Five Things to Watch: Dixon still fourth but closing

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The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway, Round 15 of 17 on the season, is the second consecutive oval weekend for the series. The NTT IndyCar Series competed Sunday on Pocono’s 2.5-mile oval, where Team Penske’s Will Power won the rain-shortened ABC Supply 500.

Here are "5 Things To Look For" heading into the Bommarito Automotive Group 500:

Take it to the Bank

Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Honda) has remained entrenched in the fourth position of the championship standings for the past seven races, but he has been closing the gap with his recent run of success.

Following Road America, Dixon found himself trailing leader Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Chevrolet) by 94 points. In the four races dating to Toronto, Dixon has collected a win (Mid-Ohio) and three-runner-up finishes to cut the deficit to 52 points. He remains fourth but has closed to 17 points of second-place Alexander Rossi (No. 28 NAPA Auto Parts Honda) of Andretti Autosport and 12 of third-place Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Chevrolet) of Team Penske.

VIDEO: Five Things to Look For at Gateway

“Just three to go now, right? I’ve been pretty happy with the past several races,” said Dixon, who has two wins on the season. “The whole PNC Bank team has done a great job finishing either first or second. It’s what you have to do. But we still need more wins. This is the go-time part of the NTT IndyCar Series season. This championship is just so tight – you cannot afford to make any mistakes from here on out, or you’ll be on the outside looking in – really fast. We’ve been on the podium here (Gateway) the past two years, but haven’t been able to get that top step on the podium. This Saturday would be the perfect time to break through.”

Dixon finished third last season at World Wide Technology Raceway and runner-up in 2017.

ENTRY LIST: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

Raging Rookie Race

Despite finishing last in Sunday’s race at Pocono after being collected in an opening-lap, multi-car incident, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 Monster Energy Honda) maintained his lead in the rookie-of-the-year standings.

Felix Rosenqvist

Rosenqvist, however, had his lead narrowed from 37 to 13 points as Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda) took advantage of the tough outing by his fellow rookie. Ferrucci posted a fourth-place finish, matching his career-best effort that he achieved at Texas in June.

The rookie race can tighten even more this weekend given the oval success of Ferrucci. He has posted three top-10 finishes in four starts, including two among the top five, while Rosenqvist has managed a best oval finish of 12th (Texas).

More importantly for Rosenqvist, he completed a medical re-evaluation Tuesday with Dr. Terry Trammell and has been cleared to resume racing activities, beginning with this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500. The re-evaluation came following Rosenqvist being taken to a local hospital for further evaluation and tests after being involved in Sunday’s accident.

The Drive for Five

Team Penske will be looking for a season sweep of the ovals heading into the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) pushed the streak to four in a row with a win in Sunday’s rain-shortened ABC Supply 500 at Pocono. Power’s first win of the season follows oval victories by Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (Texas, Iowa) and Simon Pagenaud (Indianapolis).

The chances for a sweep are heightened by the fact that Team Penske has won both races at World Wide Technology Raceway since the series returned two years ago. Power is the defending champ and Newgarden won in 2017.

Pitch Man

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, the NTT IndyCar Series championship leader, will take to the mound tonight to throw out the first pitch prior to the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Colorado Rockies at Busch Stadium. Newgarden is scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch at 6 p.m. CT (local) followed by the start of the game at 6:45 p.m.

Josef Newgarden

“It’s really cool to throw out the first pitch for a Cardinals game in St. Louis,” Newgarden said. “It’s such a cool city and a place I really enjoy. I grew up loving baseball and racing so it’s always really cool to put those two worlds together. This weekend at Gateway is going to be great since it’s such a fun race, and I’m glad we can kick it off with a fun night at the ballpark.”

Newgarden’s appearance will be part of a cross-promotion with the Cardinals that will include a free fanfest at Ballpark Village and Racing Night at Busch Stadium. The fanfest, which will run from 4:30-6:30 p.m., will be highlighted by autograph sessions with Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 drivers from 5:15-5:45 p.m. CT (local) followed by the NTT IndyCar Series drivers from 5:45-6:15 p.m.

The NTT IndyCar Series drivers scheduled to participate are Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet), James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda), Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet), Spencer Pigot (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet), Conor Daly (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet) and rookies Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 Monster Energy Honda) and Marcus Ericsson (Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda).

Stanley, Meet Astor

The NHL’s Stanley Cup, the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to a professional sports franchise since 1893, will have a weekend date with the Astor Cup, the trophy presented to the NTT IndyCar Series champion that has its own rich history dating to 1915. Both Cups are scheduled to be on display for fans at World Wide Technology Raceway on Saturday evening.

The Stanley Cup (seen below with Mario Andretti at Indianapolis Motor Speedway) will arrive with St. Louis Blues team captain Alex Pietrangelo and defenseman Colton Parayko, who both played key roles in giving the organization its first Cup in its 52-year history in June. Parayko also will serve as the grand marshal and provide the command for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

Mario Andretti with the Stanley Cup

"The city has been riding a high since the Blues won the Stanley Cup," said Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Graham Rahal (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda), who is friends with both Blues players. "I'm excited to see Alex and to see Colton again. Colton was with us a couple of weeks ago on a mini-vacation.

"And I'm definitely excited to see the Stanley Cup! I've seen it before, in St. Louis during the Winter Classic, but I'm looking forward to seeing it 'uncaged' for the first time. Knowing Alex and Colton, and knowing all of the work that goes into winning a Stanley Cup will make it even more special to see them in person with the Cup at a race. Racing and hockey are two of my favorite things."

The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will be a two-day race weekend with action beginning Friday with qualifying (6:15 p.m. ET / 7:15 CT local, NBCSN) being sandwiched by two 60-minute practice sessions (2 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. ET, 3 and 8:15 p.m. local, NBC Gold).

The Bommarito Automotive Group 500, a 250-lap, 312.5-mile race, will be televised live by NBC Sports Network beginning with the pre-race show at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CT local) and green flag scheduled for 8:45 p.m. (7:45 local). The race also will be broadcast on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).

Up Next

The Grand Prix of Portland, Round 16 of 17 of the NTT IndyCar Series, is set for Sunday, Sept. 1, at Portland International Raceway. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 3 p.m. ET (Noon PT local) with the green flag set for approximately 3:42 p.m. (12:42 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).

From the fans