Scott Dixon

FONTANA, Calif. – Most Verizon IndyCar Series drivers prepped for the 250-lap MAVTV 500 by logging about 40 percent of the race distance during an Aug. 27 Open Test on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval.

Helio Castroneves, who enters the season finale 51 points shy of championship front-runner and Team Penske teammate Will Power, covered almost every square yard of the racing surface in totaling a field-high 142 laps during the five hours of track time.

Scott Dixon was fastest over the two sessions that covered the day/night running of the Aug. 30 race, and happy hour started at 9:30 p.m. (Pacific). Dixon recorded a best lap of 219.462 mph (32.8075 seconds). But he wasn’t clear of the field by much – less than two-tenths of a second separated the top 13 cars.

Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske car was second (219.159 mph) while Ed Carpenter, who has finished first and second the past two years at the superspeedway, was third (219.115 mph) in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka entry for Ed Carpenter Racing.

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Castroneves, driving the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske car, was fifth on the speed chart (218.996) and Power was ninth (218.364) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

Drivers resume their pursuit of speed for qualifications at 1 p.m. (ET) Aug. 29 in the first practice session. Watch it live on, augmented by real-time Timing & Scoring and the IMS Radio Network broadcast with Paul Page. Single-car qualifying is at 5:15 p.m. (ET), followed by a 30-minute practice at 9:15 p.m. (ET). Watch the race live at 9 p.m. (ET) Aug. 30 on NBCSN.

“It’s always a really tough race here. The cool thing is there are so many different lines for some exciting racing for the fans,” said Dixon, who wrapped up the 2013 series title at Auto Club Speedway in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

He also was fastest in the first session (217.225 mph; 33.1454 seconds).

“Our car felt pretty good,” Dixon added. “We’ll try to close out the year on a positive note and carry momentum into next year. Third place in the championship is in our grasp.”

Dixon is fifth in the standings – 22 points out of third place -- entering the double-points race. Power, Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are the candidates for the championship.

Pagenaud posted a fast lap of 217.142 mph on 93 laps, but his evening ended early as the No. 77 car made contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier.

“I was coming out of the pit lane as I’ve been doing the same thing all day long and I spun,” said Pagenaud, who was checked at the infield care center and released. “We need to see if everything is OK on the car, but certainly it didn’t feel the same as normal. It’s unfortunate, but the car is fast and that’s a good thing. It’s a shame. We would have liked to do a bit more testing.”