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Title Math, Past Results Favor Dixon Entering INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR

Scott Dixon’s path to a possible sixth NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship next runs through Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the inaugural INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR, a road course doubleheader, will be held Oct. 1-3.

Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, can clinch the season championship at IMS by finishing the two races as he has the first 11 of 2020 – somewhere in the top five -- and it likely won’t even take that much.

Dixon’s lead over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is a comfortable 72 points, the largest for a series leader this late in the season since Dixon led the 2008 pursuit by 78 points. Dixon only needs to score 90 points in the final three races – below his season average finish of 4.5 – to win the championship, and that assumes Newgarden scores the maximum number of points the rest of the way.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Oct. 25 is the season finale and where the champion will officially be crowned and awarded the prestigious Astor Challenge Cup.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP begins Thursday, Oct. 1 with a 75-minute NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice at 2:25 p.m. on the INDYCAR Pass on the NBC Sports Gold app. Qualifying for the first race will follow at 6:20 p.m. that day, again on the Gold app.

The Friday, Oct. 2 schedule has an 85-lap race at 3:30 p.m. on the USA Network. The Saturday, Oct. 3 schedule features qualifying at 10:20 a.m. on Gold followed by a 75-lap race at 2:30 p.m. on NBC. The Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network will have all the action.

Winning the season’s final three races, as Newgarden likely needs to do, is a significant ask – it has been 65 years (Jimmy Bryan in 1955) since an Indy car driver accomplished that. Newgarden won’t even be mathematically eligible for the title if he is not within 54 points of Dixon heading to St. Pete. Remember, double points won’t be available in the finale as they have been each year since 2014.

If Dixon competes in the remaining events, as expected, only three other drivers will have the ability to win the championship, and third-place Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and fourth-place Colton Herta of Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport would need to win out.

The closest comparable recent comeback to what Newgarden would need occurred in 2013 when Dixon overcame 49 points in the final three races.

This is not to say a driver chasing Dixon can’t win both IMS races, as weekend sweeps are not as unusual as they might seem. Two drivers have swept weekend doubleheaders since Dixon did so in Toronto in 2013. The other was Graham Rahal in Detroit in 2017.

Dixon has this sizable advantage on the strength of four race wins, including the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course July 4. Newgarden finished seventh in that race.

New Zealand driver Dixon also has been remarkably consistent this season, as his 4.5 average finish suggests. He has a pair of second-place finishes as part of his six top-five and eight top-10 finishes. His only blemish, if it can be called that, was a 12th-place finish in the second of two Road America races on July 12. The bigger surprise was that he finished 10th in both of this month’s road races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he has won a record six times in his career. Of course, consistency is nothing new for Dixon, who in addition to 50 career race wins – third on the sport’s all-time list behind A.J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52) – he has 48 second-place finishes, a figure second only to Andretti’s 56. Dixon finished second last month in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge after leading a race-high 111 laps. Clearly, this has the look of a championship-winning season.

Dixon also has added to a pair of impressive accomplishments this season. This is his 18th season with at least one race win – tying Foyt for the record – and he extended the record he already owned by winning a race in a 16th consecutive season. The latter started in 2005 with a win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Only Foyt’s seven series championships are more than Dixon has in his career, which means a tie for top honors could come as early as next season. With the stability of Chip Ganassi’s Indianapolis-based organization and Dixon only recently turning 40, continued success seems likely


Thursday, Oct. 1

2:25 p.m.: Practice (INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold)
6:20 p.m.: Race 1 qualifying (INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold)

Friday, Oct. 2

3:30 p.m.: Race 1 (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 3

10:20 a.m.: Race 2 qualifying (INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold)
2:30 p.m.: Race 2 (NBC)
All action carried on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network


Tickets are on sale now for the INDYCAR Harvest GP weekend Oct. 1-4, which features the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS, in the Indianapolis 8 Hour sports car race.

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