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Dixon still leads points, but loses another win chance, at Texas


After a chaotic to say the least Verizon IndyCar Series Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon could have afforded to feel aggrieved at losing yet another win chance Saturday night.

The usually unflappable “Iceman” left the track without a comment after being collected by Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato on Lap 243. Sato’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda tried to the inside of Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda on the dogleg of the 1.5-mile oval before coming up and into the fellow Honda.

The ensuring contact also collected Max Chilton and Conor Daly as innocent bystanders in a four-car accident that involved four cars with nearly identical blue and white paint schemes, Daly’s red, white and blue ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet standing as the only exception.

“It was an unfortunate bad situation. I had car on my right side. It bottomed out,” Sato told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “Nothing I could do. It was a great show. Very unfortunate we couldn’t finish the race.”

Such was the chaotic night though that despite Dixon’s truncated evening he was still classified ninth, and remains the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader through nine of 17 races.

The ninth place finish is actually Dixon’s second worst result in nine races; his other, of course, was his 32nd place registered after his airborne flight at Indianapolis following contact with Jay Howard. In the other seven races he’s finished between second and sixth, yet without a win.

Simon Pagenaud drove cagily and smartly as he did earlier this year to end third, maximizing points on a day when many others didn’t. He now sits second in points with 313.

Sato, even with the contact, ended 10th and is third on 312.

Helio Castroneves crashed out early and after his first finish outside the top-10 this year, is now fourth on 305 points, while Will Power was the big mover with his win to jump from eighth to fifth on 286.

Detroit double winner Graham Rahal sits sixth on points on 283, with Josef Newgarden (277), Tony Kanaan (264), Alexander Rossi (254) and James Hinchcliffe (232) completing the top-1o in points.

Max Chilton (229) and Ed Jones (228) are only a handful of points outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th, which means that through nine races this year there are still 12 drivers within 98 points – a staggeringly close number.

With a season-best result of seventh and his first top-10 finish of the year, Daly has finally moved past nearly all those drivers who’ve missed a race this year into 19th. Previously in the last weekend, he was behind JR Hildebrand, Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Hildebrand sits ahead of three drivers – Carlos Munoz, Charlie Kimball and Daly – who’ve driven in all nine races this year. The Californian missed Barber with a hand injury.

Dixon, meanwhile, heads to Le Mans for his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT commitments, as do fellow IndyCar full-season drivers Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin, along with NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”