Photos: NBC Sports Group

NBCSN kicks off its part of 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule this weekend

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NBC Sports Group to Present More Than 80 Hours of Verizon IndyCar Series Coverage in 2018, Including Final Nine Races on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app

This Weekend’s Coverage from Phoenix Begins Friday at 8 p.m. ET with Live Qualifying on NBCSN

“The freshness the series appears to have – everyone is excited about IndyCar in a way we’ve not seen for some time.” – Play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey

NBC Sports Group Becomes Exclusive Home of Verizon IndyCar Series Beginning in 2019

STAMFORD, Conn. – April 4, 2018 – NBC Sports Group kicks off its coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend from ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix, Ariz., with live coverage of the Phoenix Grand Prix on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Pre-race coverage begins with IndyCar Live presented by Verizon at 9 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports Group will present 12 races during the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign, and more than 80 hours of coverage spanning practice, qualifying and race presentations on NBCSN. NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs – will provide live streaming coverage of Verizon IndyCar Series coverage airing on NBCSN.

This year’s schedule will feature races at iconic circuits like Long Beach on April 15 and Road America on June 24, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Portland on Sept. 2, and the season finale at Sonoma on Sept. 16. Once again, the Verizon IndyCar Series title will be decided on NBCSN.

Lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey returns for his sixth consecutive season.  Paul Tracy, who won 31 career open-wheel races spanning INDYCAR, Champ Car, and CART, and was the 2003 CART Champion, returns for his fifth season as race analyst, and Townsend Bell, who has raced nine times at the Indianapolis 500 and was a member of the winning team at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona, is back for his sixth season in the booth.

Townsend Bell (l) and Paul Tracy are back in 2018 as analysts on NBCSN telecasts of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

For the first time, this season’s pre-race coverage on IndyCar Live presented by Verizon will take place from the grid in the lead up to the command, bringing viewers even closer to the action prior to the race.

NBCSN’s team of IndyCar pit reporters will include Marty SniderRobin MillerKevin LeeAnders KrohnKatie Hargitt, and Jon Beekhuis, who all return following the 2017 season.


PHOENIX GRAND PRIX – SATURDAY AT 9:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series began on March 11 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan) took the checkered flag ahead of Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

Rookie driver Robert Wickens took the pole in St. Petersburg, led the most laps of the race and was primed to win in his debut, but was contacted by 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi with two laps remaining and was knocked out of the race. Rossi went on to finish third. Defending series champion Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) finished seventh. Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won last year’s event in Phoenix, his first ever victory on an oval.

Pre-race coverage on IndyCar Live presented by Verizon will also feature an essay by Robin Miller on Sebastien Bourdais, examining his win in St. Petersburg less than a year after his crash in 2017 Indy 500 qualifying that fractured his pelvis and right hip. In addition, IndyCar Live presented by Verizon will document the events in Phoenix honoring the 25th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s final victory, which took place at Phoenix in 1993.

This weekend’s coverage begins on Friday at 8 p.m. ET with live qualifying on NBCSN. NBCSN will also air an encore presentation of qualifying on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, leading into pre-race coverage on IndyCar Live presented by Verizon at 9 p.m. ET, and race coverage at 9:30 p.m. ET. Diffey (play-by-play), Tracy (analyst) and Bell (analyst) will call the action, while Lee, Snider, Miller and Hargitt will report from the pits.

Following are quotes from lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey ahead of this weekend’s race in Phoenix:

Leigh Diffey, lead announcer on NBCSN telecasts of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule

Diffey on the difficulties that ISM Raceway presents: “Any short oval is going to be difficult to conquer because the laps and race fly by so fast. You’ve got to be on your game on the track, and your strategist on their ‘A-game’ on the pit box. Any small errors are magnified on tracks like this, and it’s what makes short track oval racing so wild. The distance is short, the speeds are high, and the risk/reward is often nerve-wracking. Bring it on!”

Diffey on the 2018 season-opener in St. Petersburg: “The main takeaways from the season opener in St Pete were plentiful. A sampling would be how good the 2018-spec cars look, the variety of new drivers and team shake-ups, and the freshness the series appears to have. Everyone is excited about IndyCar in a way we’ve not seen for some time and that feels good. The results for a variety of drivers, like Bourdais, were heartwarming, but the way that Robert Wickens was left in the fence was not. He deserved better after dominating the day. He’s such a good driver that he’ll have his day on top of the podium sooner rather than later.”

Diffey on Team Penske, which only mustered a team-best 7th place finish at St. Pete from last year’s reigning series champion Josef Newgarden: “The Penske team feels it will be better on ovals than it showed on the opening street course race of the year. This is not a situation we see this blue-chip organization in very often, so it will be interesting to see how they engineer, drive and strategize their way out of it.”

Following is this weekend’s IndyCar schedule on NBCSN:

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Fri., April 6 Phoenix Grand Prix – Qualifying NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., April 7 Phoenix Grand Prix – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
IndyCar Live presented by Verizon NBCSN 9 p.m.
Phoenix Grand Prix NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
IndyCar Post-Race NBCSN 11:30 p.m.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND INDYCAR PARTNER ON COMPREHENSIVE, MULTI-YEAR MEDIA RIGHTS AGREEMENT

On March 21, NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement in which NBC Sports acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC, with all remaining races televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 INDYCAR schedule will be announced at a later date.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to INDYCAR fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date. Click here for more information.

NBC SPORTS GROUP 2018 INDYCAR RACE COVERAGE

Date Race/Track Network Time (ET)
Sat., April 7 Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., April 15 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach NBCSN 4:30 p.m.
Sun., April 22 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
Fri., May 25 Carb Day – Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBCSN 1:30 p.m.
Sun., June 9 DXC Technology 600 (Texas Motor Speedway) NBCSN 8:30 p.m.
Sun., June 24 Kohler Grand Prix (Road America) NBCSN 1 p.m.
Sun., July 8 Iowa Corn 300 NBCSN 2:30 p.m.
Sun., July 15 Honda Indy Toronto NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
Sun., July 29 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio* CNBC 3:30 p.m.
Sun., August 19 ABC Supply 500 (Pocono Raceway) NBCSN 2 p.m.
Sat., August 25 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (Gateway Motorsports Park) NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., September 2 Portland International Raceway NBCSN 3 p.m.
Sun., September 16 Grand Prix of Sonoma NBCSN 6:30 p.m.

*NBCSN will televise same-day encore presentation

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

-NBC SPORTS GROUP-

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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