The most grueling stretch of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule wraps up on Saturday night with the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s the end of five straight weeks of on-track competition, including the Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend, and leads into only the second off week since April (counting the Indy 500 open test weekend at the end of that month).
While the drivers and teams prepare for a long-awaited and well-deserved weekend of rest, we’ve got one more chance to see them in action before the reset. Texas also marks the halfway point of the 17-round season, meaning that the drivers on top of the standings coming out of this Saturday’s action will likely be the championship favorites for the rest of the year. Here are five names that fans will want to follow closely over the weekend:
Last Week’s Winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay
With apologies to Scott Dixon (who we’ll get to later), Hunter-Reay was the real winner of the weekend by not only snapping a nearly three-year winless streak on Sunday, but also adding a runner-up result on Saturday. The Andretti Autosport driver, the only one to podium on both days of the event, used the strong results to climb to an impressive fourth in the IndyCar standings, putting himself within striking distance of current leader Will Power, Dixon in second, and teammate Alexander Rossi in third.
Last Year’s Winner: Will Power
Last week’s Superstar Spotlight discussed the hard work that Power has put in to go from a strong preference for road course races to one of the sport’s best all-rounders. That effort paid off for the first time here at Texas in 2011, as he took his maiden oval victory, and led into a 2017 season where he actually won more races on ovals than the twisties. Coming into this weekend as both the defending race winner and championship leader, Power could be tough to beat on Saturday night.
Consistent Contender: Tony Kanaan
Now this would be a remarkably popular victory: Kanaan, whose 11 top fives and 15 top 10s in 18 Texas starts, taking his first win for A.J. Foyt Enterprises in Super Tex’s home state. The Brazilian driver and former IndyCar champion has only won once here, back in 2004, despite the incredibly strong record. But he’s completed all but three possible laps here since his first start at the track in 2003, and to finish first—especially at a high-speed oval like this one—first, you must finish.
On a Hot Streak: Scott Dixon
What is there to say about Dixon that hasn’t already been said before? The man gets results, and he did just that by placing first and fourth in the Detroit doubleheader. Those finishes, as well as top-six runs in every event but Long Beach so far this season, have helped him climb to second in the championship coming into Texas. After two straight crash-related DNFs here, though, he’d love nothing more than to take his third victory at this track, joining previous wins in 2008 and 2015.
On the Hot Seat?: Sebastien Bourdais
Bourdais’ win in St. Petersburg to start the season and a pair of top fives on the road courses in Alabama and Indianapolis have him in the top 10 in the standings, but his championship stock has begun to fall after a DNF in the Indy 500 and two disappointing results in Detroit. Now ninth in the standings, he’ll be tasked with turning it around in Texas, at a track where he’s taken only one top 10 finish in the past five years, and didn’t compete at last season due to injury.