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IndyCar Fast Facts: Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix

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Here’s all you need to know about this weekend’s IndyCar race in suburban Phoenix, the second race of the 17-race schedule, and the first of the season on an oval:

Race weekend: Friday, April 6 – Saturday, April 7, 2018

Track: ISM Raceway, a 1.022-mile oval in Avondale, Arizona

Race distance: 250 laps / 255.5 miles

Entry List: Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (PDF)

Firestone tire allotment: Ten sets primary

Twitter: @ISMRaceway, @IndyCar, #DesertDiamondPGP, #IndyCar

Event website: www.ISMRaceway.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2017 race winner: Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet)

2017 pole winner: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet), 37.7538 seconds (194.905 mph)

Qualifying lap record: Helio Castroneves (18.8701 seconds; 194.975 mph), set on April 29, 2017

NBCSN race telecast: Saturday, April 7 (9 p.m. ET, live)

NBCSN qualifying telecast: Friday, April 6 (8 p.m. ET, live)

Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

Video Streaming: Both practice sessions will be available on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar)

Radio broadcasts: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with analyst Anders Krohn. The turn reporter is Jake Query with Nick Yeoman and Michael Young reporting from the pits.

All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app and Verizon IndyCar Series practices are broadcasted on IIndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times EASTERN): 

Friday, April 6

5 – 6 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

8 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single-car format, two laps each), NBCSN (Live)

11 p.m. – Midnight Verizon IndyCar Series final practice, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

Saturday, April 7

9 p.m. – NBCSN on air

9:35 p.m. – Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (250 laps/255.50 miles), NBCSN (Live).

Race Notes:

* Sebastien Bourdais claimed the season-opening race of the Verizon IndyCar Series for the second year in a row as he won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11. Bourdais is hoping to claim back-to-back wins to start the season for the first time since 2006 as he pursues a fifth Indy car championship.

* Josef Newgarden of Team Penske continues defense of his 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Newgarden captured his first series title in his first season with Team Penske, winning four times. Now he aims to be Team Penske’s first repeat champion since Gil de Ferran collected back-to-back CART championships in 2000 and 2001.

* Scott Dixon hopes to add to his record-setting resume in 2018. Dixon’s four season championships tie him with Indy car greats Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti, trailing only the seven titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 41 and won at ISM Raceway in 2016.

* The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix will be the 64th Indy car race at ISM Raceway since the track opened as Phoenix International Raceway in 1964. Al Unser has the most wins by an Indy car driver at the track (six). Tony Kanaan (2003 and 2004), Scott Dixon (2016) and Simon Pagenaud (2017) are the past Phoenix winners entered in this year’s race.

* ISM Raceway will host the first of six oval races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Other ovals event scheduled are: 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil (May 27), DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (July 8), ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Aug. 19) and Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park (Aug. 25).

* Twelve drivers have won the Phoenix race from the pole: Mario Andretti (1966), Lloyd Ruby (1967), Bobby Unser (1968, 1972), Al Unser (1969 and 1985), Gordon Johncock (1973), Johnny Rutherford (1977), Rick Mears (1982, 1989 and 1990), Teo Fabi (1983), Tom Sneva (1984), Arie Luyendyk (1996), Helio Castroneves (2002) and Tony Kanaan (2003).

* Drivers who have won at Phoenix have gone on to win the Indy car championship nine times: A.J. Foyt (1964, first race; 1975, second race), Mario Andretti (1966, second race), Bobby Unser (1968, first race), Al Unser (1970, first race; 1985), Rick Mears (1982, first race), Bobby Rahal (1992), Buddy Lazier (2000), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001) and Tony Kanaan (2004).

* Matheus “Matt” Leist, Robert Wickens, Pietro Fittipaldi and Kyle Kaiser will each make their first Indy car oval start this weekend at ISM Raceway. Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, and Kaiser, the 2017 Indy Lights champion, will each be making his series debut in Phoenix. The four drivers – along with Zach Veach – are all Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders.

* Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 284th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Kanaan will attempt to make his 345th Indy car start, which would pass Helio Castroneves for third on the all-time list.

* Scott Dixon has made 225 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti has made 201 consecutive starts, which is the fourth-longest streak in Indy car racing.

F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

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