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Exhale This Weekend with More Exciting Racing in Cup, MotoGP

Have you caught your breath since the frenzied lineup of racing on NBCSN last Sunday?

Man, what a Super Sunday we enjoyed Sept. 17. Josef Newgarden clinched his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship with a composed drive to second place at Sonoma.

Martin Truex Jr. crushed the competition at Chicagoland in the first race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Ferrari all but ruined its chances of winning the Constructors title and Sebastian Vettel winning the Drivers Championship after Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen played bumper cars with Max Verstappen and each other at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix in Formula One.

And Yoshi Muroya emerged as a contender for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship Master Class title with his exciting victory at the Lausitzring. Next stop, the thrilling season finale Oct. 14-15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!

Whew! Time to exhale, if you haven’t already.

This weekend’s racing lineup is quieter. NASCAR will enter Round 2 of its playoffs at New Hampshire, and MotoGP returns to Spain to compete at Aragon. IMSA sports cars also are racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Truex all but locked up a spot in the final four for the season finale Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his win last Sunday at Chicagoland.

Sure, math and bad luck could conspire to keep Truex out of the final four. But let’s get real: Truex has a 27-point lead over second place Kyle Larson and more than enough bonus points to carry him to Homestead barring a disaster.

But the jockeying for the rest of the spots remains fierce this weekend at New Hampshire. There are only two races left before the field is trimmed to 12 drivers, so the 13th- through 16th-place drivers – Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2017 Big Machine Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman – need to find a higher gear this weekend on the tight, 1-mile oval at New Hampshire or risk an early exit from the postseason.

Expect Truex and Larson to strengthen their credentials for the final four this weekend.

Truex led a race-high 137 laps from the pole in July during the previous race this season at New Hampshire before a pit stop for a flat tire while leading resulted in a third-place finish. Larson finished second to Denny Hamlin in July at New Hampshire and finished fifth last Sunday at Chicagoland.

Hamlin also figures to be a contender for victory at New Hampshire, as his Joe Gibbs Racing team is getting hot at the right time. Hamlin earned a victory over Labor Day weekend at Darlington, a win that NASCAR ruled as “encumbered” – what does that truly mean, anyways? – due to illegal rear suspension. Since Darlington, Hamlin has finished fifth at Richmond and fourth at Chicago.

Still, right now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the world of Truex, crew chief Cole Pearn and Furniture Row Racing. The rest of the drivers, crew chiefs and teams are just living in it.

The ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire will be televised at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN.

Now that the Verizon IndyCar Series is done racing for the 2017 season, perhaps the most compelling title fight in a major series is taking place in MotoGP. That championship race will feature an even more fascinating wrinkle this weekend in the Grand Prix of Aragon in Spain.

Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez of Honda climbed into a tie for the championship lead with Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati after using a last-lap pass of Danilo Petrucci to win the soggy Grand Prix of San Marino on Sept. 10. Maverick Vinales of Yamaha is third, just 16 points behind the top two with five races remaining this season.

But all eyes this weekend will be on the guy in fourth in the championship – seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi.

Rossi missed the Grand Prix of San Marino after undergoing surgery to repair breaks of both bones in his lower leg, suffered in a crash Aug. 31 during training on an enduro bike. But he passed a fitness test earlier this week and will race at Aragon.

Time out. Think about that for few seconds.

Rossi broke both bones in his lower leg 23 days ago. Both bones! Twenty-three freaking days! Yet he will climb atop his Yamaha YZR-M1 this weekend to race at faster than 200 mph, with no roll cage or hoop, no HANS Device, no seat belt and plenty of pressure on his healing, yet still broken, right leg.

Are you kidding me? This is a guy who has more money than he probably can ever spend. He is 38, his legacy as probably the greatest-ever Grand Prix motorcycle rider secured. Yet he is racing just 23 days after breaking his leg.

What stones. Racers: They’re not like you and me.

The Grand Prix of Aragon will be televised starting at 4:50 a.m. (ET) Sunday on beIN Sports, including the Moto3 and Moto2 races. Set your DVR!

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