Field continues to chase Dixon in Watkins Glen practice

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WATKINS GLEN, New York – Everyone in the Verizon IndyCar Series continues to chase Scott Dixon heading into qualifying this afternoon at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.

Dixon, driving the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, led this morning’s third practice at Watkins Glen International with a lap of 1 minute, 22.6441 seconds (146.798 mph) around the 11-turn, 3.37-mile permanent road course. The 45-minute practice was the final session prior to Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying at 3 p.m. ET today.

Dixon is the defending pole winner at Watkins Glen. A year ago, he went on to collect his fourth win at the track in seven tries. Dixon’s fast lap this morning was within three-hundredths of a second of the lap he logged in practice Friday afternoon (1:22.6187) that stands as fastest of the weekend thus far.

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX AT THE GLEN: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups

Second in today’s practice was Alexander Rossi, with his weekend best of 1:22.6661 (146.759 mph) in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda. Rossi was pleased that he and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second and third on the time sheet.

“This track really does suit my driving style, in terms of it’s smooth, it’s fast, it’s wide,” said Rossi, who’s on a roll of four straight top-six finishes including two podiums. “That’s what I grew up racing in Europe, so coming here there’s not a huge learning curve like some of the other tracks.

Ed Jones“We made a huge improvement here, the whole Andretti Autosport organization, with Ryan being right there in third. That’s a huge step forward from where we were last year and that’s credit to the gains the team made in the offseason.”

Hunter-Reay’s best lap was 1:23.0597 (146.064 mph), also his best of the weekend, in the No. 28 DHL Honda.

“It seemed to be pretty good,” said the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. “We were just trying to get the most from one set of tires there. We kind of waited a little bit and then went to the new set and had a pretty good balance. Just struggling with some understeer today, so hopefully we can get that front working a little better for qualifying.”

With rain looming in the race-day forecast, emphasis on qualifying position is paramount. Hunter-Reay said that’s the case at every Verizon IndyCar Series track, no matter what race conditions are expected to be.

“It’s important everywhere,” he said. “This field is so tight, the Verizon IndyCar Series is so competitive, any position that you can gain in qualifying just makes your race day that much better.”

Points leader Josef Newgarden was eighth in the practice. The No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet driver takes a 31-point lead over Dixon into qualifying, which nets one point for the Verizon P1 Award winner.

Helio Castroneves, third in the standings, 42 points behind Newgarden, was fourth in the morning practice in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:23.2320, 145,761 mph). Sebastien Bourdais, competing in his second race since returning from injuries sustained in an Indianapolis 500 qualifications crash in May, was fifth in the No. 18 UNIFIN Honda for Dale Coyne Racing (1:23.2406, 145.746 mph).

The three rounds of knockout qualifying will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com at 3 p.m. ET. A same-day telecast airs at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

Live race coverage from Watkins Glen commences at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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