Winter Heat: Lasoski, Reutzel close out 2015 series with weekend wins

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The inaugural Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah (Ariz.) Speedway is in the books after victories from Danny Lasoski on Friday and Aaron Reutzel on Saturday.

Lasoski steadily moved toward the front in Friday’s feature and picked up second place just past halfway. Lapped traffic helped him get even closer to leader Dale Blaney, and on the final lap, a backmarker caused Blaney to slow in Turn 1.

That opened the door for Lasoski, who went three-wide on the bottom with the lapped car in the middle and Blaney on the outside. After splitting the lapped car, Lasoski and Blaney switched lanes as they exited Turn 4 with the former moving up high and the latter coming down low.

At the stripe, Lasoski’s high-line push made the difference as he beat Blaney in a narrow finish.

“That was luck,” Lasoski said afterwards in a track release. “[Blaney] just got hung up. Whenever I’d get within a car length of him, I’d get tight. I had to move around, move around.

“He was setting a good pace and he just got held up, but sometimes it’s better to be running second.”

Paul McMahan, who won the opener of the five-night Winter Heat series, finished third for yet another podium. That set him up with a 24-point championship lead going into Saturday’s grand finale.

Reutzel had been a threat to win in the first two Winter Heat events only to be undone both times by mechanical problems. But on Saturday, he finally converted a front row start into a victory.

After starting up front with NASCAR’s own Kasey Kahne, Reutzel led the first eight laps before being overtaken by Craig Dollansky. Reutzel would respond by taking the lead back on the next lap but the nose wing broke on his car shortly afterwards.

Reutzel’s car now had its handling compromised, but he was able to hold on to his lead through the lapped traffic. Dollansky would be passed by David Gravel for the runner-up spot on the last lap.

As far as Reutzel was concerned, if his nose wing had to go, he was glad it happened with the lead in hand.

“Craig drove around me through the middle,” he recalled. “I got the wing back a little farther and figured I was going to try to go back around him the same way. Luckily, I got right back by him. Then the nose wing fell down, so luckily, I got by him that lap because we definitely wouldn’t have passed him with that nose wing down.”

Kahne would ultimately finish fifth behind Reutzel, Gravel, Dollansky, and fourth-place Sam Hafertepe Jr.

Meanwhile, the championship took one last twist on Saturday. McMahan failed to make it out of the B-Main, finishing ninth – just one spot out of the transfer zone.

Lasoski took full advantage of McMahan’s absence in the A-Main, finishing sixth and taking the title over McMahan on a tie-breaker thanks to his win on Friday.

Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick team up again on NBC’s Indy 500 coverage

Danica Patrick Mike Tirico
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Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick will return to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Indianapolis 500, which will be broadcast Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC (green flag at 2:30 p.m.).

Tirico and Patrick, who both joined NBC Sports for its inaugural coverage of the event last year, will reprise their roles as host and studio analyst.

One of the most versatile voices in sports, Tirico also hosts NBC Olympics’ primetime coverage, Football Night in America and many other premier events, including hosting on-site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year for the first-ever IndyCar-NASCAR crossover weekend.

AT THE BRICKYARD: Daily Indy 500 coverage schedule on NBC, NBCSN

He again will be joined during prerace, in-race, and postrace coverage by Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005 and also was the first female pole-sitter in NASCAR driver.

They will make their debut together duing practice coverage on Aug. 21, on NBCSN.

“My first Indy 500 last year exceeded my very high expectations in every way,” Tirico said in a release. “Although this year’s race will take place under unprecedented circumstances, I can’t wait to get back to Indy. I’m confident that our team at the Brickyard will provide viewers with as exciting a viewing experience as possible. I am also thrilled that Danica Patrick is along for the ride again this year. We had such a great time last May and look forward to bringing Indy home for the viewers again.”

Said Patrick: “The Indianapolis 500 is an event that transcends mainstream and motorsports which is why it’s so special. We are living during a time that if we can bring people together, we should. Even if it’s not physically. I am honored to be back with the NBC Sports team and Mike Tirico. The memories I have from 15 years at IMS hold such a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to make more this year in the booth, or however we are positioned in 2020!”

This will mark NBC Sports’ second season as the exclusive home of the NTT IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500, which will take place in August for the first time ever because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.