Andretti and Perez excited for United States GP in Austin

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Mario Andretti and Sergio Perez have both spoken exclusively to NBCSN about their excitement for the United States Grand Prix, which is set to take place at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas this November.

Since returning to the calendar at COTA in 2012, the race has been a great success, welcoming fans from all over the world. The event has also proven to be a hit with the drivers and teams, and for Andretti, 2014 could prove to be the best race yet.

“Well obviously hopefully better than ever,” he said when asked by NBCSN’s Will Buxton how the race would be this year. “This started out as a huge success, and we want to gain momentum every year, more and more.

“We’re excited about it. The buzz is out there.”

Andretti is visiting Monza for the first time in 31 years this weekend to promote the race, and has been giving out Stetson hats to all of the drivers to get them in the Texan spirit.

“I’m here as a sheriff to officially welcome again the drivers as my deputies! As you can see, I’ll be giving them one of these hats [Stetsons] so they can play the part when they come to Texas, so they look like they’re Texans and enjoy the hospitality.”

Andretti was on hand to commentate on a sim race between Buxton and Force India driver Sergio Perez, which you can watch in this weekend’s episode of Paddock Pass.

For Perez, the race is also an important one. In the absence of a Mexican Grand Prix, Austin acts as his home event given that it is so close to the border, allowing flocks of Mexican fans to make the trip over.

“Yeah it is, really close to my home,” Perez said. “Right now it’s probably my home race because it’s so close and so many Mexicans come to watch the race, so it’s really a great weekend for me where I receive a lot of support.”

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski