Photo courtesy United Autosports

Rayhall: Maximizing the weekend at legendary Spa

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Editor’s note: Sean Rayhall, one of America’s rising driving talents, will file a series of blogs throughout the year chronicling his season in the European Le Mans Series, co-driving with John Falb at Zak Brown and Richard Dean’s United Autosports team in its Ligier JS P3.

His fifth blog looks at how he and the team made the most of the weekend at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps, en route to a surprise podium (previous blogs are linked here; SilverstoneLe MansRed Bull Ring, Paul Ricard).

So we arrived in Belgium on a Thursday. Well, John’s flight was delayed. So, I arrived and got plenty acquainted with the airport and found out that at Brussels, if you exit the airport, you can’t get back in without another flight ticket. On the bright side, they do have a nice patio outside for those people like me who walked out unknowingly. John made it eventually and we were all set to head to the legendary Circuit Spa-Francorchamps.

Friday went great, starting with John going P1 in the Bronze (driver rating) test and us being P3 the end of FP1, which we felt really good about especially for our pace on old tires in FP2! So we felt pretty confident that even if we don’t have the fastest car on outright pace, we will have a great race car for the four-hour race. That’s what has been paying off for us this year!

Qualifying went well, and we ended up P3 which was good considering people were doing different things for downforce for just qualifying and we just left our race setup on and sent it!

So the starts at Spa are always pretty crazy (see above). There are 38 cars, three different classes, and all different categories of drivers at the start depending on independent team strategies, and we’re all going flat out down a short straight into a first gear hairpin… so chaos should be expected.

The rule stated in the drivers meeting was that you’re not allowed to pop or pass until the bridge, which is the second line on the front straightaway.

When the green dropped, the LMP2 car (the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland and No. 49 High Class Racing Dallara P217s were on the final row of the LMP2 grid, with the No. 29 car directly ahead of the LMP3 class polesitter -Ed.) in front of our LMP3 class polesitter (Mikkel Jensen) got an awful start. By following the rules I had to stay behind Jensen, but that also meant I had dropped down to sixth place by the time we got to the bridge.

By the time Turn 1 was sorted, I’d remained on damage control and tried to protect the car… but I came out P10. No action was taken on the cars that we thought had jumped the start.

When you’re in a position to win the championship, there are some race situations where it can be difficult to balance your inner racer’s desire to push hard early versus waiting and letting the race come to you.

Basically you have two options: you can risk it for a win and risk a penalty, or you can take the humble pie, and wait it out. The humble pie was tasting terrible, by the way, until about four hours later when the checkered flag flew.

I began to work my way through the field getting to sixth, before I had a tough battle with (Giorgio) Mondini. He proceeded to try to wreck me on four different occasions. One of those included driving me off the track in brake zones and bending the suspension on our car while ripping dive plains off. He eventually wrecked Theo Bean in another car, which took him out of the race and put us back to P10.

So again, it was full reset right here. We just needed to get points, and I could see the cars we were battling for in the championship ahead, so I just put my head down and made the best of a bent race car. You can take your best shot at commentating my radio communication, but I’m pretty sure all of our United Autosports crew’s ears were hurt by my rant…

As the race played out there were many safety car periods which took out about an hour of the drive time I was allocated, but as he has all season, John Falb drove flawlessly for two hours. We were eighth after the first hour and fourth at the end of the second hour, but John pushed us forward in the final two hours as he brought us up to third place, in tandem with great work from the team.

It was truly impressive watching him take to a bent car and navigate his way through in a mega stint, which ended up giving us third place and a bigger points lead!

I can’t thank John Falb, United Autosports, and all our sponsors enough for all their hard work. As a team, we performed perfectly while everything that could go wrong went wrong, which is what champions are made of. This could be a day we look back on think how we achieved as best we could in spite of adversity.

Even on our worst day we stood on the podium in an ELMS race at Spa. That is special!

See you guys in a month post-Portimao! We will be playing for keeps there!

Photo courtesy United Autosports

NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

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NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR officials this morning announced a new partnership beginning in 2019 that will take the sport in an exciting new direction.

The new all-encompassing agreement includes TV and digital rights to all INDYCAR races — including the legendary Indianapolis 500. NBCSN has been INDYCAR’s cable partner since 2009, but this new agreement is all-encompassing and includes broadcast, cable, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights for all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices and more.

All races will be carried live, with eight races — including the Indy 500 — on NBC, while the remaining races will be televised on NBCSN.

Here is the official news release announcing the new partnership:



New Agreement Includes Rights to All Races, Qualifying, and Practices

Indianapolis 500 Moves to NBC in 2019

Indy 500 and Seven Additional Races on NBC Annually; Remaining Races on NBCSN; All Races Live Streamed on and the NBC Sports app

NBC Sports Gold Direct-to-Consumer Package Includes Qualifying, Practices, Indy Lights, and Full-Event Replays

STAMFORD, Conn. – March 21, 2018 – NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement today in which NBC Sports has acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC, with all remaining races televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on and the NBC Sports app. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 INDYCAR schedule will be announced at a later date.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to INDYCAR fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date.

“We’re excited to have NBC Sports serve as the exclusive home of INDYCAR, which represents the most competitive open-wheel racing in the world,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “We’re honored to bring the Indianapolis 500, one of the most prestigious events in all of sports, to NBC, further enhancing NBC Sports’ Championship Season. We’ve seen consistent growth for INDYCAR on NBCSN in the past decade, and we hope to continue that growth throughout the series by leveraging the television, digital, production and marketing assets that make NBC Sports a powerful media partner.”

“This arrangement brings all of INDYCAR to one home, increases our exposure and includes our first direct-to-consumer offer for our fans,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We couldn’t be happier to have start-to-finish coverage of INDYCAR’s season with the NBC Sports Group.”

The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, set for Sunday, May 26, 2019, will be the first ever on NBC. The Indy 500 will also be included every year in NBC Sports’ Championship Season marketing campaign, which touts numerous high-profile championship events that are presented across NBC Sports platforms from May to July, including the Triple Crown, The PLAYERS, Premier League Championship Sunday, French Open, Stanley Cup Final, Tour de France, and The Open Championship.

The entire Verizon IndyCar Series will receive unprecedented marketing and promotional support from NBC Sports, which will utilize not only its own assets, but many NBCUniversal assets as well. With the Indy 500 and seven additional races on NBC, INDYCAR will have the second-most races on broadcast television in all of motorsports.