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Dixon, Honda look to wrap up IndyCar titles at Indianapolis

Scott Dixon keeps finding ways to put the milestones in perspective.

Sure, he knows a sweep of the Harvest GP doubleheader in Indianapolis would give him six wins this season, matching a career high. He's also aware he needs two wins to tie Mario Andretti for second in IndyCar history with 52. And if he clinches a sixth IndyCar title, he knows he'd be just one behind A.J Foyt's record.

But Dixon didn't get to the verge of making history by making a big deal out of historic moments and he's certainly not going to start now.

Josef Newgarden steers his car during a practice session for an IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

“I feel very lucky and privileged to do what I do," Dixon said. “I really enjoy the people that I work with. They as a whole really drive me, their will to win. I think the whole kind of mindset when you walk into the (Chip) Ganassi race shop throughout the years has never changed. At no point do you not go into a race weekend without thinking about not winning."

Nobody has been better or more consistent than the Iceman this season.

The New Zealand star won the first three races before teammate Felix Rosenqvist finally broke the streak at Elkhart Lake. Dixon earned win No. 4 in late August outside St. Louis.

Helio Castroneves, of Brazil, waits in the pits during a practice session for the IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

He posted top-five finishes in eight of the first nine races, has only one finish outside the top 10, has completed every lap of every race and has led the points wire to wire. So naturally, with a 72-point lead and only three races left everyone is trying to catch Dixon.

“You have to be on it every weekend. The team has to be perfect," said Josef Newgarden, the two-time series champ who is second in points. “You have to do a great job as the driver. Everybody has to do a great job every single weekend. You have to have good consistency, you have to have performance at the right points."

Newgarden needs help and lots of it.

Helio Castroneves, of Brazil, pulls out of the pits during a practice session for an IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

Even if he wins both races on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course Friday and Saturday, Dixon can still win the title with two runner-up finishes and one bonus point, which he'd gain by leading a single lap or starting on the front row of either race.

And if Dixon reaches the Brickyard's victory lane for the second time this year, Honda also could clinch the manufacturer's title over Chevrolet with a one-two finish Friday.

While the more likely scenario might be both title chases ending Saturday, Dixon is focused on Friday.

Max Chilton, of England, steers his car during a practice session for an IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

“That’s the ultimate goal, right, to leave this weekend without having to worry about the championship," he said. “The reality is that it’s still going to be very tough."

THEY'RE BACK

A handful of prominent part-time drivers are back at the track this weekend, too.

Graham Rahal stretches before a practice session for an IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves replaces injured rookie Oliver Askew in the Arrow McLaren SP No. 7 car, marking the first time since 1999 that the Brazilian star hasn't driven for team owner Roger Penske.

Four-time CART champ Sebastien Bourdais of France makes his season debut in A.J. Foyt's No. 14 car and James Hinchcliffe, the 2016 Indy pole winner from Canada, is replacing Zach Veach in the Andretti Autsport No. 26.

Seven-time Indy starter Sage Karam also will be in the 25-car field as a late entrant for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Jack Harvey, of England, waits in his pit box during a practice session for the IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

THEY’RE BACK, TOO

The grandstands that were empty for races in July and August won't be empty this weekend.

Local officials approved the track's proposal to bring up to 10,000 fans into the stands for each of the four days of action this weekend. Fans can watch from the first and fourth turns only and are required to wear masks and socially distance. The speedway seats approximately 250,000 fans for the Indianapolis 500 and annually attracts crowds approaching 300,000 to the world's largest single-day sporting event.

“It's always nice to come back as the winner, and we're excited to see the fans back here," reigning 500 winner Takuma Sato said. “You know winning here is special, but I really wish we could have shared the excitement with 300,000 fans."

ROOKIE RACE

Askew's absence, because of lingering concussion-like symptoms, has turned what had been a three-person chase into a two-person for the rookie of the year award.

Rinus Veekay, the 20-year-old Dutchman, leads Spain's Alex Palou by 39 points with three races left. Askew is third with 181 points, 43 points behind Veekay, but will probably be eliminated from the chase Friday.

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