Photo: Mahindra Racing

Felix Rosenqvist returns to U.S. street courses at NYC ePrix

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One of the stars of last season’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires was Felix Rosenqvist, who won three of the four street course races for Belardi Auto Racing in a partial season.

The Swede was meant to have Indy Lights as a full program but only ran through Indianapolis before another driver (James French) took his place at Road America, before he returned at Toronto in mid-July last year.

On that weekend, Rosenqvist came back as if he’d never left with a pair of pole-to-flag romps for victories, for his second and third wins of the season.

But with his career taking him to new places in the last 12 months – he’s raced a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in sports cars, he tested an IndyCar with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio (and has been rumored to do so again this year), he’s raced at Le Mans with DragonSpeed, at Macau in Formula 3, in DTM with Mercedes, in Super Formula with Toyota and the FIA Formula E Championship with Mahindra Racing – Rosenqvist hasn’t made much in the way of visits to North America for racing since, other than to Mexico City for the FE round there in April.

Fortunately that changes this weekend at the Qualcomm New York City ePrix, where Rosenqvist enters the weekend third in points on the heels of his first Formula E win at Berlin last month. He also just banked his first Super Formula podium last weekend in Fuji, when he finished second.

He would have had a weekend sweep there, but for a pit safety infraction on the mandatory car change pit stop in the second race and a 10-second penalty assessed as a result. That gave the win to Renault e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi even though Rosenqvist was first on the road.

The Swede told my MST colleague Luke Smith that his American street course experience would help in Formula E and it’s proven that way this season.

“I can’t wait to go racing in New York City. I’ve competed in the United States before but I’m looking forward to racing around the streets of Brooklyn in the M3Electro,” Rosenqvist said in the team’s pre-race release.

“It’s a really important race for the team and we’re confident we can continue our podium streak – and hopefully chase down more wins! I’m also really looking forward to exploring the city – I’ve only been to New York once but didn’t get a chance to see the sights.”

The doubleheader of races takes place this weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

‘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.”