NASCAR: Ty Dillon ready to make Sprint Cup debut on Sunday

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Ty Dillon’s trying to track down Chase Elliott and Regan Smith in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. But this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, that won’t be his only job.

In addition to running tonight’s NNS race at AMS, Dillon will also make his Sprint Cup debut Sunday night in the No. 33 Chevrolet for Circle Sport – which has a partnership with his team in the NNS, Richard Childress Racing.

Yesterday, Dillon qualified 29th for Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500. Running with the big dogs is clearly special for Dillon, who dubbed it “a huge moment for me and my career.”

But he doesn’t think that the Cup drive will detract from his NNS focus.

“I think it’s only going to be a positive for my Nationwide program to be in the Cup race this year,” said Dillon, a former winner at AMS in the Camping World Truck Series (2012). “It will slow everything down for me. I hadn’t been here in two years, and the last time I was here, I won.

“I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grip on this race track. The way our Nationwide team is performing right now, I think we have a great opportunity of winning a race and really piling on some points for this championship.”

As for how AMS became the site for his first Cup race, Dillon said that he and grandfather/boss Richard Childress got together at the beginning of the year and picked ‘four or five tracks” where they felt confident about him running well.

“[Atlanta] was one of the tracks on the list,” Dillon said. “We didn’t really talk about it very much during most of the season, and then things kind of came together. Here recently, we got the sponsorship to make things happen.”

Dillon also said that depending on sponsorship, he was hopeful to get a few more Cup starts this year.

“I know we were already planning on hopefully doing some stuff next year,” he said. “This year is kind of an open book…I think it’s wherever my grandfather feels like he can throw me in and we will have a great opportunity.”

But while his future Cup plans remain to be determined, Dillon knows what he has to do on the Nationwide side of things: Shrink the points gap between himself and the two JR Motorsports drivers, Elliott and Smith.

Two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio, a power steering problem relegated Dillon to a 19th-place finish that helped increase his deficit. Dillon recovered last weekend with a fourth at Bristol, but he’s still down 30 points in the standings to Elliott.

“I think we just have to continue to run in the Top-5, and hope for some mistakes from those guys because that is what has put us behind,” Dillon said of the situation. “We were only 12 points out two weeks ago…We have been fast everywhere we just had a couple of mechanical issues.

“We are going to continue to run up front and have opportunities to win the race like we did last week at Bristol and let those guys fold.”

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.