|The final east coast stop for IndyCar in 2017 is Watkins Glen
Time: Coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday September 3rd. Green flag will be at 1:40 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey is back and Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy join him in the booth. Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Anders Krohn and Robin Miller are working the pit lane.
IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice- 10:15 a.m. ET (45-minute session).
Second Practice- 3:05 p.m. ET (45-minute session).
Third Practice- 10:30 a.m. ET (45-minute session).
Qualifying- 3:00 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have tape-delayed coverage at 7:00 p.m. ET).
Warm-Up- 9:00 a.m. ET (30-miunte session).
Race- 1:40 p.m. ET (60 laps)
And Then There Were Eight
Mathematically, eight drivers remain alive for the Astor Cup.
Josef Newgarden has won three of the last four races and he has stood on one of the first two steps of the podium in five of the last six races. His worst finish since the start of summer was sixth at Iowa. Newgarden has led a lap in eight consecutive races and he has led 305 of the last 623 laps, 48.95% of the laps run in the last four races. Last year, Newgarden went from 12th to second at Watkins Glen by a timely pit stop before the caution for Mikhail Aleshin's spin and by stretching fuel mileage on the final stint. Newgarden has yet to be the top qualifying Penske driver this season despite starting on one of the first two rows six times this season.
Scott Dixon heads to Watkins Glen trailing Newgarden 31 points but Dixon has won four times in seven Watkins Glen starts. Dixon has stood on the podium on five occasions at Watkins Glen and he has six top ten finishes with his worst finish being 11th. Dixon has completed all 415 laps run at Watkins Glen since its return to the IndyCar schedule in 2005. Dixon has started on one of the first two rows six times with his worst starting position being seventh at Watkins Glen. He has led 118 laps at the track while the rest of the drivers on the IndyCar entry list have led a combined 136 laps.
Hélio Castroneves remained third in the championship after Gateway but he has fallen to 42 points behind his teammate. Castroneves has six consecutive top ten finishes and he is tied with Dixon for most top ten finishes this season at 14 top ten finishes. He finished third at last year's Watkins Glen race and he has three consecutive top ten finishes at Watkins Glen after only one top ten finish in his first four Watkins Glen starts. While he finished third at Watkins Glen last year and he finished third at Road America in June, Castroneves has not won on a natural-terrain road course since Barber in 2010.
Simon Pagenaud is coming off a tough second place finish at Gateway and he trails Newgarden by 43 points. Pagenaud has 12 top five finishes this season, three more than Newgarden who has the second-most top five finishes this season. Pagenaud has completed all 2,186 laps contested this season but he has dropped to fourth in the championship after being tied for second after the Indianapolis 500. Going back to last season, Pagenaud has completed 18 consecutive races, including last year at Watkins Glen, where he started and finished seventh.
Will Power's lap five accident at Gateway has dropped him to 83 points back of Newgarden and he is currently on the bubble of being eliminated from championship contention. Should 21 cars enter Sonoma, a driver will need to be within 86 points of the championship leader to have a shot at the title. If 22 cars enter, a driver will need to be within 88 points. While Power won the 2010 race at Watkins Glen, he finished 15th and 20th in his other two starts at the track. Power has finished outside the top fifteen in seven races this season, the most since he had eight finishes outside the top fifteen in 2013.
Graham Rahal is the first driver below the cut line for championship contention heading to Sonoma. The Ohioan trails Tennessean Newgarden by 111 points after Rahal's 12th place finish at Gateway, ending a streak of eight consecutive top ten finishes for Rahal. Rahal has completed every lap in the last 11 races. Rahal has not had much success at Watkins Glen. He finished eighth in his first start at the track but finished 13th and 21st in his last two starts and his three qualifying results there have been 18th, 15th and 20th.
Alexander Rossi has moved up to seventh in the championship on 422 points as he has another stretch of four consecutive top ten finishes, this one includes two podium finishes. He will need a victory and Newgarden to finish outside the top fifteen to stay alive for the championship. Rossi started 15th and finished eighth at Watkins Glen last year. Rossi has finished in the top ten in three of the four natural-terrain road course race this season and he was running in the top ten at Road America before front wing damage cost him a solid finish.
Takuma Sato is mathematically alive for the championship but his title hopes will vanish if Newgarden takes the green flag. If Sato were to win and score a maximum of 54 points and Newgarden finished last and scored the minimum of nine points, he would still trail him by 92 points. Sato could still be alive for the title at Sonoma even if trailing Newgarden by 92 points but he would need at least 25 cars to start the season finale. Since the start of the summer, Sato has finished outside the top fifteen four times with finishes of fifth at Mid-Ohio and 13th at Pocono being the exceptions.
Top Ten Battle
Forty-three points cover ninth to 13th in the championship and the battle to be on the first page of the championship table will likely be between these five drivers over the final two rounds.
Tony Kanaan sits in ninth on 365 points and the Brazilian is currently going through a contentious time at Chip Ganassi Racing. While he finished fifth at Pocono, Kanaan has finished outside the top fifteen in four of the last six races. His best finish on a road/street course this season was seventh at Barber and his only other top ten finish on a road/street course was tenth in the second Belle Isle race. He has not made it out of the first round of qualifying since the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and his only Fast Six appearance this season was at St. Petersburg. Kanaan has started in the top ten in six of his seven Watkins Glen starts and he has completed 413 of a possible 415 laps at the track.
James Hinchcliffe trails Kanaan by 14 points and the Canadian is coming off an eighth place finish at Gateway, his best oval finish of the season. Hinchcliffe's best finish on a natural-terrain road course this season was sixth at Barber but he did pick up a victory, three podium finishes and four top ten finishes from the five street course races this season. Hinchcliffe was in contention for a podium finish last year at Watkins Glen before he ran out of fuel on the final lap and stopped prior to the final corner. He was classified with an 18th-place finish.
Fourteen points behind Hinchcliffe is Ryan Hunter-Reay. While he retired from Gateway after hitting the wall while in the top ten, Hunter-Reay has been on a good run of form. He had four consecutive top ten finishes prior to Gateway, which was led off with a third place finish at Iowa, and he has gone from 15th to 11th in the championship since Road America. Hunter-Reay won at Watkins Glen in 2008, his first start at the track and he started third that day. In his three Watkins Glen starts since that victory he has started 16th twice and he started 19th last year. His finishes in those three races were 21st, seventh and 14th.
Max Chilton is a point behind Hunter-Reay in 12th. The British driver has finished outside the top ten in four of the last five races and he is coming off the back of two consecutive retirements, something that had only happened once prior in his career when he retired from both Belle Isle races last season. Three of Chilton's five top ten finishes this season have come on road/street course race with two of those being on natural-terrain road courses. Chilton's only top five finish this year remains his fourth in the Indianapolis 500. He finished tenth at Watkins Glen last year after starting sixth.
Like Chilton, Marco Andretti has finished outside the top ten in four of the last five races but Andretti has completed all but two laps in that five race stretch, both coming at Iowa and Andretti has finished 11th consecutive races since he was caught up in the turn one lap one accident at Phoenix. Also like Chilton, Andretti best finish this season is fourth and it came at Toronto for the American. Andretti has 322 points from the first 15 races. He had three consecutive fifth place finishes at Watkins Glen from 2007 to 2009. Andretti has completed 300 consecutive laps at Watkins Glen.
Jack Harvey returns for his second career IndyCar start and his road course debut as the British driver will be in the #7 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Harvey made his debut in the Indianapolis 500 just over three months ago in collaboration with Andretti Autosport and Michael Shank Racing.
Harvey ran two seasons with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in Indy Lights. He finished second in the Indy Lights championship both years. He lost the 2014 title on tiebreaker to Gabby Chaves. Both drivers had won four races but Chaves had five runner-up finishes while Harvey only had finished runner-up once. In 2015, Harvey won the Freedom 100 and the first race of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend and he had six runner-up finishes but he failed to finish on the podium in the final six races and lost the championship by 27 points to Spencer Pigot.
Prior to Harvey's move to the United States, he drove in the GP3 Series in 2013 with Carlin and he finished fifth in the championship behind Daniil Kvyat, teammates Facu Regalia and Conor Daly and Tio Ellinas. Harvey's two victories that season came at Silverstone and Monza. He won the 2012 British Formula Three championship over the likes of Jazeman Jaafar, Félix Serrallés, Alex Lynn, Harry Tincknell, Carlos Sainz, Jr. and Pipo Derani.
Harvey has never competed at Watkins Glen.
Bourdais' Best Shot Back
Sébastien Bourdais made his IndyCar return last Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park and the Frenchman was able to complete all 248 laps and he finished tenth. While Honda was expected to struggle at the 1.25-mile oval, the manufacture has shown better on road courses this season than the short ovals but the high downforce expected for Watkins Glen will favor the Chevrolets.
Bourdais finished in the top ten in three of his four road/street course starts this season with the lone exception being the Grand Prix of Indianapolis because his engine went sour after three laps. He did qualify sixth for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the second-best Honda on the grid.
Last year was Bourdais' first IndyCar start at Watkins Glen. He started third and he finished fifth. He did make three starts at Watkins Glen in Grand-Am competition. He finished third in the 2012 6 Hours of the Glen and he finished second in a two-hour race held on the short course during the NASCAR weekend later that season; both races were with Starworks. He finished eighth in the 2013 6 Hours of the Glen with 8 Star Motorsports.
Prior to Bourdais' injury, Dale Coyne Racing had five top ten finishes from the first five races, including double top ten finishes for the team in the first two races. During Bourdais' absence, the team scored three top ten finishes in nine races. Ed Jones and Esteban Gutiérrez each advanced to the second round of road/street course qualifying once during Bourdais' absence. Bourdais made it out of the first round of qualifying in three of his four road/street course starts but the one race he didn't advance from round one was St. Petersburg and he won that race from 21st on grid.
Last year, Dale Coyne Racing had the best finishing Honda at Watkins Glen with Conor Daly finishing fourth and the team had a double top ten finish with RC Enerson finishing ninth.
This will be the 17th IndyCar race on September 3rd and first since 2000 when Paul Tracy won at Vancouver.
Watkins Glen is the site of A.J. Foyt Racing's most recent podium finish on a natural-terrain road course. Darren Manning finished second to Ryan Hunter-Reay in the 2008 Watkins Glen race.
Carlos Muñoz has finished tenth and ninth in the last two races. The last Foyt driver to finish three consecutive races in the top ten was Takuma Sato, who finished in the top ten in the final two races in 2015, at Pocono and Sonoma, and at the 2016 season opener at St. Petersburg.
J.R. Hildebrand won at Watkins Glen in Indy Lights in 2009. Hildebrand is the only driver entered for this race to have won at Watkins Glen in Indy Lights.
Spencer Pigot has finished outside the top ten in his last four starts. The longest stretch without a top ten finish in Pigot's career is five races, the first five races of his career.
Charlie Kimball finished sixth at Watkins Glen last year and he finished in the top ten in the final three races last year.
The driver who has led the most laps has won 11 of the first 15 races this season. The previous most races won in a season by the driver who led the most laps in the DW12-era were ten in 2013.
Six of ten Watkins Glen races have been won by the driver who led the most laps including the last three races.
Honda has won five of ten Watkins Glen races. Last year's victory by Dixon was the first for Chevrolet at the track.
Dixon set the track record last year in the third round of qualifying with a time of 82.5259 seconds (147.008 MPH).
Dixon also set the record for widest margin of victory at Watkins Glen with a 16.5308-second gap over Josef Newgarden.
The average and median starting position for a Watkins Glen winner is 2.5.
All ten Watkins Glen races have been won from one of the first two rows.
The pole-sitter has won the last two Watkins Glen races.
Scott Dixon won from fourth at Watkins Glen in 2005 and 2006; the furthest back a Watkins Glen winner has started.
The average number of lead changes at Watkins Glen is 5.444 with a median of five.
Last year's race matched the record for most lead changes at Watkins Glen with eight lead changes.
The fewest number of lead changes at Watkins Glen is four.
The average number of cautions at Watkins Glen is 3.555 with a median of four. The average number of caution laps is 10.333 with a median of seven.
Scott Dixon and Hélio Castroneves are both one top five finish away from 140 top five finishes in their careers and breaking a tie with Michael Andretti for fifth all-time in top five finishes.
Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 36 laps to reach the 900 laps led milestone.
Takuma Sato needs to lead 22 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.
Alexander Rossi needs to lead ten laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.
Chevrolet domination and more specifically the Team Penske domination continues. It will be another race with the top four in qualifying being swept by Team Penske. Simon Pagenaud wins the race. Will Power finishes second. Josef Newgarden comes home in the top five. At least two Hondas make the Fast Six and those two Hondas come from two different teams. The margin of victory will be less than five seconds. Jack Harvey is the top rookie finisher. Sleeper: Spencer Pigot.