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The return of Formula 1 to Portugal and two IndyCar races at Texas Motor Speedway will mark a full weekend.
Formula 1 – Portuguese Grand PrixSunday, May 2 – 10:00 ET – ESPN – Streaming via the ESPN app
The Portuguese Grand Prix, which was finally added in February of this year, is back on the program, and that means only the second Formula 1 race at the Algarve International Circuit. The newly planned event, the second of the young season, is also the second race in a row to be held in Europe after a weekend. As a result, cars have improved.
This is bad news for Red Bull, whose narrow lead over Mercedes in Bahrain had already turned into a small deficit when the teams arrived in Imola. After today’s qualifying there is reason to believe that the Mercedes program will continue to withdraw.
Valtteri Bottas will start on pole, a lockout in the front row with Lewis Hamilton. Bottas set a time of 4/10 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, 7/10 seconds ahead of the first competitor of a non-Red Bull team. The qualifying pace is a bad sign for the competition, who have seen in the last two races that the Mercedes appears to have an exceptional race pace, regardless of whether any of the team’s drivers qualify on pole or not.
IndyCar – Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, May 1 – 7:00 p.m. ET – NBCSN – Streaming on NBC Sports App Sunday, May 2 – 5:00 p.m. ET – NBCSN – Streaming on NBC Sports App
For the past decade It was difficult for IndyCar to book oval races making the schedule less varied with each season. This year marks a new low: only three race weekends on ovals. The Texas weekend double header makes up half of all oval races this season. This is a pretty significant weekend for drivers with championship goals that are stronger on ovals than on street courses.
The double header format is the first problem. By hosting two racing days in a row at an event that already benefits well-prepared teams, there is little to no time to teach between sessions, and there is little chance that the balance of power will actually change. If a driver excels in certain conditions today, they may already be in a great position to do the same tomorrow. Two wins this weekend would mean half of the season’s victories so far and about an eighth of the overall plan. In a season that will be marked by a tight championship chase, this could already be the turning point for someone for the better.
It could also be a turning point for the worse. The track is slick with the remains of a compound called PJ1, a product used to improve grip at certain points on a track in the hopes that it will improve NASCAR races. While the thought is that this will improve stock car racing on a track known in the past for some uncompetitive racing, it was disastrous for IndyCars. In a test last month, the remains of the product appeared to destroy the grip in the upper grove, creating a single-lane racetrack. This makes overtaking more difficult, which both increases the penalty for a fast car being forced into the back of the field by a mistake, and increases the likelihood of an accident while trying to make a pass in the race itself. p> NASCAR – Kansas Speedway Sunday, May 2 – 3:00 p.m. ET – Fox Sports 1 – Streaming on FOX Sports App
After four consecutive Cup races on more interesting track layouts, tomorrow’s race at Kansas Speedway is one Return to the mile and a half intermediates that the series has been trying to solve for several years. It’s unlikely that this race will bring any exciting races on these “cut-outs”, but the event offers a great opportunity for championship contenders aiming for victory in the more traditional parts of NASCAR’s radically new 2021 schedule still at the top of this list. The championship leader has finished in the top 5 of all but two races this season, but the history of many races has been his inability to convert significant achievements in the race into wins. Hamlin is the clear early favorite for the 2021 championship, but he will have a difficult road to take to the title if he does not collect the “playoff points” that will help drivers survive the sport’s first two eliminations. Reigning Champion Chase Elliott has similar concerns. All three of his teammates have taken race wins this season, but he has yet to convert Hendrick Motorsports’ consistently impressive speed into a win of his own. For Kevin Harvick, the Stewart-Haas Racing star who kept the coat for younger and less savvy teammates on his own, he seems like the only driver on his own team who has a chance to win a race every weekend. And Kyle Busch, the 2019 serial champion who has only won once since then, has to show the world that he can win under sub-optimal conditions if he wants to be taken seriously in the quest for a third title.
That kind of tracks prefer the favorites, but not the chaotic and competitive NASCAR 2021 season. This could be a driver’s opportunity to change that narrative. With so much of the remaining regular season schedule made up of street courses and other more unique layouts, these opportunities are rarer than they used to be.