The Verizon IndyCar Series is winding down the 2018 season, and the championship battle is getting tighter once again. Alexander Rossi has dominated the last two races, leading 246 of 290 laps at Mid-Ohio and Pocono. The Andretti Autosport driver has closed in on Scott Dixon, who leads by 29 points heading into this weekend’s event at Gateway Motorsports Park. Dixon is aiming for his fifth series title, all coming with Chip Ganassi Racing.
The biggest concern this week has been the wellbeing of Robert Wickens, as he continues to recover from his serious accident last weekend at Pocono. The latest update came on Tuesday morning, when IndyCar stated that the SPM driver had spinal surgery without any complications. The waiting game is on as thoughts and prayers pour in for the Canadian.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team announced that they will not enter the No. 6 car at Gateway. The good news is that James Hinchcliffe has been cleared to drive, and will be in his No. 5 Honda machine. Weather will be a factor this weekend, as there is a chance of rain on Friday. Both practice sessions are scheduled for Friday, as well as qualifying in between. Saturday night’s race begins at 8:30 PM ET as NBCSN will provide coverage of the 248-lap race.
A familiar face will return to the field this weekend, as Harding Racing announced that Gabby Chaves will be back in the No. 88 Chevrolet at Gateway. Conor Daly has been in the seat for the last three rounds, at Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and Pocono. The Noblesville product will be making his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend at Road America.
There has not been any real progress in the possibility of Fernando Alonso making his move to IndyCar next season. While it has been reported that the F1 World Champion will be testing a Harding Racing Chevrolet at Barber Motorsports Park on September 5, McLaren has not yet confirmed any plans. There are still a lot of moving parts to figure out.
Honda is set to capture their first manufacturer’s championship since Chevrolet rejoined the series in 2012. They have a 283-point advantage with three races remaining, with only 288 maximum points available. Team Penske can no longer score points for the bowtie team, as they have used more than the allotted four engines. This means that Chevy will have to sweep the podium in each of these last three races with their other teams, which is highly unlikely.
The top three drivers in the championship have all won three races this season, but it will likely require more than that to claim the title at Sonoma. Reigning champion Josef Newgarden is 66 points behind Dixon, and feels like he still has a great shot at repeating this year. Newgarden knows that he can be more aggressive down the stretch than Dixon, which is something he enjoys. “For me, I’ve always just liked being in attack mode,” he said. “We’re going to be attacking. I think if we were in the lead though, we’d be attacking, too. That’s always my preferred way to go about it.”
The first practice on Friday for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta & Valvoline will be shown live on IndyCar’s YouTube channel at 1:15 PM ET. Qualifying will air live on NBC Sports Network at 5:15 PM and the final practice session is scheduled for 9 PM and will also be streamed live by IndyCar.