What to watch for: IndyCar at Fontana (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Live Extra)


Today’s 11th round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the MAVTV 500 from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. will be one of the tougher tests of the season.

source: Getty Images
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It’s the second of three 500-mile races this year. While drivers have been concerned about the potential of pack racing returning, the race will likely, as at Texas, come down to tire degradation over the longer runs as well as the downforce levels the field will pick.

Here’s what to watch for ahead of the race, which begins with live coverage at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Live Extra.


With ambient temperatures expected to be in the 90-degree range, and track temperatures anywhere from 130 to perhaps as high as 150 degrees (it’s extreme, but it’s possible), and the lack of rain in California also making for a dustier track than normal, it’s arguably going to be the hottest race of the season for the series.

How the drivers’ fitness levels will hold up for the 500-mile race in the high heat, and how well they’ll behave on track is going to be key.


As ever, management of the Firestone tires will be one of the keys to the race. Who manages their tires best over the course of the stint and avoids too slow of a fall off – say from 215 mph down to maybe 210 or 209 instead of as low as 205 or 204 – might pay dividends over the course of a longer run.

The expectation is that if there are long green runs, the tire falloff will be typical and will sort out the field organically. It might not be a pack race, as some drivers have feared. Teams have been issued 15 sets of tires from Firestone for the weekend; it should be either a six or seven-stop race.


Neither polesitter Simon Pagenaud nor fellow front-row starter Helio Castroneves has won this season, and either would be the eighth winner in 11 races this season.

Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter are also possible win contenders from third and fourth on the grid, and Tony Kanaan will look to defend his MAVTV 500 crown of a year ago.

Charlie Kimball is another potential sleeper, starting 13th. He finished third in the Indianapolis 500.

In fifth, seventh and eighth are Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Will Power, three likely win contenders and three past winners this season. Toronto winner Josef Newgarden rolls off from 12th as he looks for his first career back-to-back run of wins.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
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Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”