Alex Palou can do today at Portland International Raceway what no driver in this field has ever done, and that includes Scott Dixon, the most successful NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver of his generation and one of the best of all-time.
Palou can secure the series championship ahead of the season’s final race.
SEE: Starting Lineup/Tire Choice
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES has long prided itself on having competitive championships, and the streak of taking the title to the season’s final race stands at 15 seasons. That makes what Palou has done this season all the more impressive because drivers like Dixon, the only remaining challenger, consistently deliver outstanding performances.
Dixon has finished in the top seven of 14 of the 15 races this season, and last month he extended his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one race win to 19. In today’s BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland, he seeks a third consecutive race win.
However, Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) is likely to fall short of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, regardless of how he fares in the two remaining races. Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda) can clinch the title today by scoring 35 points, so any finish in the top three will do for him. Dixon must finish in the top two to have any chance of extending this battle to the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey next weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Palou’s march to the title begins from the fifth position, and it is the primary storyline of today’s 110-lap race. But there are many other situations to watch.
Coverage begins at 3 p.m. on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
The 35-lap INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Portland rolls off at 1:10 p.m. ET on Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE! and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
A Dixon Three-Peat?
A third Dixon race win in succession will be impressive and certainly vital to keeping his championship hopes alive, but it won’t be uncommon for him. He has put together similar streaks three times before (2007, 2013 and 2020). He will start fourth today.
Overshadowed by last week’s magnificent fuel-management victory in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway is the fact Dixon rose to No. 2 all time in career laps led. He has 6,699, seven more than Michael Andretti.
Mario Andretti leads the category with 7,595 laps, so that record figures to stand for a while.
Power on the Prowl
Will Power is the reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion, but he can no longer defend last year’s title.
The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who is seventh in the standings, is looking to climb a couple of positions and finish in the top five for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons (the 14th time in his career). But even more important is his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one race win.
Power’s total stands at 16 consecutive seasons dating to a pair of race wins in Champ Car in 2007. Only he and Dixon have series streaks of greater than 11 years.
Power’s next race win will give him 17 seasons with at least one win, tying Helio Castroneves’ current total (third place on the sport’s all-time list). Dixon now has a win in a record 21 seasons – remember, he’s 43 years old – while A.J. Foyt won at least one race in 18 seasons.
In the battle for fifth place in the standings, Power trails teammate Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet) by 38 points heading to the season’s penultimate race. McLaughlin starts second today, Power seventh.
Which Tires Best?
NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams always have two choices of Firestone Firehawk tire compounds on road courses and street circuits, and usually one is preferrable to the other. At this race, there appears to be no consensus.
Graham Rahal (No. 15 PeopleReady Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) used a set of the primary (black) compound to win the NTT P1 Award as the fastest qualifier as the other five drivers in the Firestone Fast Six went with a set of the traditionally quicker alternate (red) tires. It’s anyone’s guess which works better in the 110-lap race.
Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian) said if the blacks become the best option, Rahal has put a lot of wear on one set of his.
“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” the No. 3 qualifier said. “You have to be willing to give up a little bit strategy-wise to gain that pole. We thought the reds were going to be better (in qualifying). I think (the decision) probably was the best for us.”
There might not be spectacular views of nearby Mount Hood today due to the presence of clouds, but temperatures should be ideal – mid-70s – with lower humidity.
The series usually delivers fast lap times when conditions are like this, and this 12-turn, 1.964-mile permanent road course has a history of memorable finishes.
Mark Blundell’s last-straightaway pass of Gil de Ferran in 1997 stands as one of the most thrilling finishes in INDYCAR SERIES history. The margin was .027 of a second, the series’ smallest ever on a road course, and Raul Boesel was only a tick behind in the three-wide extravaganza at .055 of a second.
In 1986, Mario Andretti overtook the sputtering car of his son, Michael, in the closing yards to win the Father’s Day race by .07 of a second, still the second-closest road course margin in history. That was the only lap Mario led that day. Michael led 87 of the other 103 laps.
Could another fantastic finish be in the cards today? Be sure to tune in.