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What NBCSN IndyCar announcers said about Dixon crown, last race at Sonoma

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Here’s what NBCSN’s IndyCar announcers had to say about Scott Dixon’s championship and how the season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma played out on Sunday:

STAMFORD, Conn. – September 16, 2018 Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) won his fifth career Verizon IndyCar Series championship today on NBCSN, earning a second-place finish at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway to clinch the title. Dixon’s five series wins now rank second only behind A.J. Foyt (7) for the most IndyCar championships in history.

Dixon won the championship by 57 points over Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), who battled back to finish seventh in Sunday’s race after suffering damage to his front wing and tire on the first lap. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) took the checkered flag at Sonoma to win his second race of the 2018 campaign.

NBC Sports’ lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey called the Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on NBCSN, alongside analysts and former drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Robin Miller, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, and Katie Hargitt reported from the pits.

NBC Sports is now the exclusive home of IndyCar, and will present all IndyCar races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019, including the Indianapolis 500 and an additional seven races on NBC.

Following are notes and quotes from NBC Sports’ IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma coverage on NBCSN:

Diffey on Dixon: “We witness something that hasn’t been done in more than half a century – Scott Dixon is a five-time IndyCar champion!”

Dixon during his post-race interview with Beekhuis after winning the title: “We had a lot of things that could have gone wrong today…this is so awesome. I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. You always doubt these situations so much, that it’s never going to happen. I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Rossi during his post-race interview with Lee, discussing contact on the first lap: “I got a good start. I don’t know if he lifted, or if I misjudged…it is what it is. It was going to be a tough day to beat Scott anyway…it’s unfortunate for it to go out like that. I wish I could replay that a million more times…at the end of the day, we have to look at 2018 and be pretty happy.”

Tracy on Dixon: “We call him the ‘Ice Man’ – you will not meet a driver on or off the track who is as cool as Scott Dixon.”

Bell on Dixon: “He’s still at the top of his game in every measurable category with no signs of slowing down any time soon.”

Diffey on Rossi: “He borders on fearless…when he’s chasing and in attack mode, it’s pretty special to watch. The way he has not given up today – this kid just doesn’t give up.”

Bell on Rossi’s aggressive driving style: “It’s worked out remarkably well everywhere – except today. We kept saying it all season long, that Rossi makes these moves and he comes out looking like a champ every time. Unfortunately…it was a little too much and a little ill-timed. He’s done a brilliant job to come back, but I know in a long offseason, he’ll definitely be analyzing that opening lap move.”

Tracy on Rossi on lap 20: “He’s had a very messy weekend. He’s had a lot of offs. He’s been in the dirt a lot. He made a mistake at the start. I think the nervous anticipation was super high. He made a small mistake and now he’s got to fight to come back.”

Tracy on Hunter-Reay: “He’s been so unlucky all year. He’s been at the front all year and in position to do really well at a lot of races and had mechanical problems…there’s no one that’s had worse luck than Hunter-Reay this year.”

Bell on Hunter-Reay: “He always bounces back. He can come off a horrendous weekend, show up at Sonoma – and he’s been dominant in practice, qualifying, and now the race. It’s ironic that he’s having a totally uneventful, quiet day at the front, and reminding everyone why he’s an IndyCar champion.”

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NBC SPORTS BECOMES EXCLUSIVE HOME OF VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES BEGINNING IN 2019

On March 21, NBC Sports 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.

Rahal determined to regain winning touch in 2019 IndyCar season

Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher, INDYCAR
INDYCAR
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AUSTIN, Texas – Graham Rahal entered the room with a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder.

It was IndyCar “Media Day” and Rahal wasn’t happy with the way last season went at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was less happy with the fact some aren’t considering him a serious threat in 2019. He playfully chided with one media outlet for failing to mention his team as one to watch in 2019.

“We use that as motivation to show everybody how we are viewed,” Rahal said. “We are here to win.”

Rahal just turned 30 in January but is entering his 13thseason in big-time Indy car racing. He entered the 2007 Champ Car Series season when he was just 17. He missed his high school prom because he was racing at Houston.

“That was the luckiest day of my life,” Rahal said. “I didn’t have to go to the prom. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“Plus, I got my second career podium that weekend.”

Rahal drove to victory in his very first race in the combined IndyCar Series in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He was hailed as the “Poster Boy of Unification” and a future star. What followed was a seven-year drought before he captured his second-career win in a thrilling race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

He won two races in 2015, one in 2016 and two in 2017. He was expected to contend for victories and possibly the championship last year but struggled through a disappointing season and finished eighth in the standings.

“I’m looking forward for chance this year,” Rahal said. “Last year was a tough one for me and for the team. I’m looking forward to what my new engineer, Allen McDonald, has done so far. He is an accomplished engineer and brings a different mindset to our program this year from what we had last year. He and (fellow engineer) Eddie Jones are very close friends and that will help us from the standpoint they are on the same page.

“We needed a bit of life brought back to the team.”

Rahal believes his challenges are to get everything in order before the season starts. The team has defined the areas where it was lacking in 2019. The team needed to improve in research and development after starting behind last season.

“I’m excited for what I see, and I know in the end it will all pay off,” Rahal said. “It’s just a matter of when.

“There is a lot to be excited about for us. We are in a great position as a team. We have great sponsorship and that will allow us to push forward and do the things we need to do.”

Rahal believes at 30, he has a long time ahead of him to win races and championships and maybe even the Indianapolis 500. In order to reach those goals, however, Rahal’s team needs to regain the competitive level he displayed prior to last year.

“We’ve been fortunate to win six times,” Rahal said. “A lot of people come into this sport and never win. I fully recognize there is no reason we can’t win a lot. I don’t care what anybody writes, what anybody thinks – I really feel that when it comes to race day, we perform better than 99 percent of the other people out there.

“As a team and for myself, we have to qualify better. If we can qualify better, we’ll be a thorn in everybody’s side. We know the rear of our cars just aren’t good enough. When we need to find that extra tenth or two, it’s just not there but absolutely, we want to win.

“I don’t come here year after year to just drive around. Our sponsors don’t invest in us year after year to not see us win. We feel that. But our cars aren’t good enough and we know that.”

Rahal believes the team has identified the problems with the setup of its car. It has a deep engineering staff but hasn’t had a chance to develop the damper program and other important areas that provide a competition setup.

Takuma Sato, the winner of the 101stIndianapolis 500 when he was with Andretti Autosport, scored the team’s only victory in 2018 with a win in the Portland Grand Prix. The two are back this year and have built a respect for each other.

“He’s a good guy,” Rahal said of Sato. “Other than Helio Castroneves, Takuma is probably the happiest man on the planet. He’s a great guy and fits in well with our organization. We pride ourselves on being a family and he fits in extremely well to that.

“We need to do a better job for him as a team. He won a race last year, but we can both do better to win with both cars.

“The Andretti cars are the best right now and the Penske cars will be good. We have a lot of space to close up on those two teams but hopefully, we can do it.”