Milwaukee IndyFest 225 - Day 2

IndyCar at Milwaukee, Motocross in Indy highlight NBCSN weekend coverage

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NBC Sports Group presents more than 30 hours of motorsports coverage this weekend across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra, highlighted by the IndyCar ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the famed Milwaukee Mile on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NBC Sports Group will also feature coverage of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships from the Indiana National on Saturday, Mecum Auctions from Monterey beginning on Thursday, and new episodes of Mecum Dealmakers: Indianapolis and /DRIVE on NBC Sports on Thursday night.

All IndyCar, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and Mecum Auctions’ coverage will be streamed live via NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets.

INDYCAR ABC SUPPLY WISCONSIN 250 – SUNDAY AT 3 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the IndyCar ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile begins Saturday evening with qualifying at 8 p.m. ET. Live race coverage begins on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, followed by coverage of the Indy Lights Milwaukee race at 6 p.m. ET.

Two weeks ago, Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) earned his first win of the season with a victory at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, his fifth career victory at Mid-Ohio, making his way to the front after starting in 22nd position. Will Power (Team Penske) finished sixth to pass teammate Helio Castroneves for the Verizon IndyCar Series championships point lead.

The series shifts this week to the Milwaukee Mile, which holds the distinction as the oldest operating motor speedway in the world, hosting at least one auto race each year since 1903, except for the years during the U.S. involvement in World War II. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) has won the last two IndyCar races at the Milwaukee Mile.

NBC Sports Group’s lead motorsports voice Leigh Diffey will call the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 from West Allis, Wisc., alongside veteran driver/analyst 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 by Anders Krohn and Jake Query to call the Indy Lights Milwaukee race.

LUCAS OIL PRO MOTOCROSS INDIANA NATIONAL – SATURDAY

NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will combine to present six hours of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Indiana National coverage from Crawfordsville, Ind., on Saturday. Coverage starts on Live Extra at 10:30 a.m. ET with practice, followed by the pre-race show at 12:15 p.m. ET. Race coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on Live Extra with Moto 1s, followed by live coverage of  the  250 Class of 2nd Motos at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. An encore presentation will air on NBCSN at 1 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Last weekend Ryan Dungey took the 450 Class at Unadilla National for his fourth win this year, and Christopher Pourcel earned his first victory of the season by winning the 250 Class.

Veteran play-by-play voice Jason Weigandt, analyst and two-time AMA Pro Motocross ChampionGrant Langston, and pit reporter Georgia Lindsay will call the action from Indiana National in Crawfordsville, Ind.

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

Date Program Time (ET) Network
Thurs., August 14 NASCAR America 5 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Monterey 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Dealmakers: Kansas City (Encore) 9 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Dealmakers: Indianapolis 10 p.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports 11 p.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports (Encore) 11:30 p.m. NBCSN
Fri., August 15 Motocross Highlight Series 12 a.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports (Encore) 1 a.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Monterey 6:30 p.m. NBCSN
Sat., August 16 Pirelli World Challenge – Toronto & Mid-Ohio 12 a.m. NBCSN
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Indiana – Practice 10:30 a.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Indiana – Pre-Show 12:15 p.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Indiana – Moto 1s 1 p.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
Red Bull Series “Mavericks Invitational” 2:30 p.m. NBC
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Indiana – 250 Class 5 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 – Qualifying 8 p.m. NBCSN
Mecum Auctions: Monterey 9 p.m. NBCSN
Sun., August 17 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Indiana (Encore) 12 a.m. NBCSN
IndyCar ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 3 p.m. NBCSN
Indy Lights Milwaukee 6 p.m. NBCSN

Verstappen, Mercedes joke about vacant seat after Rosberg’s retirement

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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In the wake of Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement announcement on Friday in Vienna, nearly every Formula 1 driver has been named as a possible replacement for the World Champion at Mercedes in 2017.

Fernando Alonso? Sebastian Vettel? Pascal Wehrlein? Esteban Ocon? Or how about Max Verstappen?

Ah, Verstappen. The young upstart who has turned the F1 world on its head since making his debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old in 2015. Fast-forward to the present day, and he is the youngest ever grand prix winner (and still very fresh-faced).

While a move to Mercedes is, in reality, out of the question for 2017 given the nature of his Red Bull contract and status as one of F1’s hottest prospects, Verstappen was more than happy to engage in some banter on Twitter with the German manufacturer.

Verstappen notably had the chance to join Mercedes’ junior program back in 2014, but decided on a move to Red Bull instead after it promised him an F1 drive with Toro Rosso for 2015.

Stunned racing world reacts to Rosberg’s retirement on social media

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates with his wife Vivian Sibold and his team after finishing second and securing the F1 World Drivers Championship at the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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It is fair to say that nobody saw this coming.

Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from Formula 1 just six days after clinching his maiden world championship has already sent shockwaves through the racing world.

To see a professional athlete bow out in such fashion is rare, particularly when they’re nowhere near retirement age. Alas, it seems that one world title was enough for Nico.

Here’s a round-up of how the racing world has reacted to Rosberg’s retirement on Twitter.

Smith: After his bombshell, who will replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes?

Nico Rosberg 2016 World Championship Victory Behind-the-Scenes Imagery
© Mercedes AMG Petronas
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The driver market for the 2017 Formula 1 season has been a regular talking point on MotorSportsTalk for the past few months.

‘Silly season’, as it is affectionally known, was expected to be particularly crazy ahead of the 2017 season given the number of drivers who were going to be out of contract. Daniel Ricciardo told me in pre-season it was going to be “badass.”

But things went quiet: Max Verstappen got an early promotion to Red Bull; Kimi Raikkonen got another year at Ferrari; Sergio Perez decided to stay at Force India. By the end of the racing season, just three seats remained at Sauber and Manor.

And then Nico Rosberg dropped his bombshell.

Ahead of the FIA prizegiving in Vienna on Friday night, Rosberg announced to the world that, less than six days after being crowned World Champion, he would be ending his racing career with immediate effect.

This is an enormous shock to the F1 paddock and the sporting world as a whole. While it is hardly rare for athletes to quit while on top, it is for them to do so when they’ve still got a number of years left in them. Rosberg is 31. Michael Schumacher didn’t retire until he was 43.

I wrote on Monday in the wake of Rosberg’s title success that one world title might be enough for him. He’s not wired the same way as the Lewis Hamiltons or Fernando Alonsos of this world, to whom three and two World Championships respectively seem an injustice. Rosberg is World Champion forever now; that won’t change no matter how many more times he wins it.

Now Nico gets the chance to be a father and a husband full-time. To him, family is everything. His wife, Vivian, was in all of his post-race shots, celebrating the world title success, while little Alaia is just one year old; it’s a precious time for fathers.

In F1 though, the question now surrounds who will step into Rosberg’s shoes.

It’s time for Silly Season 2: Electric Boogaloo.

The two men who were perceived as being the natural successors to Hamilton and Rosberg at Mercedes were junior drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. Both raced for Manor this year, making their F1 debuts, with Ocon impressing enough to get a seat with Force India for 2017. Wehrlein is still yet to be signed to a seat for next year.

If Mercedes wants a quick fix, then Wehrlein is a viable option. He is known to the team and has shown signs of pace, scoring just the second point in Manor’s seven-season history this season. However, Force India’s decision to pass on him and take Ocon surely raises doubt as to his suitability to the Mercedes seat.

Because what is now on offer for next season is the chance of a lifetime for the F1 grid. New regulations may be on the horizon for 2017, but Mercedes is expected to still be fighting at the front of the grid. It has enjoyed one of the most dominant spells in the long history of F1. Driver contracts may be in place, but they can be bought out if the price is right.

As one Twitter follower put it: “The hottest girl in school is without a prom date at the moment.”

So who might be the Prom King to this Prom Queen?

The immediate aftermath of the announcement has seen all of F1’s biggest names linked with the drive, including Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, both of whom enter the final year of their contracts in 2017 with McLaren and Ferrari respectively.

Both moved to their new teams at the end of 2014 as part of a long-term project to take them back to the front of the grid; both were left to endure trying 2016 campaigns that yielded not a single victory.

So could either make the move up? Frankly, the money would have to be staggering from Mercedes to get either out of their contract, particularly in Vettel’s case. And things haven’t exactly reached ‘Alonso level’ of frustrating and anger for the German at Maranello just yet.

The Red Bull boys are locked in for 2017 – although you’ve got to think that Mercedes is surely now feeling even more frustrated that it missed out on Verstappen three years ago – and should be in a position to mount a title challenge next year given the progress the team has made through this season. So again, a no-go really.

So instead, it would have to be a driver who is up-and-coming but currently mired in the midfield. Two drivers come to mind.

Firstly, there is Valtteri Bottas. The Finn was the breakout star of F1 in 2014 with Williams, taking a number of podium finishes, but has failed to reach such dizzying heights over the past two campaigns, scoring just one top-three result through 2016.

However, Bottas is still widely regarded as being a top talent, and is managed by Toto Wolff, who also happens to be Mercedes’ F1 chief. If the money is right to prize him away from Williams, Bottas could be a good fit.

Another possibility is Carlos Sainz Jr. Sainz had a hugely impressive campaign in 2016 with Toro Rosso, but there is no room for him to move up to Red Bull’s senior F1 operation for the foreseeable future with Verstappen and Ricciardo in place.

Sainz is currently slated for another year at Toro Rosso, but Red Bull must know deep down that keeping him at STR in the long-term will be an impossible task. So why not ask Mercedes to cough up the cash, while also freeing up a seat for GP2 champion Pierre Gasly in 2017?

You could also make a case for the likes of Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean, both of whom seem to be waiting for their ‘big shot’ in F1.

For Mercedes, it all boils down to its long-term plan. If it thinks Wehrlein is ready, he would be a sensible choice, although it would act as an enormous leap as he literally goes from the back of the grid to the front. Ocon would be in a similar boat, and Mercedes would need to pull him out of the Force India deal.

If Mercedes wants the best driver available, then surely Alonso and Vettel will be on its radar. But it would be more troublesome to hire them – plus the team has Lewis Hamilton to appease, who will be hungrier than ever for a fourth world title in 2017.

If Mercedes wants to take a shot on one of the midfield up-and-comers, then Bottas and Sainz are perhaps the best bets.

But it must be stressed that these are all ‘ifs.’

2016 has been a year packed with shocks and surprise. Rosberg’s retirement is really just the icing on the cake.

DiZinno: Rosberg’s retirement is baller in a year full of racing shock

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My colleague and teammate on MotorSportsTalk, Luke Smith, sent me the Facebook message just after 7 a.m. my time.

“Rosberg’s retiring!!”

“Wait,” I slowly thought in my “trying to process the magnitude of this message while not having had coffee and rolled out of bed” state. He can’t be serious… this is still a weird dream.

The transitionary line from me was as you’d expect.

“What?!?” I naturally, incredulously reply.

“He’s announced it in Vienna. I’m working it up now,” Luke follows, because this is what Luke does: he is on it all the freaking time, often times more than me.

Then the texts started following. Some of them with all caps. Some with expletives. Some with both.

This isn’t happening.

Unless it is.

The first round of stories start hitting the Internet, because that’s how Internet posts work in this age of motorsports journalism. News travels quickly. We await the actual Rosberg statement he posts himself, because it’s not enough to be right anymore, just, like Internet commenters, first.

The Rosberg statement follows. It isn’t a facade. It’s real.

“When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion,” Rosberg wrote on his Facebook page in the announcement.

“On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start. I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life.”

Social media is abuzz.

Lewis Hamilton is known for his social media presence.

Yet it’s Nico Rosberg who’s the Mercedes driver that went “Hammer Time” on him, and broke the racing Internet.

The fact that literally no one saw this coming – in an age when announcements are known days, weeks and months before they actually officially happen – is both a genuine shock and a welcome surprise, and that’s why the magnitude of both the announcement and the timing is as large as it is.

This is not the first time this has happened this year in racing, in a year full of shocks.

Alexander Rossi wasn’t really going to make it home with 36 laps on fuel in the Indianapolis 500. The fuel window is 32 or 33 laps, max.

Yet he did – strategist and team co-owner Bryan Herta’s now-famous radio call of “clutch and coast” has entered the vernacular – and Rossi became a rookie winner at Indianapolis.

Jaw dropped, because the fact it was the 100th Indianapolis 500 wasn’t monumental enough.

Then, Toyota wasn’t really going to lose a near certain first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We go back to my friend and colleague Luke here, because 10 minutes prior to the race finish, Luke had a rare moment where he wasn’t “on it.” “Toyota’s surely got this…” he tweeted.

Naturally, they didn’t. As Kazuki Nakajima slowed so painfully coming out of the Ford Chicane in the final six minutes and stopped on the front straight, and the Porsche blew past, the hearts stopped once more.

Jaw dropped again, because the fact Toyota had lost its rightful and deserved win was now reality.

And now finally, in a year that really hasn’t had that many jaw-droppers in F1, Rosberg’s beat them both with this news.

So, the quick, first reflection begins with Suzuka. The moment when Rosberg’s teammate Hamilton blew the start in Suzuka in mid-October is now the beginning of the end of Rosberg’s career. Few if any knew it at the time.

Maybe Rosberg did. It appears he has.

Suddenly the metronomic, icy exterior makes all the more sense.

“One race at a time.”

The five words that defined Rosberg’s public persona this season, and hid his inner desire for this moment to be achieved, suddenly loomed larger.

If he took it one race at a time, he’d be one day closer to the end of his career.

The Rosberg that raced just six days ago in Abu Dhabi was not the Rosberg we saw for the bulk of now his 11-year career. He was aggressive, as witnessed by that pass on Max Verstappen. He was calculated; knowing that even as Hamilton was backing him up to try to force him into making a mistake, he knew all he had to do was stand his ground.

And the emotion that was released upon finishing the race? That wasn’t robotic Rosberg. That was human Nico.

Human Nico is now who he can be for the rest of his life. A husband. A dad. And now, a World Champion.

No one can take that away from him.

But, Nico, I do have one final request.

Can you make the rounds to pick our collective jaws up off the ground?