NBC Sports Group IndyCar 2014 TV schedule, talent revealed; includes Paul Tracy added

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NBC Sports Group’s extensive coverage of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series will feature 13 races, doubleheaders in Houston and Toronto, the season finale from Fontana, and two new members of its broadcast team, including decorated former IndyCar and CART and Champ Car driver Paul Tracy. Coverage begins with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 13 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Tracy joins NBC Sports Group’s Verizon IndyCar Series coverage as an analyst for six races over the course of this season, beginning with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where Tracy won four times, including the first of his 31 career victories in 1993. Tracy brings more than 20 years of experience to the broadcast booth, including a second-place finish at the 2002 Indianapolis 500.

NBC Sports Group’s lead motorsports play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey returns for his second consecutive season calling the IndyCar on NBCSN. IndyCar driver Townsend Bell, who has raced seven times in the Indianapolis 500, and won the GT Class at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, returns for his second season as an analyst. Wally Dallenbach Jr. returns as an analyst for select races during 2014. Dallenbach Jr. is cutting back his workload in order to focus on the start of his daughter Kate’s stock car racing career.

In addition, Kelli Stavast joins NBC Sports Group’s Verizon IndyCar Series broadcast team this season as a pit reporter, and will be on-site for all race telecasts this season. Stavast has previously handled reporting duties for numerous NBC Sports Group motorsports events and shows, including NASCAR AMERICA, NBCSN’s new 30-minute daily show. Stavast will work alongside pit reporters Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis and Kevin Lee, as well as Verizon IndyCar Series reporter Robin Miller, who all return for the 2014 season.

NBC Sports Group motorsports analysts David Hobbs and Steve Matchett, and play-by-play voices Bob Varsha and Brian Till, will also work select races during the course of the 2014 IndyCar season.

NBCSN will air coverage of qualifying for all Verizon IndyCar Series races airing on NBCSN and CNBC this season.

2014 NBC SPORTS GROUP VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Sun,, April 13, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, NBCSN, 4 p.m.
Sun., April 27, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, NBCSN, 2:30 p.m.
Sat., June 7, Firestone 600, CNBC, 8 p.m.
Sat., June 28, Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston – Race 1, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Sun., June 29, Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston – Race 2, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Sun., July 6, Pocono IndyCar 500, NBCSN, Noon
Sat, July 12, Iowa Corn Indy 300, NBCSN, 8 p.m.
Sat., July 19 Honda Indy Toronto – Race 1, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Sun, July 20, Honda Indy Toronto – Race 2, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Sun., August 3, Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Sun., August 17, ABC Supply Wisconsin 250, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Sun., August 24, GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma NBCSN, 4 p.m.
Sat., August 30, MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championships, NBCSN, 9 p.m.

INDY LIGHTS: NBCSN will serve as the television home of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the third step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, presenting 10 race telecasts during the 2014 season, beginning on Friday, April 4 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the St. Petersburg 100. The majority of NBCSN’s Indy Lights telecasts will air immediately preceding or following live Verizon IndyCar Series coverage to provide maximum visibility to the Indy Lights series.

In addition to its Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights coverage, NBCSN will present coverage of Carb Day and the Indy 500 Parade, beginning on Friday, May 23 at 11 a.m. ET.

2014 NBC SPORTS GROUP INDY LIGHTS SCHEDULE

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Fri., April 4, St. Petersburg 100, NBCSN, 4 p.m.
Sun., April 13, Indy Lights Streets of Long Beach, NBCSN, 2:30 p.m.
Sun., April 27, Legacy Indy Lights 100, NBCSN, 5:30 p.m.
Fri., May 23, Freedom 100, NBCSN, Noon
Sat., May 24 ,Grand Prix of Indianapolis, NBCSN, 12:30 a.m.
Sun., July 6, Indy Lights Pocono Raceway, NBCSN, 4 p.m.
Sun., July 20, Indy Lights Streets of Toronto, NBCSN, 6 p.m.
Sun., August 3, Indy Lights Mid-Ohio, NBCSN, 6 p.m.
Sun., August 17, The Milwaukee Mile, NBCSN, 6 p.m.
Sun., August 24, Indy Lights Sonoma Raceway, NBCSN, 7 p.m.
*Dates and times subject to change

Formula One: Haas fighting for ‘best of the rest’ in Year 3

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The third season for Haas F1 has been its best, even if it’s been a bit bizarre.

Formula One’s only U.S.-based team has scored the most points in its young history and overcome some serious bumbles early to compete with – and beat – some of the legacy team names in F1.

Haas heads into this week’s U.S. Grand Prix in a tough season-ending fight with Renault for the “best of the rest” title among the teams outside of the Big Three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

“It’s the best battle of the field. It’s very tight. It’s going to go to the last lap of the race in Abu Dhabi, while I think the world championship is probably going to go this weekend,” said Haas’ French driver Romain Grosjean, who signed with the team before their first season.

“To rise as quickly as we’ve done hasn’t been seen in Formula One, I don’t think,” said his Danish teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Haas launched with a surprise in 2016 and has been rising ever since.

Haas scored points in its first race in 2016, and in 2017 had both cars finish in the top 10 for the first time at Monte Carlo, the biggest race on the annual calendar. A strong run over the last 10 races of this season has Haas just eight points behind Renault in the race for fourth place with four races left.

The 2018 season looks to finish better than it started.

After Haas scored the team’s best-ever qualifying at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, neither car finished the race. Magnussen and Grosjean both left pit stops on consecutive laps with unsecured wheels and had to stop. The team was fined for sending the cars out in unsafe conditions.

“That was extremely, extremely disappointing” Magnussen said “We are still showing signs of immaturity at certain moments.”

Other problems followed. A month later in Azerbaijan, Grosjean fought his way from the back row into sixth before he drove straight into the wall while following a safety car. Grosjean felt horrible, but blamed one of the season’s most bizarre incidents on an errant flip of a steering wheel switch that he said upset the car’s brake balance and sent him spinning into the barrier.

More valuable points were lost in Italy when the floor of Grosjean’s car was deemed illegal and he was disqualified from sixth place. Haas appealed and is awaiting a decision on points that would close the gap with Renault with a stroke of a pen. Despite the gaffes, Grosjean has finished in the top 10 four times in the last seven races.

“I got eight points stolen in Monza,” Grosjean said. “The results are coming with the kind of performance Haas signed me for in the first place.”

After the problems, Grosjean admitted it was a relief to extend his contract with Haas for 2019. He and Magnussen will be teammates again.

“When I joined, I didn’t know what Haas was going to be. I think they gave me some credit for that when I had a tough time earlier this year and turned things around, Grosjean said.

Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner said he and team owner Gene Haas saw value in staying with drivers who knew the Haas cars.

“Just to change a driver for the same level of skill, you go backward,” Steiner said. “There’s not a lot of better drivers out there, so why should we change them? Stay the same and mature quicker.”

The question now is how high can Haas go?

The Haas business model – which has drawn complaints from its middle-of-the-pack rivals – has it buying parts and engines, most notably from Ferrari. It keeps costs down but creates a performance ceiling that Haas is unlikely to break through.

“We are not developing parts for our car,” Grosjean said. “So far it hasn’t been a problem. If one day we start to beat Ferrari, it’s not going to work.”

Steiner said a top three finish isn’t realistic, not against teams with much bigger budgets, development and staff.

“The first year we didn’t finish last, the second year we didn’t finish last and now we are fighting for fourth. We must be doing something right,” Steiner said. “How do we get to that next step? Where do we go from here? Right now, there is no answer.”

That can be the frustrating part of an otherwise very good season.

A taste of success begs for more. For the 26-year-old Magnussen, he can be good with Haas, maybe even the “best of the rest.” But that’s a career definition no driver wants.

“It’s been six years since I won a race in motorsport,” Magnussen said. “I miss winning. Badly.”