Photos: NBC Sports Group

NBCSN kicks off its part of 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule this weekend

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NBC Sports Group to Present More Than 80 Hours of Verizon IndyCar Series Coverage in 2018, Including Final Nine Races on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app

This Weekend’s Coverage from Phoenix Begins Friday at 8 p.m. ET with Live Qualifying on NBCSN

“The freshness the series appears to have – everyone is excited about IndyCar in a way we’ve not seen for some time.” – Play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey

NBC Sports Group Becomes Exclusive Home of Verizon IndyCar Series Beginning in 2019

STAMFORD, Conn. – April 4, 2018 – NBC Sports Group kicks off its coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend from ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix, Ariz., with live coverage of the Phoenix Grand Prix on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Pre-race coverage begins with IndyCar Live presented by Verizon at 9 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports Group will present 12 races during the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign, and more than 80 hours of coverage spanning practice, qualifying and race presentations on NBCSN. NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs – will provide live streaming coverage of Verizon IndyCar Series coverage airing on NBCSN.

This year’s schedule will feature races at iconic circuits like Long Beach on April 15 and Road America on June 24, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Portland on Sept. 2, and the season finale at Sonoma on Sept. 16. Once again, the Verizon IndyCar Series title will be decided on NBCSN.

Lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey returns for his sixth consecutive season.  Paul Tracy, who won 31 career open-wheel races spanning INDYCAR, Champ Car, and CART, and was the 2003 CART Champion, returns for his fifth season as race analyst, and Townsend Bell, who has raced nine times at the Indianapolis 500 and was a member of the winning team at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona, is back for his sixth season in the booth.

Townsend Bell (l) and Paul Tracy are back in 2018 as analysts on NBCSN telecasts of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

For the first time, this season’s pre-race coverage on IndyCar Live presented by Verizon will take place from the grid in the lead up to the command, bringing viewers even closer to the action prior to the race.

NBCSN’s team of IndyCar pit reporters will include Marty SniderRobin MillerKevin LeeAnders KrohnKatie Hargitt, and Jon Beekhuis, who all return following the 2017 season.


PHOENIX GRAND PRIX – SATURDAY AT 9:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series began on March 11 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan) took the checkered flag ahead of Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

Rookie driver Robert Wickens took the pole in St. Petersburg, led the most laps of the race and was primed to win in his debut, but was contacted by 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi with two laps remaining and was knocked out of the race. Rossi went on to finish third. Defending series champion Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) finished seventh. Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won last year’s event in Phoenix, his first ever victory on an oval.

Pre-race coverage on IndyCar Live presented by Verizon will also feature an essay by Robin Miller on Sebastien Bourdais, examining his win in St. Petersburg less than a year after his crash in 2017 Indy 500 qualifying that fractured his pelvis and right hip. In addition, IndyCar Live presented by Verizon will document the events in Phoenix honoring the 25th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s final victory, which took place at Phoenix in 1993.

This weekend’s coverage begins on Friday at 8 p.m. ET with live qualifying on NBCSN. NBCSN will also air an encore presentation of qualifying on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, leading into pre-race coverage on IndyCar Live presented by Verizon at 9 p.m. ET, and race coverage at 9:30 p.m. ET. Diffey (play-by-play), Tracy (analyst) and Bell (analyst) will call the action, while Lee, Snider, Miller and Hargitt will report from the pits.

Following are quotes from lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey ahead of this weekend’s race in Phoenix:

Leigh Diffey, lead announcer on NBCSN telecasts of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule

Diffey on the difficulties that ISM Raceway presents: “Any short oval is going to be difficult to conquer because the laps and race fly by so fast. You’ve got to be on your game on the track, and your strategist on their ‘A-game’ on the pit box. Any small errors are magnified on tracks like this, and it’s what makes short track oval racing so wild. The distance is short, the speeds are high, and the risk/reward is often nerve-wracking. Bring it on!”

Diffey on the 2018 season-opener in St. Petersburg: “The main takeaways from the season opener in St Pete were plentiful. A sampling would be how good the 2018-spec cars look, the variety of new drivers and team shake-ups, and the freshness the series appears to have. Everyone is excited about IndyCar in a way we’ve not seen for some time and that feels good. The results for a variety of drivers, like Bourdais, were heartwarming, but the way that Robert Wickens was left in the fence was not. He deserved better after dominating the day. He’s such a good driver that he’ll have his day on top of the podium sooner rather than later.”

Diffey on Team Penske, which only mustered a team-best 7th place finish at St. Pete from last year’s reigning series champion Josef Newgarden: “The Penske team feels it will be better on ovals than it showed on the opening street course race of the year. This is not a situation we see this blue-chip organization in very often, so it will be interesting to see how they engineer, drive and strategize their way out of it.”

Following is this weekend’s IndyCar schedule on NBCSN:

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Fri., April 6 Phoenix Grand Prix – Qualifying NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., April 7 Phoenix Grand Prix – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
IndyCar Live presented by Verizon NBCSN 9 p.m.
Phoenix Grand Prix NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
IndyCar Post-Race NBCSN 11:30 p.m.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND INDYCAR PARTNER ON COMPREHENSIVE, MULTI-YEAR MEDIA RIGHTS AGREEMENT

On March 21, NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement in which NBC Sports acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019.

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 NBCSports.com 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. Click here for more information.

NBC SPORTS GROUP 2018 INDYCAR RACE COVERAGE

Date Race/Track Network Time (ET)
Sat., April 7 Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., April 15 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach NBCSN 4:30 p.m.
Sun., April 22 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
Fri., May 25 Carb Day – Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBCSN 1:30 p.m.
Sun., June 9 DXC Technology 600 (Texas Motor Speedway) NBCSN 8:30 p.m.
Sun., June 24 Kohler Grand Prix (Road America) NBCSN 1 p.m.
Sun., July 8 Iowa Corn 300 NBCSN 2:30 p.m.
Sun., July 15 Honda Indy Toronto NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
Sun., July 29 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio* CNBC 3:30 p.m.
Sun., August 19 ABC Supply 500 (Pocono Raceway) NBCSN 2 p.m.
Sat., August 25 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (Gateway Motorsports Park) NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., September 2 Portland International Raceway NBCSN 3 p.m.
Sun., September 16 Grand Prix of Sonoma NBCSN 6:30 p.m.

*NBCSN will televise same-day encore presentation

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

-NBC SPORTS GROUP-

IndyCar: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Recap

Photo: IndyCar
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After two days, with both featuring a lot of rain, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is finally in the books for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

With Mother Nature intervening with rain and fury over both days, it’s understandable if there’s a sense of relief that the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is behind us.

Still, as is usually the case, Barber produced plenty of thrills, and a few spills, across the weekend of racing.

A recap of big stories to emerge from the weekend is below.

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head…

Mother Nature was ever present on Sunday and Monday, dropping a lot of rain on Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

Rain races can be very fun and entertaining…if they’re able to run. Sadly, that just wasn’t the case on Sunday.

The undulating and picturesque Barber Motorsports Park is one of the most striking road courses in the country, and often produces some of the best racing anywhere. But, the nature of the track and its dramatic elevation changes can make it susceptible to standing water in heavy rains.

And that’s the exact scenario that played out on Sunday, with heavy and persistent rain hitting the track late in the morning, and hanging around the entire day.

While INDYCAR officials and Barber track crews worked tirelessly on Sunday to disperse the standing water, the rainfall was simply too heavy for them to make any impact.

While very unfortunate, postponing the finish of the race to Monday was the right decision, as several drivers explained.

“It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us,” said eventual race winner Josef Newgarden following the Sunday postponement. “We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much.”

Graham Rahal echoed Newgarden’s sentiments, also emphasizing poor visibility as a big factor in making the conditions too treacherous.

“It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue (on Sunday), no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in (on Sunday), but that’s life,” he explained.

Rest assured, Firestone makes a strong rain tire, and IndyCar teams, drivers, and track crews are more than equipped to handle a rain shower from Mother Nature. But, Sunday’s weather was simply too extreme.

Newgarden Shines in the Rain and the Sun

Josef Newgarden in Victory Lane at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

About the only thing as powerful as Mother Nature during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

Last year’s IndyCar champion was quickest at the end of Friday’s practices, scored the pole on Saturday, and led all but nine laps across Sunday and Monday.

And his leads were always decisive. He quickly gapped the field when racing started on Sunday, holding down a gap of as much seven seconds over teammate Will Power in the early laps. And on Monday, he gapped the field by as much as 27 seconds during the second half of the race.

Only outside circumstances could have prevented Newgarden from getting to Victory Lane…and that nearly happened. A late rain shower in the final minutes created split strategies across the field, with Newgarden among those opting for rain tires, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais gambled by staying out on slicks.

Hunter-Reay, however, jumped into the pits soon after for rain tires, a move that helped him eventually finish second, while Coyne and Bourdais gambled that the track would not get wet enough to force them to pit.

Alas, with only a few minutes remaining and the rain getting heavier, conditions became too slick and Bourdais was forced to pit, handing the lead back to Newgarden and dropping Bourdais to fifth.

“More hectic than you would want at the end,” Newgarden quipped when asked about conditions at the end of the race. “It seemed like it was pretty straightforward all day. We weren’t having yellows. It was dry. Then that rain made it very nerve-racking.

Newgarden added that pitting for rain tires, and doing so early, was their best option, even though it opened the door for others to jump ahead.

“I think for us we did the only thing we could,” he said of their strategy. “We went to rains as soon as it intensified. We had to. I think it was the right thing to do, just because we’re in the lead, we have the most to lose by not putting on rains early.”

The victory, Newgarden’s second of 2018, moves him back into the championship lead with 158 points, 13 ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

Misc.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay enjoyed a solid weekend following a troublesome day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver ranked in the Top 10 through practice, qualified a strong fourth, and ran a very clean race to finish second, his best finish of 2018, and he now sits only three points out of third place in the championship – he is currently sixth, with 113 points.
  • While teammate Robert Wickens has made more headlines, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe is having one of the best early-season efforts of his IndyCar career. With finishes of fourth, sixth, ninth, and second to his name through four races, Hinch sits fifth in the standings on 118 points, and is keeping himself well within reach of the championship lead. A race win would do wonders for his championship standing, but the consistent start puts him in a good position heading into the month of May.
  • Conversely, four-time champion Scott Dixon has yet to finish on the podium in 2018 – his best finish is fourth at ISM Raceway. Still, at seventh in the standings with 107 points, Dixon is within striking distance despite the quiet start.
  • Elsewhere, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud have had comparatively disastrous starts to their seasons. Power has hit the wall in three of the first four races, while Pagenaud only has a best finish of ninth, coincidentally at Barber this weekend, through four races. Power sits tenth in the championship on 81 points, while Pagenaud languishes down in 15th on 66.
  • He made not have made many friends out there, but Zachary Claman De Melo gave viewers some thrills after the Monday restart, pushing his way through the field despite being two laps down. It also created one of the highlights of the race, with he and Spencer Pigot going for a slide through Turns 7 and 8 (video below). For his efforts, Claman De Melo recorded the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing 19th.

The Verizon IndyCar Series now has two weeks before their next race, the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11-12. However, the series will be plenty busy, with testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicking off next week.

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