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Indianapolis 500 coverage: Links here to read all our stories

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INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday marks the first broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing by NBC Sports Group, which covered the 103rd Indianapolis 500 with eight hours of coverage Sunday.

NBCSports.com also is all in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with writers Nate Ryan and Bruce Martin on site and with Michael Eubanks and Dan Beaver contributing remotely.

From Fernando Alonso’s stunning failure to qualify to Roger Penske celebrating two important anniversaries to how the race could be the harbinger of a new era in collaboration between IndyCar and NASCAR, relive all the major storylines from the past two weeks at the Brickyard.

POSTRACE

–Simon Pagenaud collects more than $2.6 million for winning the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

–Pagenaud earns his place in Indy 500 history with victory.

–John Menard’s long Indianapolis 500 journey reaches the Winner’s Circle after 40 years.

–Crew member injured during the Indy 500 discharged from the hospital after surgery for a leg injury.

–A backstage pass to photos behind the scenes before the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

RACE DAY, SUNDAY, MAY 26

–Pagenaud outduels Alexander Rossi to win the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

Roger Penske says Pagenaud will be back at Team Penske next season.

The “Red Mist” that drove Alexander Rossi to second Sunday and what the postrace scene was like.

–Recapping the crazy day that Rossi had in putting on another show at Indy.

Roger Penske demurs on confirming whether Helio Castroneves will make another Indy 500 run for his team. Also Castroneves’ side of his on-track battles with Rossi.

Graham Rahal wasn’t pleased with former teammate Sebastien Bourdais after this late wreck.

–Why the Indianapolis 500 is so difficult to win with even the fastest car: Many drivers believe the track “chooses its winners.”

–How NBC Sports’ pit reporters see the race unfolding.

–Your guide to watching the 103rd Indy 500.

SATURDAY, MAY 25

Why the Snake Pit’s EDM concert is the most important marketing tool for the track to reach a younger audience, which is a struggle IndyCar and all motorsports are facing.

–Some legends of the Indy 500 explain what the race means to them.

–Why Graham Rahal believes his Indianapolis 500 car is “money.”

–Sebastien Bourdais made the Fast Nine, but he wasn’t so happy with his car after practice.

–Five-time series champion Scott Dixon tries to rebound from the worst Indy 500 starting spot of his career.

–An Oregon motorsports museum is paying tribute to 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti.

CARB DAY, FRIDAY, MAY 24

–It’s apropos that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will lead the field to green Sunday because it could be a harbinger of more IndyCar-NASCAR collaboration and crossovers.

–NBC Sports analyst Danica Patrick explains the complexities and nuances of an IndyCar steering wheel.

IndyCar unveiled the next phase of safety technology to protect the driver in the cockpit.

–Roger Penske’s powerhouse team celebrated its 50th year of competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Five things to watch in Sunday’s 500-mile race.

–If you had wondered why Oriol Servia is wearing a Bill Murray-themed helmet, we have the answer.

–Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner, led the way in the final practice.

Marcus Ericsson’s pit crew was fastest in the annual competition.

Oliver Askew was the winner of a thrilling Freedom 100 Indy Lights race.

THURSDAY, MAY 23

–The amazing story of how Roger Penske’s cars dominated the race 25 years ago with a top-secret engine.

–There was relief for IndyCar drivers and teams after a few heavy impacts and airborne crashes during Indy 500 practice and qualifying.

How Mario Andretti celebrated his 50 years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This race always has had some pull with drawing celebrities (with Matt Damon and Christian Bale being the latest examples).

–The Indy 500 has a dual Swedish connection for 2019.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 22

The heartwarming story of Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing continues with the addition of sponsors for Sunday’s race.

There’s something about Indy for Ed Carpenter Racing, which again put its home-track advantage to work.

Sizing up the long shots for the 103rd Indy 500.

Mike Tirico hitches a ride with an IndyCar legend in his introduction to IMS.

Who is rookie Ben Hanley? Learn more about an unlikely Indy 500 entrant.

TUESDAY, MAY 21

How Kaiser and Juncos Racing beat the odds to make the Indy 500.

–After a rough week, Sage Karam stepped up when it mattered most in qualifying.

–For 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, this year’s race could be a way of repaying Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

MONDAY, MAY 20

How did the unthinkable happen to Alonso and McLaren? We retrace the many missteps and months leading up to an epic failure.

–With cool weather and maximum grip, Monday’s practice with race setups was quite chaotic.

LAST ROW/POLE QUALIFYING, SUNDAY MAY 19

–Continuing his brilliant run in May, IndyCar Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud wins the pole position for Team Penske.

Alonso and McLaren are stunned in getting bumped from the Indy 500 by Kyle Kaiser on the final run of Last Row qualifying.

–He didn’t win the pole, but Colton Herta might have been the most impressive Fast Nine driver.

QUALIFYING, SATURDAY MAY 18

–Ed Carpenter Racing’s Chevrolets show strength on the first day of qualifying, led by Spencer Pigot securing the top spot for the Fast Nine.

–The misery continues for Alonso, who fails to lock into the field despite multiple attempts at qualifying.

Another Indianapolis nightmare looms for James Hinchcliffe, who has some unwanted experience with adversity such as Saturday’s hard crash in practice.

–A feel-good story for Pippa Mann, who becomes the only woman in the Indy 500 field.

FAST FRIDAY, MAY 17

–Alonso admits he is concerned about his chances for making the race.

–Conor Daly’s Andretti Autosport Honda has the speed on Fast Friday and here’s who needed to find some for qualifying.

–Juncos Racing falls into a big hole but vows to make the Indy 500 in a backup car after Kaiser’s airborne crash the day before qualifying.

THURSDAY, MAY 16

–Ed Carpenter Racing’s Ed Jones shows speed on Day 3.

Pato O’Ward unfortunately joins the hit parade at Indy with a heavy practice wreck.

–Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson pays a visit to Alonso and the rest of the IndyCar paddock.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15

–Alonso becomes the first to slap the wall on the second day of practice.

–McLaren Racing’s IndyCar program tries to regroup after a tough start.

–Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist receives a rude introduction with heavy impacts at IMS.

–Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is fastest on Day 2 at IMS.

TUESDAY, MAY 14

–Defending Indy 500 winner Will Power turns the fastest lap on opening day.

–The first signs that Alonso was in trouble: Team was baffled by electrical problems on opening day.

NHRA: Funny Car driver J.R. Todd looks to snap slump, make history at U.S. Nationals

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In addition to being the most gratifying achievement of his NHRA drag racing career, winning the 2018 NHRA Funny Car championship was also the hardest thing J.R. Todd has ever done.

That is, until he tried to defend the title in 2019 – which has now become the hardest thing Todd has done behind the wheel.

After winning a career-best six wins en route to his title last season, Todd has had a rough campaign in the first 17 races of the current season, having earned just one win (Las Vegas) and two runner-up finishes.

In addition, he’s failed to make it out of the first round six times, and was stopped in the quarter-finals eight other times.

And as he prepares for next week’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis – the biggest race of the season – the 37-year-old Todd is mired in a difficult slump. Since losing to Ron Capps in the final round at Richmond, Todd has dropped from second to eighth in the Funny Car standings, unable to get past the second round of the nine subsequent events.

That’s why Todd is hoping for a major turnaround at the U.S. Nationals, the final qualifying race for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

J.R. Todd (Photo: NHRA).

A massive 416 points (the equivalent of more than three wins points-wise) out of first place, Todd needs to start a big comeback if he hopes to do well in the playoffs, and the U.S. Nationals is the perfect place for him to do so. Todd comes into this year’s race having won the last two Funny Car crowns at Indy in 2017 and 2018.

If he can make it three in a row, Todd will make NHRA history. To date, only two drivers – Top Fuel greats “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Tony Schumacher – have won three in a row at Indianapolis. But no Funny Car driver has ever done so, not John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme or anyone else.

“That’s some pretty elite company right there with Big Daddy and Tony Schumacher,” Todd told NBC Sports. “Really you try not to think about things like that and just focus on the mission at hand – and that’s to win the race.

“When you do that, then you can enjoy all the accolades that come with it. I have the two trophies that I can look at every day – and it’s an awesome reminder of what we’ve done. It was a dream of mine as a kid to go there and race in the U.S. Nationals as a professional someday and to have won it is still kind of a surreal feeling.”

Todd, who lives in nearby Lawrenceburg, Indiana, wants to be the first Funny Car driver to pull off that achievement — and at his home track, to boot.

“It’s the biggest race of the year and the one that everyone wants to win,” Todd said. “To go back there and win there three years in a row would be pretty special.

“For me, it’s the race I grew up going to as a kid. I have a lot of family and friends that go there. I live five minutes from the track, so it means everything to me.”

In a sense, his situation this season is kind of deja vu for Todd. Last season, he won two races earlier in the season (Las Vegas and Houston), then went into a slump much like the one he’s currently in.

But starting with last September’s win at Indianapolis, Todd went on to win four of the final seven races of the season — including three in the playoffs — to motor on to the championship.

What makes Todd’s success at Indy all the more unique is that while he’s a long-time drag racer, he only switched to Funny Car prior to the 2017 season. That means in just two seasons, the former Top Fuel pilot has not only twice won the sport’s biggest race, but also the championship.

The team Todd races for, Kalitta Motorsports, has a history of starting to hit its stride just before the playoffs begin in Funny Car. From 2014 through 2018, the organization has won 13 Funny Car races beginning with the second-to-last regular season race at Brainerd, Minnesota through the six playoff races. That’s 13 of 40 races, roughly 33% of the races that NHRA has won.

In addition to Todd’s two U.S. Nationals wins, Team Kalitta also won the Funny Car event in 2014 with now-retired driver Alexis DeJoria.

I knew coming over to drive the DHL Toyota Camry that we would have some good opportunities to win races,” Todd said. “For whatever reason, it seems like we pick up a lot of momentum at that time of year. We’re hoping we can keep that trend going this year.”

In a sense, the U.S. Nationals – the 18th and final regular season race of the overall 24-race NHRA schedule – are to the NHRA what the Daytona 500 is to NASCAR or the Indianapolis 500 is to IndyCar.

“It sets the tone for the next six races,” Todd said of the playoffs. “The U.S. Nationals are a marathon. It’s the one race where everyone brings out their best stuff because it’s so important.  So much of that preparation then carries over into the Countdown.

“If you ask drivers that haven’t won Indy before, I think they’d trade pretty much any win for that one.”

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