WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Scott Dixon picked up right where he left off and continued his mastery of Watkins Glen Int’l on Friday, leading the overall practice charts for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen after two sessions.
A year after pacing every practice session, winning the pole position and leading 50 of 60 laps on his way to victory, Dixon topped the end-of-day speed chart on the iconic road course.
The driver of the No. 9 NTT Data Honda sped around the 11-turn, 3.37-mile circuit in 1 minute, 22.6187 seconds (146.843 mph), less than a tenth of a second off the track record he set in capturing the pole in qualifying last year.
“I just really enjoy it,” Dixon said of Watkins Glen. “It’s a fun place, man. It’s extremely fast. It’s definitely some pretty high-risk situations.”
“For me, the tracks of the current day are nothing like these. It’s a lot of fun to come here. I think (we’re) very fortunate for all INDYCAR and the competitors to come back to a circuit like this.”
Dixon’s win at the Glen last year was his fourth in seven Verizon IndyCar Series races during the current era of competition at the track in upstate New York, which began in 2005.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is hoping to use today’s results as a springboard toward his fifth Indy car championship. He trails Josef Newgarden — who was 11th overall in practice — by 31 points with two races to go.
“For us, the biggest thing we’ve got to do is just focus on our race, go out there, try and win,” Dixon said. “If we can win, that takes care of a lot of situations.”
Will Power, the 2010 Watkins Glen race winner, was second fastest in the afternoon session with a lap of 1:22.7129 (146.676 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon/Team Penske Chevrolet.
“We learned a lot today,” Power said. “The Verizon Chevy was pretty good. It was good to get a feel of the (Firestone alternate) red tires versus the (primary) black tires. I feel like the course has changed a little over the last year, but it’s still super-fast.”
Rounding out the top five were Graham Rahal (1:22.9716/146.219), Simon Pagenaud (1:23.0915/146.008) and Alexander Rossi (1:23.1124/145.971).
Earlier in the day, Andretti Autosport announced the team has signed Rossi and sponsor NAPA Auto Parts to a multi-year extension for 2018 and beyond.
Eight drivers — Newgarden, Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Pagenaud, Power, Rahal, Rossi and Takuma Sato — remain mathematically eligible to win this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Of those, only Dixon (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015), Pagenaud (2016) and Power (2014) are past champions.
Qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Watkins Glen takes place Saturday at 3 p.m.
Full practice results can be viewed on the next page…