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Dixon, Rivals Trying To Prevent Another Power Surge at INDYCAR Grand Prix

Despite his recent dominance in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, an amused Will Power insisted Thursday that the race on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course shouldn’t be renamed after him.

“It’s not me. It’s the team,” said Team Penske driver Power, who last year became the first to sweep both May races at IMS in winning the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“It's the Penske Grand Prix, isn't it?” said racing rival Scott Dixon, the five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing. “I don't know, how many years has it been? Four, five years?”

A Penske driver has won the race in four of five years since inception. Power was that driver in three of the four years, in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Simon Pagenaud won for Roger Penske in 2016. The one year that a Team Penske car didn’t win, it was Pagenaud for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2014.

“So they’ve got a pretty good streak going,” Dixon said with a grin, looking at Power.

It’s often the other way around when arriving at a racetrack – drivers are usually wondering how they can defeat Dixon at venues like Mid-Ohio, where he’s celebrated five triumphs. His 44 career wins rank third on the all-time Indy car racing list.

NTT IndyCar Series teams practice and qualify Friday on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course for the 85-lap race (3:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC). Dixon is third and Power sixth in the points. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden has a 28-point lead on Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

In last year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix, Dixon qualified 18th out of 24 cars, but the 38-year-old New Zealander enjoyed one of his most impressive races by moving up through the field to finish second. It’s the second consecutive year he’s been a runner-up to Power in this race.

“Will is first class on most, if not all, circuits,” Dixon said. “I think you know there’s probably a good five or six you have to get through, but Will is probably the one that’s got the target (here) most of the time.”

Power has often referred to the IMS circuit as his favorite road course in the series.

“It's a great, great fun month, it really is,” he said. “It showcases what INDYCAR is all about. You have to be very good at road courses and ovals. It's a fantastic road course, great for the fans. There's a lot of good viewing points. It was really good racing last year. I think it produces great racing, long straights, just a cool way to start the month off.”

If the 38-year-old Australian can win this race again, a 36th career victory would allow him to move past Bobby Unser for seventh on the all-time list. Power admits that finally winning the 2018 Indy 500 lifted a tremendous weight – he had worried for years that his lifetime racing resume would be incomplete without a victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

And it helped to have an INDYCAR Grand Prix win to set the tone for the “500.”

“Obviously winning the Grand Prix always makes you feel very positive, the team, as well, around you,” Power said. “I have to say (the “500” win) probably does take some pressure off but definitely doesn't take any of the determination away. You understand how good it feels to win. If anything, it adds a bit more determination.”

Expect Power and Dixon to be at or near the front in qualifying. All three of Power’s INDYCAR Grand Prix wins came from the pole. This year, he won the season’s first two poles and has started no worse than seventh.

Dixon has started second, third, fourth and sixth this season. Last year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix qualifying was an anomaly — the team found and fixed a setup issue afterward. He started fourth in this race in 2017 and second in 2015.

“Things have changed,” Dixon said. “Even our setup from what we raced at some of the road courses last year has evolved a ton and in a very different direction. Plus the tire for this weekend is totally different from what we had last year with the reds and the blacks.

“I think we seem to be in a happier window at a lot of the road courses this year. We haven't got a pole yet, but we've been in the (Firestone) Fast Six for each race. I think we're a little bit better there.”

His mission is to not let Power repeat. The best way to prevent that is to repeat Power's 2018 accomplishment.

“(We’ll) try to do what Will did last year and sweep both races,” Dixon said.

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