NBCSN to feature 19 hours of coverage surrounding Indy 500 qualifying

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NBC Sports Network presents 19 hours of coverage surrounding the Indianapolis 500, including live qualifying, Carb Day, Indy Lights, an IndyCar 36 episode, and the Indy 500 Parade. Live qualifying coverage begins this Saturday, May 18 at 11 a.m. ET, continues through Saturday, and returns on Sunday, May 19 at noon ET. Qualifying coverage is highlighted by the NBC Sports Network broadcast debut of former IndyCar driver and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran. Thoughts from de Ferran on his win and on new IndyCar President of Competition/Operations Derrick Walker can be found on MotorSportsTalk.

In addition, NBC Sports Network presents live coverage of Carb Day, the last practice before the race, with the return of renowned motorsports voice Bob Jenkins. Coverage begins on Friday, May 24, at 11 a.m. ET, continues with Indy Lights at noon ET, and is followed by more Carb Day coverage. The premier of IndyCar 36 featuring driver Simona de Silvestro airs at 10:30 p.m. ET that night.

NBC Sports Network concludes its coverage on Saturday, May 25, with the Indy 500 Parade live at 5 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports Network’s Indy 500 Qualifying Coverage (subject to change, all times ET):

Date Coverage Time Commentators
Sat., May 18 Qualifying 11 a.m. Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton
Sat., May 18 Qualifying 4:30 p.m. Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton
Sun., May 19 Qualifying Noon Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton
Fri., May 24 Carb Day 11 a.m. Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis, Wally Dallenbach, Kevin Lee, Martin Snider, Robin Miller
Fri., May 24 Indy Lights Noon Mike King, Jake Query
Fri., May 24 Carb Day 1 p.m. Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis, Wally Dallenbach, Kevin Lee, Martin Snider, Robin Miller
Fri., May 24 IndyCar 36: Simona de Silvestro 10:30 p.m.
Sat., May 25 Indy 500 Parade 5 p.m. Bob Jenkins, Diane Willis, Kevin Lee

QUALIFYING COMMENTATORS: Former IndyCar driver Gil de Ferran joins NBC Sports Network’s team as an analyst this weekend 10 years after his Indy 500 win. de Ferran is filling in for NBC Sports Network IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, who is attempting to qualify for his seventh Indy 500. In 2009, Bell finished fourth in the race.

Sharing the booth with de Ferran includes play-by-play announcer Leigh Diffey and analyst Jon Beekhuis. Diffey is working IndyCar this weekend, but will travel abroad next week to call the Monaco Grand Prix. Veterans Kevin Lee and Marty Snider manage the pits, and are joined by reporters Robin Miller and Will Buxton, the Formula One reporter who is making his inaugural trip to the Brickyard.

Coverage on Sunday will feature Bell driving first-timer Buxton around the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a two-seater.

CARB DAY COMMENTATORS: Legendary motorsports voice Bob Jenkins returns to the booth for Carb Day on Friday, May 24, filling in for Diffey, who will be at Monaco. Jenkins will be joined byBeekhuis and race analyst and former NASCAR driver Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Veterans Lee,Snider and Miller will manage the pits.

Mike King will call Indy Lights on Friday, May 24, alongside Jake Query.

Jenkins, Diane Willis and Lee will host Indy 500 Parade coverage on Saturday, May 25 at 5 p.m. ET.

DIFFEY ON INDY 500 QUALIFYING: “The way this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series has gone, who can’t be excited about the Indy 500 Pole Day? This time last year, Penske Racing had dominated all four opening rounds of the series and led the championship. This year they haven’t won a race, nor has defending Indy 500 winner Chip Ganassi Racing, and there have been two first-time winners from the first four races. It’s a season of surprise.”

INDYCAR 36NBC Sports Network offers motorsports fans another episode of the all-access series IndyCar 36. This week the cameras follow driver Simona de Silvestro, who made history by becoming the first woman to earn a podium spot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006.

The NBC Sports Network original series is produced by IMS Productions and gives viewers an all-access pass into the life of a world-class driver in the middle of race season. The cameras will follow a driver for 36 hours during a race weekend providing a behind-the-scenes look at the on- and off-track activities of the stars of the IndyCar Series. The all-access 36 series also includes NHL 36, Fight Night 36 and F1 36.

INDYCAR ON NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA: NBC Sports Live Extra — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets — will live stream Indy 500 qualifying on Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19, Carb Day and Indy Lights on Friday, May 24, and the Indy 500 Parade on Saturday, May 25. Coverage will be streamed via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at NBCSports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app for mobile devices and tablets is available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on select Android handset and tablet devices within Google Play.

Coverage airing on NBC Sports Network will live stream to PCs, mobile devices and tablets throughNBC Sports Live Extra, and to the digital platforms of participating cable, satellite, and telco services, via “TV Everywhere,” which is available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of participating MVPDs.

INDYCAR ON MOTORSPORTSTALK: MotorSportsTalk (@MotorSportsTalk) on NBCSports.com brings racing fans up-to-the-minute news, video and information on the IZOD IndyCar Series, Formula One™, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and all other motorsports racing from around the world. The site also serves as the destination for all news, analysis and video from NBC and NBC Sports Network productions of IndyCar and F1, including contributions from on-air commentators.

MotorSportsTalk’s content is provided by top racing journalists and expert analysts, including:

  • Tony DiZinno (@TonyDiZinno), who has written for RACER Magazine and has covered IndyCar and NASCAR since 2006;
  • Writer Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting) who has written for the Boston Globe, FoxSports.com, created the Indy Racing Revolution blog and is a contributor to IndyCar’s IndyCar Nation blog.

F1 Preview – 2018 French Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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It’s hard to believe that the French Grand Prix, the oldest grand prix event on the planet, as it dates back to June of 1906, was ever removed from the Formula 1 calendar.

Alas, not since 2008 at Magny-Cours has Formula 1 held a race on French soil. Yet, that all changes this weekend, as Formula 1 visits the Circuit Paul Ricard for its first French race in a decade.

Formula 1 teams are not strangers to Paul Ricard. It has been a popular testing facility for years, as evidenced by the below photo from 2016, featuring Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in a wet tire test.

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE – JANUARY 26: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Scuderia Ferrari drives during wet weather tire testing at Circuit Paul Ricard on January 26, 2016 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

However, in terms of racing, Paul Ricard has also been absent from the calendar for quite a long time – the last time Formula 1 race at Paul Ricard was in 1990. Alain Prost won for Ferrari that day.

1990: Alain Prost of France punches the air in celebration after passing the chequered flag in his Scuderia Ferrari to win the French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Beausset, France. Mandatory Credit: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport

As such, despite being a known quantity as a testing facility, how a race weekend will shake out is anybody’s guess.

And what’s more, it marks the beginning of three consecutive race weekends – The French Grand Prix, The Austrian Grand Prix, and The British Grand Prix – which F1 teams and drivers are calling “the triple header.”

Talking points ahead of the French Grand Prix are below.

A Journey Into the Unknown?

Like all new venues, or resurrected and refurbished ones in this case, the Circuit Paul Ricard represents somewhat of an unknown, as there’s no available race data to make predictions off of.

And the 3.61-mile, 15-turn track itself represents a range of challenges. It has fast corners, like Turns 1 and 2 (S de la Verrerie), a technical section between Turns 3 and 7 (Virage de l’Hotel through the Mistral Straight Start), and a 1.1-mile straightaway in the Mistral Straight, though it is separated by a chicane (Turns 8 and 9).

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff discussed the challenge of the circuit, highlighting the lack of data to build off of as well the tough three-race stretch ahead as especially challenging, in a preview on Formula 1’s website.

“France should be an interesting race. We don’t often get to race on a track where we have little to no historical data. It makes preparing for the weekend a bit trickier than usual, but that element of the unknown also adds to the challenge. The French Grand Prix marks the first race of the triple header, which will test all F1 teams to their limits, but also offers the chance to score a lot of points over the course of three weeks – which is precisely what we’re setting out to do,” said Wolff.

That element of the unknown makes Paul Ricard one of the biggest wildcards on the 2018 F1 calendar, and a championship shake up could be in the cards as a result.

Ferrari, Mercedes Continue Their Back and Forth

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari and Mercedes have traded jabs throughout the 2018 season, with neither able to pull away from the other so far through seven races.

Sebastian Vettel enters the French Grand Prix with a one-point lead over Lewis Hamilton, and holds a slight edge in victories – three to Hamilton’s two – and comes off a thorough domination of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel led every lap at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on his way to victory, while Valtteri Bottas had to carry the Mercedes flag in finishing second. Hamilton languished in fifth, a surprising and disappointing result given his previous success there.

The aforementioned Toto Wolff described it as a “wake up call,” though Mercedes will roll out a power unit upgrade this weekend – Ferrari and Renault, which also powers Red Bull Racing, rolled out upgrades of their own in Canada.

With four long straightaways present at Paul Ricard, power will certainly be at a premium, so such upgrades will be vital in giving Mercedes a chance to make amends after Canada’s disappointment.

Trio of French Drivers Look to Impress on Home Soil

It comes hardly as a surprise that the three French drivers – Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly, and Esteban Ocon – are keen to make an impression at their home race.

And all three could certainly use a boost. Gasly has only one finish inside the points (seventh in the Monaco Grand Prix) since his stellar fourth place effort in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ocon is coming off back-to-back points finishes (sixth in Monaco, ninth in Canada), but he has only one other finish inside the points this year (tenth, in Bahrain). And Grosjean, despite showing the speed to finish in the points, is yet to score any in 2018.

As such, all three are hoping for big things in their home race this weekend.

“I want to get a good weekend, have some luck, get my first points of the season, and get a lot of support from the fans,” said Grosjean. “I think we should be in a nice place at Paul Ricard. I’m always looking forward to jumping back in the car. I just love driving an F1 car.”

Ocon, who has raced and won at Paul Ricard in the past, expects his prior experience could be a big help.

“I did race at Paul Ricard early in my career – it was actually where I had my first victory in single seaters in 2013 so I have some fantastic memories of the place,” Ocon described. “I hope we can add some more success this weekend. Having been there in the junior categories makes getting used to a new track in a Formula One car much easier. I think I will find my rhythm quite quickly.”

Gasly’s excitement level obviously matches that of his French compatriots, with the added bonus that the return coincides with his rookie F1 effort.

“For me it will be absolutely incredible that my first full season of Formula 1 coincides with the return of a French Grand Prix to the calendar for the first time in 10 years,” said Gasly. “That has to be a reason for me to be very happy and I’m really excited to be racing in my home country. I can tell it will be a special feeling going out on track and actually, I have spoken to Jean Alesi and Alain Prost about it and they both told me that it will feel really special and something that you really have to experience as a Frenchman racing in France.”

Qualifying for The French Grand Prix begins at 9:55 a.m. ET on Saturday, with Sunday’s race at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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