IndyCar fans troll Lewis Hamilton at Texas; Hamilton rolls with the joke

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Lewis Hamilton’s perceived comments about the Verizon IndyCar Series field came under the microscope as his Formula 1 colleague and fellow World Champion, Fernando Alonso, made his bow at the Indianapolis 500.

Hamilton said upon Alonso’s arrival at Indianapolis that he would be “the best driver in the paddock.” In later alleged comments made to French newspaper L’Equipe, Hamilton reportedly called into question the overall level of the IndyCar field.

At Detroit, both double race winner Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe took the opportunity to respond – and not to bash Hamilton, but merely to defend the caliber and level of IndyCar drivers.

“It’s funny hearing criticism about the depth of our field from someone who has to race three other cars when we have seven winners in the first seven races,” Hinchcliffe said at Detroit. “It shows how competitive this series is, the parity between the manufacturers, between teams. Just how difficult it is to win one of those races.”

Rahal added after race one, “When I saw Lewis Hamilton’s comment, you guys know me, it took me everything I had in my body not to say something. Legitimately, in Formula One, over his entire career, it’s been a two-car race, four max, max. Here you have, like, Hinch who spins on lap one. You’re going, He’s done. No, he had the pace. He had a great strategy. He made some moves. I think he went through a three-stopper, ran blacks, ran hard, had the speed to get through, next thing you know he’s in third.

“IndyCar racing, this is the seventh race, seventh different winner. That doesn’t happen in other motorsports, period. So no matter what anybody wants to say, it’s a great form of motorsports. I think Esteban will tell you, I just talked to him briefly, he said this is the most fun car he’s ever driven in his life. It’s man and machine. It’s as simple as that. It’s a lot of fun.”

The IndyCar circus seemed to move on to Texas Motor Speedway last weekend and up north in Montreal, Canada, Hamilton was busy getting back on top at his day job.

A blindingly quick lap netted him his 65th career pole and an emotional one at that as the Senna family bestowed on him one of Ayrton Senna’s helmets, as Hamilton matched his racing hero. He followed with the win on Sunday in the Canadian Grand Prix.

But at Texas, some IndyCar fans took the opportunity to troll Hamilton’s alleged comments in a way that Americans generally do – by saying a person likes Nickelback.

A picture was captured via IMS Photo’s Chris Owens that said, “Lewis Hamilton likes Nickelback & unsweetened tea,” and was posted to IndyCar’s Instagram page.

Hamilton has allegedly took the opportunity to respond, with either he or someone authorized to use his official Instagram account replying, “‘how you remind me’ was a belter.”

Both Mercedes AMG Petronas and IndyCar’s official Twitter have responded too, with Mercedes giving credence to Hamilton actually having been the one to respond.

This post goes as proof that no matter what our differences may be in this world, we can all agree that no mention of Nickelback goes without response.

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

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
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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.”