What to expect during NBC Sports’ biggest racing weekend of 2014

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IndyCar, Formula One, Red Bull Global Rallycross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross (plus IndyCar and F1’s main development leagues, Indy Lights and GP2) are all in action this weekend – the biggest motorsports weekend of the year for us at the NBC Sports Group.

Whether you prefer two wheels, four wheels, asphalt, or dirt, NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, and NBC Sports Live Extra will have you covered.

If you’re planning to keep up with us, here’s how the main television and streaming schedule will look for the weekend.

It all begins Friday morning with F1 practice from the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

Also, everything will be streamed online and on mobile devices through NBC Sports Live Extra at NBCSports.com/LiveExtra and the NBC Sports Live Extra app (available on the App Store and Google Play).

THIS WEEKEND’S TV/STREAMING SCHEDULE

Friday
4 a.m. ET, Live Extra F1: German Grand Prix, Practice 1
8 a.m. ET, CNBC – F1: German Grand Prix, Practice 2
2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN – F1: German Grand Prix, Practice 2 Re-Air

Saturday
5 a.m. ET, Live Extra – F1: German Grand Prix, Practice 3
8 a.m. ET, CNBC – F1: German Grand Prix, Qualifying
11:30 a.m. ET, Live Extra – Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring Creek National, Practice
Noon ET, NBCSN – F1: German Grand Prix, Qualifying Re-Air
1:15 p.m. ET, Live Extra – Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring Creek National, Pre-Show
1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN – IndyCar: Honda Indy Toronto Qualifying, Race 1
2 p.m. ET, Live Extra – Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring Creek National, 1st Motos
3 p.m. ET, NBCSN – IndyCar: Honda Indy Toronto, Race 1
4 p.m. ET, Live Extra – Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring Creek National, 450 Class
5 p.m. ET, Live Extra – Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring Creek National, 250 Class
6 p.m. ET, NBCSN – Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring Creek National

Sunday
7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC – F1: German Grand Prix
Noon ET, NBCSN – F1: German Grand Prix Re-Air
2 p.m. ET, NBC – Red Bull Global Rallycross: New York
3 p.m. ET, NBCSN – IndyCar: Honda Indy Toronto, Race 2
6 p.m. ET, NBCSN – Indy Lights: Toronto
7 p.m. ET, NBCSN – GP2: Germany

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – HONDA INDY TORONTO (Sat. & Sun., 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
On-Air: Bob Varsha, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell (booth); Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee, Robin Miller (pits)

The grueling summer stretch for North America’s top open-wheel series will only get harder this weekend with a pair of 85-lap races on the streets of Toronto. The 11-turn, 1.75-mile circuit has several passing opportunities but its tight quarters can lead to wrecked cars, angry drivers, and a type of mayhem usually reserved for NASCAR short tracks (with no Sprint Cup race this weekend, consider this a cue to have your stock car buddies tune in). Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves leads Will Power by just nine points, with 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud lurking in third and fourth place.

FORMULA ONE – GERMAN GRAND PRIX (Sun., 7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC)
On-Air: Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, and Will Buxton (on-site)

Nico Rosberg enters his home Grand Prix riding the wave of off-track momentum – his national team claimed the FIFA World Cup last Sunday, he just got married, and he just extended his Mercedes contract. Now, he looks to reassert authority within the team after teammate Lewis Hamilton scored a critical victory on his own home turf at Silverstone two weeks ago, as Rosberg ground to a halt with gearbox failure. In any event, Rosberg’s keen to reclaim the top spot in his home race, and extend his dwindling championship lead in Hockenheim.

RED BULL GLOBAL RALLYCROSS – VOLKSWAGEN RALLYCROSS NY (Sun., 2 p.m. ET, NBC)
On-Air: Brian Till and Tommy Kendall (booth); Kristin Kenney (reporter)

Cars like the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Veloster, and VW Polo may not scream “racing” when you see them on the road. But in the delightfully crazy world of Red Bull Global Rallycross, cars like these are turned into pint-sized rockets, capable of going 0-60 mph in two seconds or less. Hand ‘em over to some of the best rallycross racers in the world, cut ‘em loose on a twisty circuit made up of asphalt, dirt and gravel, and you’ve got a spectacle that can’t be ignored. A couple of ex-NASCAR and Formula One racers, Scott Speed (Andretti Autosport) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (SH Racing Rallycross), are separated by just one point entering the weekend.

LUCAS OIL PRO MOTOCROSS – SPRING CREEK NATIONAL (Coverage starts Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET, Live Extra)
On-Air: Jason Weigandt and Grant Langston (booth); Georgia Lindsay (pits)

Ryan Dungey will look to cut into Red Bull KTM teammate Ken Roczen’s lead atop the 450 Moto standings as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship visits Spring Creek Motocross Park in Millville, Minnesota; Roczen holds a 26-point edge going into Spring Creek. Meanwhile, 250 class points leader Jeremy Martin will literally have a home race on the track that’s been owned by his parents since the late 1980s.

INDY LIGHTS – TORONTO (Sun., 6 p.m. ET, NBCSN; On-Air: Kevin Lee, Anders Krohn, and Jake Query)
GP2 – HOCKENHEIM (Sun., 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN; On-Air: Will Buxton)

A chance to see the rising open-wheel stars back-to-back in both North America and Europe occurs with the top feeder series to IndyCar and Formula One rounds out the weekend coverage on Sunday. In Indy Lights, Gabby Chaves (Belardi Auto Racing) leads Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport) by 11 points on the strength of four victories to Veach’s two. In GP2, a pair of wins and points finishes in each of the first 10 races sees DAMS’ Jolyon Palmer head of the standings with 143 points. Felipe Nasr (Carlin) is second with 105. Two young Americans race in the series; Alexander Rossi now with Campos, and Conor Daly with Lazarus.

INDYCAR: Zach Veach ready for stronger second half of season

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If you hear Zach Veach humming or even singing The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” this weekend at Road America, there’s a jolly good reason for it, as they say in England.

Much like the way teammate Alexander Rossi has nicknamed his car “Baby Girl,” Veach has nicknamed his road and street course car “Penny Lane,” thanks in part to his girlfriend being a huge Beatles fan who has helped Veach also become a fan.

The Stockdale, Ohio native also has a nickname for his speedway car: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

Veach has had a tough rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He comes into this weekend’s Kohler Grand Prix in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, ranked 15th in the standings with 147 points, but an already massive 210 points behind series leader Scott Dixon.

He could easily sing The Beatles’ “Help!”, given how the season has gone so far.

The 23-year-old Veach’s best finish – and only top-10 showing thus far in 2018 – has been fourth at Long Beach – in “Penny Lane” of course, a finish he hopes to equal, if not improve upon, Sunday in central Wisconsin.

He’s struggled since Long Beach, though, failing to finish higher than 12th in the following six races: 13th at Birmingham, 23rd in both the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Indy 500, 12th and 13th at Detroit’s Belle Isle and 16th at Texas.

He also finished 16th in each of the season’s first two races at St. Petersburg and Phoenix.

But Veach hopes to be singing another Beatles song on the 4.048-mile road course: “Twist and Shout” in hopes of having a strong finish on the twisting 14-turn kettle moraine course.

Zach Veach, driver of the #26 Relay Group 1001 Honda, practices for the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8, 2018. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Veach has a good reason to be optimistic for success at Road America.

“Road America has actually been pretty good to us in USF 2000 and Indy Lights,” Veach said. “I think we have four or five podiums there. In 2016 (racing for Belard Auto Racing), we set the track record in Lights, won the first race and finished third in the second. I’m hoping that speed continues (in Sunday’s IndyCar race).”

While he acknowledges this season’s struggles thus far, Veach also knows he’s learning and improving.

“I think the biggest thing is the braking capabilities of the Indy car,” he said. “You’re going from steel rotors (in Lights) to carbon pads. Honestly, it feels like you can brake 150 feet deeper going into a corner with an Indy car, but at the same time, you’re also going into that corner 40 to 50 mph faster in an Indy car than in a Lights car.

“Our first year in Indy Lights wasn’t anything spectacular, and then we came back and almost won a championship. I think that’s just the way I go about things. I take inches at a time instead of miles, but I feel like we’re getting to that point where we need to be in IndyCar.”

Veach is no stranger to Andretti Autosport, having raced with the team from 2010 to 2014 and then signed a three-year contract to drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series last fall.

“To have the opportunity to race with Andretti is almost perfect for me as far as growth and development,” Veach said. “With the three teammates I have and the skill and experience they have, it’s allowed my learning curve to accelerate that much quicker.

“That’s the tough thing. It’s a rookie season and when I look back at it and look at numbers, you may say things didn’t look good at certain races. But when I look back at them, I say to myself where that’s when I did my best fuel save, or that’s when I figured out how to fix an issue with braking. There’s so much I’ve picked up.

“But I feel like these last two race weekends have been arguably the most comfortable I’ve felt. Detroit, I was looking so great for 12th and 13th, and Texas, racing from 16th to 3rd and then I made a mistake (finished 16th). I finally feel confident enough to say I can race these guys and can race them hard and the car is finally starting to feel small, if you want to say that, like I’m driving the car instead of being stuck behind somebody else.”

While he’s learned from all of his Andretti Autosport teammates — Rossi, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay — Veach feels he is closest to fellow young driver, Rossi.

“We’re both on the younger side of the spectrum of our teammates,” Veach said of Rossi. “And he’s the newest guy learning IndyCar, so he got that experience a little sooner than the other guys as far as time.

“For me, I’m in much the same position he was in two years ago. He’s been real helpful in helping me get up to speed.”

With eight more races remaining in the season, Veach’s primary goal is to finish his first full IndyCar season in the top-10. He’s currently 66 points behind the 10th-ranked driver, teammate Marco Andretti.

“If we could be top-10 in the championship, that’d be great, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Veach said. “We want to try and be consistently in the top-10 in the second half (of the season) in race results, too. And if we could get some top-fives, that would be fantastic.

“We just have to keep improving on qualifying, which shows how well you understand the car and how you can get the most out of it. I feel our race speed has been good, but when you’re starting at or near the back, it’s hard to move forward.”

Even so, there’s still good reason for optimism for Veach.

“Andretti always gives its drivers some of the best cars, so at the end of the day, it comes down to you learning as much as you can and learning as much as you can get out of a race-winning car,” he said. “I’ve just been lucky. This is my sixth season with Andretti if you count the ladder series, and it always has felt like a family.”

And if he has a strong finish Sunday at Road America, don’t be surprised if Veach hums or sings another Beatles song, “I Feel Fine,” as he leaves the legendary road course.

Follow @JerryBonkowski