F1 Japanese GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app

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One of the classic races on the Formula 1 schedule occurs this weekend, with the Japanese Grand Prix from the Suzuka International Circuit. It’s the second race of a back-to-back after Malaysia and third race in the Singapore-Malaysia-Japan early fall Asian swing on the calendar.

Additionally, the Formula 2 series has a standalone race weekend in Jerez, Spain as it closes on the end of its season.

You can see all the action of both races this weekend on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from Suzuka and Jerez.

F1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

Live coverage of Sunday’s race begins at midnight ET with an hour of pre-race in F1 Countdown, with lights out at 1 a.m. ET. Additional live TV coverage occurs for qualifying at 2 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 7 and free practice two at 1 a.m. ET on Friday, October 6 – all these on NBCSN. Free practices one and three will air on the NBC Sports App.

Since the Japanese Grand Prix returned to Suzuka in 2009 after a two-year detour to Fuji Speedway in 2007 and 2008, Mercedes AMG Petronas and Red Bull Racing have won seven of the eight races – the lone exception being Jenson Button in a McLaren Mercedes in 2011.

Sebastian Vettel won four times for Red Bull in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, winning the World Championship in each of the last three years.

Meanwhile at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton won in 2014 and 2015 and Nico Rosberg here last year, and each has gone onto win the championship that year.

That means it’s been five years on the trot that the winner in Suzuka has gone on to win the World Championship.

With Hamilton on a 34-point lead with five races remaining, he can move even closer to his fourth title – which would match Vettel – if he can win this weekend.

Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari will be looking to stop the bleeding after two brutal races in Singapore and Malaysia for the team. The start line crash at Singapore saw Vettel’s deficit in the championship increase from three points to 28, while it grew a further six points last weekend after engine issues in qualifying and a rally back to fourth place from last on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen didn’t even get that far, unable to start, and after two races where he hasn’t completed a single race lap the Finn will be keen to get back on the board this weekend.

Ferrari hasn’t won here since Michael Schumacher did so in 2004. Raikkonen won a year later, one of his most famous victories in 2005, from 17th on the grid and after a last lap pass of Giancarlo Fisichella.

Malaysia Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen was second here last year to Rosberg, Hamilton third after a brutal start saw him drop back. Verstappen made his Grand Prix weekend debut here as a Friday driver in 2014. Somewhat surprisingly, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has never stood on a podium in Suzuka, his best finish here only fourth in 2014.

As ever, Fernando Alonso is the only other active Japanese Grand Prix winner in the field, having won for Renault at both Suzuka (2006) and Fuji (2008). But for Alonso and McLaren Honda together, Suzuka’s been a site of agony the last two years, and the site of Alonso’s infamous “GP2 engine” radio transmission on the manufacturer’s home soil. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne has been on excellent form of late with back-to-back seventh place finishes, and has experience in Japan from his time racing in Super Formula.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Thursday, Oct. 5, 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 6, 1 a.m.-2:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Friday, Oct. 6, 11 p.m.-12 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 7, 2 a.m.-3:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 8, 12 a.m.-1 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 8, 1 a.m.-3 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 8, 3 a.m.-3:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 8, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the United States Grand Prix, on October 22.

F2 AT JEREZ

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Saturday 8 July 2017
Charles Leclerc (MCO, PREMA Racing)
Photo: Mauger/FIA Formula 2
ref: Digital Image _56I3213

Formula 2’s lone standalone round of the season comes this weekend from Jerez in Spain, nearly 20 years on exactly from when the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship was decided in dramatic fashion after Michael Schumacher contacted Jacques Villeneuve at the Dry Sac corner, and Villeneuve won his first and only title on October 26, 1997.

A driver who could one day become an F1 World Champion, Monegasque star Charles Leclerc of Prema Racing, is poised to wrap the F2 title this weekend in Jerez, as he enters with a 59-point lead over Oliver Rowland.

Leclerc has won five times this season although hasn’t done so since Silverstone in July. He was disqualified at the Spa feature race after winning, following a technical infringement found in post-race inspection.

Both races will be streamed live via the NBC Sports App, with TV coverage occurring Saturday night, October 7 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN. This will be the lead-in to live Japanese Grand Prix race coverage on NBCSN at midnight ET.

F2 has this doubleheader race in Jerez, and then is off until the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend November 25-26, concluding its season along with F1.

Here’s the F2 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Race 1: Saturday, Oct. 7, 8 a.m.-9:05 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Race 2: Sunday, Oct. 8, 8 a.m.-8:50 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • TV coverage: Saturday, Oct. 7, 11 p.m.-12 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”