Familiar name tops Watkins Glen practice chart: Dixon

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WATKINS GLEN, New York – Practice day is complete for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen and – surprise, surprise – Scott Dixon is atop the leaderboard.

A year after pacing every practice session, winning the pole position and leading 50 of 60 laps on his way to victory, Dixon topped the end-of-day speed chart on Watkins Glen International’s iconic road course. The driver of the No. 9 NTT Data Honda sped around the 11-turn, 3.37-mile circuit in 1 minute, 22.6187 seconds (146.843 mph) – less than a tenth of a second off the track record he set in capturing the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying in 2016.

“Just really enjoy it,” Dixon said of Watkins Glen. “It's a fun place, man. It's extremely fast. It's definitely some pretty high-risk situations.

“For me, the tracks of current day are nothing like these. It's a lot of fun to come here. I think (we’re) very fortunate for all INDYCAR and the competitors to come back to a circuit like this.”

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX AT THE GLEN: Practice 2 results; Combined practice results

Dixon’s win at the Glen last year was his fourth in seven Verizon IndyCar Series races during the current era of competition that began in 2005 at the track in upstate New York. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is hoping to use today’s results as a springboard toward his fifth season championship. He trails Josef Newgarden – who was 11th overall in practice – by 31 points with two races remaining.

“For us, the biggest thing we've got to do is just focus on our race, go out there, try and win,” Dixon said. “If we can win, that takes care of a lot of situations.”

Will Power, the 2010 Watkins Glen race winner, was second fastest in the afternoon session with a lap of 1:22.7129 (146.676 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“We learned a lot today,” Power said. “The Verizon Chevy was pretty good. It was good to get a feel of the (Firestone alternate) red tires versus the (primary) black tires. I feel like the course has changed a little over the last year, but it’s still super-fast.”

Rounding out the top five were: Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (1:22.9716, 146.219 mph), Simon Pagenaud in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (1:23.0915, 146.008 mph) and Alexander Rossi in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda (1:23.1124, 145.971 mph). Earlier today, Andretti Autosport announced it had signed Rossi and sponsor NAPA Auto Parts to a multiyear extension for 2018 and beyond.

Eight drivers – Newgarden, Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Pagenaud, Power, Rahal, Rossi and Takuma Sato – remain mathematically eligible to win the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Of those, only Dixon (four times), Pagenaud (2016) and Power (2014) are past champions.

A third practice is set for 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, ahead of Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying at 3 p.m. Both sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, with NBCSN airing a delayed qualifying telecast at 7 p.m.

The 60-lap INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, the 16th of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, kicks off with live coverage at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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