSPORTS ON NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA: NBC Sports Live Extra — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets — will provide streaming coverage of this week’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio and Auctions America coverage. The majority of coverage will be provided via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at http://www.nbcsports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app for mobile devices and tablets is available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on select Android handset and tablet devices within Google Play.

Coverage airing on:

  • NBC will live stream to PCs, mobile devices and tablets through NBC Sports Live Extra;
  • NBCSN will live stream to PCs, mobile devices and tablets through NBC Sports Live Extra, and to the digital platforms of participating cable, satellite, and telco services, via “TV Everywhere,” which is available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of participating MVPDs;

MOTORSPORTSTALK: MotorSportsTalk (@MotorSportsTalk) on NBCSports.com brings racing fans up-to-the-minute news, video and information on the Formula One, Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and all other motorsports racing from around the world. The site also serves as the destination for all news, analysis and video from NBC and NBCSN productions of IndyCar and F1, including contributions from on-air commentators.

MotorSportsTalk’s content is provided by top racing journalists and expert analysts, including:

  • Luke Smith is creator and editor at Richland F1, which begins its second season this year. He’s on Twitter at @LukeSmithF1, primarily handling the F1 scene from Europe in great detail.
  • Tony DiZinno has most recently served as web editor for RACER Magazine and has more than seven years of experience in the industry. Follow him on Twitter at @TonyDiZinno.
  • Chris Estrada has written for NBCSports.com’s MotorsportsTalk since its inception in 2013, and has been a contributor for various outlets, including the Boston Globe, IndyCar Nation and FoxSports.com. Follow him at @estradawriting.
  • Jerry Bonkowski is a veteran NASCAR reporter with more than 30 years of experience. He has contributed to USA Today, Yahoo! Sports and other websites over the course of his career. Follow him on Twitter@JerryBonkowski.

To explore the site, please visit MotorSportsTalk.com.nbcsports.com or www.NBCSports.com.

SOCIAL: Follow @MotorsportsTalk, @F1onNBCSports and @NBCSN on Twitter and “like” Facebook.com/NBC Sports for the most up-to-date news, videos and commentary about Formula One on NBC Sports and NBCSN.

Bottas feels at home at Mercedes as a challenger, not No. 2

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Valtteri Bottas feels like he finally belongs at Mercedes, and that is not as a support driver to Lewis Hamilton.

The Finnish driver has exceeded expectations since joining from Williams as an emergency replacement for Nico Rosberg, who dramatically retired days after winning last year’s Formula One championship.

“I feel very much part of the team, I feel I can definitely perform at my best level,” Bottas said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. “(There is) plenty more to come.”

The widely held perception was that Bottas, who had never won a race before this season, was clearly arriving as the No. 2 behind Hamilton, a three-time F1 champion.

Yet at the halfway point of the 20-race season, Bottas is in third place overall, 22 points behind Hamilton and 23 behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari. That puts him within touching distance.

Bottas won in Russia and Austria, and finished second in Canada, Azerbaijan and Britain. With four straight podium finishes, he has good momentum for the Hungarian GP, the last race before a month-long summer break.

If not for his failure to finish the Spanish GP in May, Bottas could be even closer to Hamilton and Vettel.

“I feel like I am getting up to speed now. In a way I hope there wasn’t a break,” Bottas said Thursday. “I always set targets higher. I didn’t expect myself to be behind (Hamilton) all the time. I’ve shown it is possible to battle and show my skills.”

Asked if he thinks he can win the title, the 27-year-old Bottas says “everything is wide open,” adding “I believe I can fight for the pole (position) here.”

The twisting nature of the 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) Hungaroring circuit may favor Ferrari more than Mercedes, however.

Mercedes struggled at this season’s Monaco GP, which is a similarly tight-turning track where overtaking is much harder. Vettel won in Monaco from pole, while Bottas was fourth for Mercedes and Hamilton managed only seventh spot.

“We’ve learnt a lot since Monaco,” Bottas said. “I think it will be a good test for our car, we’re expecting a close battle.”

F1 Paddock Pass: Hungarian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1’s final race before the summer break takes place this weekend with the Hungarian Grand Prix from the Hungaroring in Budapest.

It’s a busy time of year and a highly important weekend on the calendar, with the two championship combatants only separated by one point and all the silly season talk about 2018 heating up – particularly with the two-day young driver test set to run on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week after the race.

And with the confirmation the Halo device is set to be introduced next year, what are the drivers thoughts on that?

All that makes for ideal timing of this weekend’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass with Will Buxton checking in from the ground in Hungary.

Here’s the pre-race episode, below.

Drivers divided over F1 halo cockpit device

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) The “halo” cockpit head protection system that will be mandatory on Formula One cars next season protects drivers from the potentially fatal impact of objects like a loose wheel traveling at up to 225 kph (140 mph).

Motor sport’s governing body, FIA, has been looking at ways to improve cockpit protection and limit the risk of head injuries, after French F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in July 2015 and British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died a month later.

“The halo will become the strongest part of the car, a secondary wall structure (along with the helmet) and can take about 15 times the car’s weight,” FIA safety director Laurent Mekies said at a news conference Thursday. “We know that our resistance against small objects has stepped up.”

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – JULY 27: FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting and Laurent Mekies, FIA Deputy Race Director and Safety Director talk in a press conference regarding the halo device during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 27, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Drivers remain divided over the move.

The halo design forms a semi-circular barrier around the driver’s helmet in the front half of the cockpit, protecting against debris without completely closing the cockpit. When first tested ahead of 2016, drivers were split as to whether they liked it with some – such as three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – criticizing it on aesthetic grounds.

Tests were done from the front and side of the car with a loose wheel weighing 20 kilograms. Researchers took in various factors: car-to-car contact, car-to-environment contact and external objects, such as a wheel. They also analyzed real-life accidents, including those with fatalities.

In terms of manufacturing design, FIA race director Charlie Whiting said “it’s going to be a one-part (piece) made by one company, so they all have to fit the same one.”

The device is expected to weigh about 8 kilograms, Whiting said. The manufacturer has yet to be decided, although several companies have been contacted. Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas both expressed concern that the extra weight will impact driving, particularly on cornering speeds.

Other safety devices were considered before the halo was approved by the FIA last week.

At the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, a transparent open canopy system constructed using polycarbonate, and known as the “shield,” was tested at Silverstone by four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.

The Ferrari driver was critical.

“I wasn’t a big fan of the shield,” Vettel said. “For sure you need to get used to the halo, but at least it didn’t impact on the vision.”

Bianchi died at the age of 25, several months after massive head injuries sustained at the Japanese GP in October 2014.

Bianchi’s accident at Suzuka occurred at the end of the race in rainy, gloomy conditions, when his Marussia team car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.

Wilson died in August 2015, a day after being hit on the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.

“We believe (the halo) would have changed dramatically the outcome of the accident,” Mekies said.

Vettel, who emotionally dedicated his 2015 win at Hungary to Bianchi, said the change was justified.

“We would all take it, to help save his life. We can’t turn back the clock,” the German driver said. “But knowing something is there that would help us is stupid to ignore. Overall it’s supposed to help us, so that’s what we should remember.”

While Hamilton and others have been critical of the halo’s appearance, Vettel championed it.

“Times are changing and moving forward,” Vettel said. “It helps us in the car in case something goes very wrong.”

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso is also in favor.

“If we could go back in time and save lives we would all be happy,” the Spanish driver said. “That’s the first and only thing we should talk about. The aesthetics I don’t care too much (about).”

Several drivers disagree.

“Doesn’t look too good,” Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg said. “Not sure that this additional protection is necessary because all the other areas (of safety) are improving.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are also against it.

“I didn’t like the visibility and the thing in front of you, it’s not great,” the 19-year-old Verstappen said. “I don’t think you will lose the wheel very easily (anyway) and when there are parts flying around the car it’s not going to protect you. So I don’t know why we need it.”

Magnussen took a sarcastic tone.

“F1 cars aren’t meant to be ugly. That is the reason that a Ferrari is more exciting than a Mazda,” the Danish driver said. “I think there is a limit where it becomes too safe to be exciting. We could make the cars go 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour and it would be boring.”

Grosjean said “it was a sad day for Formula 1 when it was announced, and I am still against it.”

Sergio Perez wants 2018 F1 contract secured by Spa

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Sergio Perez is keen to swiftly define his Formula 1 future and secure a contract for next season by the time the paddock reconvenes in Belgium at the end of August after the summer break.

Perez has been one of the stand-out drivers in F1 this year, sitting seventh in the drivers’ championship as the leading midfielder behind those racing for Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.

The Mexican’s future has become a regular talking point during F1’s ‘silly season’, with links to Ferrari being thrown about for 2018 as it mulls over Kimi Raikkonen’s position.

Force India has been punching well above its weight in F1 this year, much to Perez’s delight, and he hopes to have a new contract with the team sorted for next year within the next month.

“I think the team has been moving forwards every year. Although last year we achieved the same position which we have now which is fourth, I think we have consolidated that fourth place,” Perez said.

“I think the team is moving forwards; there is a lot more interest in terms of sponsorship into the team, more investment but it’s not easy to make the next step with the big boys, with the big teams, it’s not easy.

“In terms of my future, I just hope that once I come back to the next race, after the summer break, I can have a new contract.”

When asked if he meant a new contract with Force India, Perez said: “That would be good you know, but you never know what will happen.”