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What to watch for: Hungarian Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET)

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School’s almost out for summer in Formula 1 as the cars hit the track for the final time until the end of August with Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel produced one of the qualifying displays of the season to score Ferrari’s third pole of the year, heading up a front row lock-out for the Italian marque.

Title rival Lewis Hamilton was left to settle for fourth place on the grid, with his chances of a sixth victory at the Hungaroring looking increasingly slim.

Will the momentum in the championship fight swing once again today? Ahead of the summer shutdown, there’s no better time for a twist to come about.

You can watch the Hungarian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET. CLICK HERE for NBC live stream.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s race.

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Ferrari looks to convert qualy advantage into victory

Ferrari’s recent performances had raised doubts about its ability to compete with Mercedes across the rest of the season, with the German marque seeming to pull clear in recent races.

Ferrari was able to turn things around in Hungary on Saturday, the SF70H suiting the tight and twisting nature of the Hungaroring circuit nicely.

It is key for Ferrari to strike back and take full advantage of its edge today. If neither Vettel nor Raikkonen can bring it home and Mercedes captures a third straight win – particularly on outright pace – it would be a sign that this championship is becoming increasingly unbalanced.

Will Red Bull get into the fight?

Red Bull’s pace has been of particular interest so far this weekend. A raft of updates for the RB13 had Daniel Ricciardo feeling like he had a B-spec car underneath him, allowing him to top both practice sessions on Friday.

The pace did not carry through to qualifying as Max Verstappen and Ricciardo ended up P5 and P6, the pair requiring a fightback in today’s race if they are to give Red Bull a second win of the season.

The RB13 looked strong through the long runs, meaning a Red Bull win is certainly not inconceivable. Do we have a four-way fight on our hands today?

Alonso, Vandoorne get chance to break through

Hungary has been a good race for McLaren so far. Having known the tighter nature of the circuit would suit the MCL32 car better – or, more accurately, expose the weaknesses of the Honda power unit less – the team had high hopes, and they were justified in qualifying as Alonso and Vandoorne secured P7 and P8 on the grid.

Alonso’s confidence in the McLaren-Honda project has been wavering for some time, but it would be a good boost for him if he can convert the good qualifying result into a decent haul of points.

For Vandoorne, simply getting off the mark for 2017 will be the target today after a disappointing start to his full-time F1 career.

How will di Resta fair?

Paul di Resta’s surprising F1 comeback on Saturday left the paddock deeply impressed as he quickly got to grips with the 2017-spec Williams, qualifying just seven-tenths of a second off full-time racer Lance Stroll.

The Scotsman managed just five flying laps in the car, putting him into another steep learning experience on Sunday as he enters a full race distance – his longest in any form of racing since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.

While few will expect di Resta to bother the points or have much of an impact, if he can get to the finish and stay in touch with the midfield, it would be a solid, solid statement.

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
5. Max Verstappen Red Bull
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
7. Fernando Alonso McLaren
8. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
9. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
10. Jolyon Palmer Renault
11. Esteban Ocon Force India
12. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
13. Sergio Perez Force India
14. Romain Grosjean Haas
15. Kevin Magnussen Haas
16. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
17. Lance Stroll Williams
18. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
19. Paul di Resta Williams
20. Marcus Ericsson Sauber

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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