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Red Bull GRC: Drivers pumped for Indy debut (Sunday at 8p ET, NBCSN)

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Red Bull Global Rallycross heads to Lucas Oil Raceway just outside Indianapolis in Clermont, Ind. this weekend for a return to some normalcy – a single-race weekend in a market pretty close to some of its teams.

This comes after a tough stretch of back-to-back doubleheader races in Thompson, Conn. and Ottawa, Ontario in June. That quartet of races brought the 12-race season to its halfway point.

Race coverage of Round 7 of Red Bull GRC 2017 airs at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, following live coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Iowa Corn 300 from Iowa Speedway.

A midseason report is pretty simple to encapsulate in the marquee Supercars class: Variety has ruled the roost through the first six races.

Tanner Foust and Scott Speed have won three of the first six races, Foust having scored his second win of the year last time out at Ottawa race two. But while the dueling Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross pair have half the wins this year, they haven’t been as thoroughly dominant as their last two years.

Steve Arpin’s been the most consistent threat, with his privateer Loenbro Ford winning twice and right in contention.

Sebastian Eriksson delivered Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE’s first win for the new Honda Civic Coupe at Louisville in a dramatic photo finish over Arpin, but it’s been full-season rookie Mitchell deJong who’s been OMSE’s most consistent contender. The past GRC Lites champion has six top-five finishes in as many races, including three third-places from his last four starts.

Foust leads the standings with 418 points heading to Indianapolis this weekend, while the next three behind him are all in striking distance. Arpin has 391, Speed 381 and DeJong 372. Eriksson is fifth on 330 points and risks falling out of the title hunt if he can’t gain some points this weekend.

GRC Lites has been Cyril Raymond’s land of dominance so far. The French driver has taken multiple victories for Olsbergs MSE X Forces and leads that championship on 407 points over Conner Martell (DirtFish Motorsports) on 344 and sports car veteran Colin Braun (CORE autosport) on 333. Braun will drop back in the standings as he’ll miss the GRC Lites this weekend to focus on his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship commitments at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Indianapolis seems a natural venue for GRC to debut and it’s with a bit of excitement it does this weekend.

The 0.767-mile layout at Lucas Oil Raceway runs on most of the oval before cutting inside for the dirt section. The full track details are below:

Track length: .767 miles
Turns: 6
Pavement: 69.2%
Dirt: 30.8%
Joker Lap: Shortcut before Turn 1; .589 miles

Here’s some of the driver comments heading into the weekend.

“True to rallycross form, we’re bringing the racing to a whole new group of fans with the new tour stop in Indianapolis,” Foust said. “It’s a town very familiar with racing, but it will be the first time fans in Indy will see rallycross live. I always love when racing fans see rallycross for the first time, because they’re always so shocked at the excitement and speed of the cars.

“This event has a bit of a different vibe though, since it’s the home of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. Our teams of mechanics and engineers will have family and friends present, so I’ll get to see the kids and families we’ve heard a lot about and signed autographs for over the past few years.”

“This track will be the fastest of the year,” deJong said. “The most challenging part of the circuit may be the long arching corners, because they will demand so much focus and attention to detail from the drivers.”

Added Austin Dyne, of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, “It’s pretty cool to be racing in Indy. I have never raced here before except in a charity karting race. I’ve been coming here as a little kid to watch the Indy 500 and back when F1 came here.”

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.