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F1 United States Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

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Formula 1 kicks off its last back-to-back run of races this weekend with the sixth United States Grand Prix to be held at Circuit of The Americas in Austin this week, before the Mexican Grand Prix next week.

Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

All sessions will air live. For Friday and Saturday sessions, free practice one live on NBCSN Friday at 11 a.m. ET, free practice two live on the NBC Sports App Friday at 3 p.m. ET (encore on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET), free practice three live on the app Saturday at noon ET with an encore airing on NBCSN at 4 p.m. ET, leading straight into live qualifying at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by extended post-qualifying coverage.

On race day, live coverage begins with an hour pre-race occurs with F1 Countdown at 2 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC from 5 p.m. ET.

Potentially, two World Championships could be clinched, as Lewis Hamilton has an outside shot to wrap up his fourth driver’s championship and Mercedes AMG Petronas has an excellent shot to secure its fourth straight constructor’s championship.

Hamilton can win the title by winning the race and hoping Sebastian Vettel is sixth or worse, or coming second and hope Vettel is ninth or worse. At a 59-point lead, Hamilton can wrap the title provided he leaves Austin with at least a 75-point lead.

The scenario is easier for Mercedes, which already holds a 145-point lead over Scuderia Ferrari and only needs a 129-point gap to clinch the title three races early.

Hamilton and the United States have a special relationship and so it’s shown in the six U.S. races he’s competed in over his career – he’s won five of them.

After a win in the last U.S. race at Indianapolis in 2007, he’s gone four-of-five at COTA with wins in 2012 (McLaren) and now the last three in a row with Mercedes (2014-2016). Only in 2013 was Hamilton off the podium, ending fourth. A sixth win in the U.S. would also make him the most successful F1 race winner in this country; he’s currently tied with Michael Schumacher on five wins in the U.S. apiece.

Vettel, who won that 2013 race with Red Bull, is the only other active U.S. Grand Prix winner in the field. After a nightmare Asian swing along with Ferrari, and having lost the win to Hamilton at Austin in dramatic circumstances in the late stages of 2012, he must have a trouble-free weekend if he’s to keep his remote title hopes alive. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen has had a horrible run of results at COTA, sixth with Lotus in 2012 before being injured in 2013, 13th in 2014 with Ferrari and retiring each of the last two U.S. races.

Red Bull Racing is on a roll with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both off back-to-back podiums, Verstappen having finally broken his hex of bad luck and unreliability with a famous win in Malaysia. Verstappen starred in the rain in Austin in 2015, coming fourth for Toro Rosso, as he looks for his first U.S. podium. Ricciardo has been an honorary American for years with his presence in California off-and-on, and has spoke lovingly of his appreciation for Austin and its barbecue.

Elsewhere Fernando Alonso races back on U.S. soil with the same helmet as he did for his Indianapolis 500, but his odds of success are longer with this McLaren Honda package. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne has done well of late, though.

Then there’s three other drivers to monitor as Carlos Sainz Jr. makes his debut at Renault, and Toro Rosso switches up its lineup with Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race benching and Brendon Hartley making his surprise F1 debut in the second seat. A three-time FIA World Endurance Championship winner at COTA, Hartley is a Porsche factory driver who may well impress as the first New Zealander to race in F1 since Mike Thackwell in 1984.

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

  • Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 20, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2 (Replay): Friday, Oct. 20, 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 21, 12 p.m.-1 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 21, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 22, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 22, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 22, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 22, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Mexican Grand Prix, on October 29.

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.