Astor Cup

The final march to the NTT IndyCar Series championship is on, and the following is a primer to what will be at stake Sept. 22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca when the checkered flag falls for the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey:

The venue: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is an 11-turn, 2.238-mile permanent road course which opened in 1957 and is located 10 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and the town of Monterey, Calif. It has hosted various forms of motorsports over the years, including its first Indy car race in 1983 (won by Teo Fabi). The most recent race was in 2004 (won by Patrick Carpentier).

The championship combatants: Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing is a longshot. Newgarden is seeking his second championship in three years. Pagenaud’s only title came in 2016. Rossi’s best season came last year when he finished second to Dixon, who captured his fifth INDYCAR title.

The standings and what they mean:

Newgarden: 593 points

Rossi: 552 points

Pagenaud: 551 points

Dixon: 509 points

Newgarden wins the title if he scored 63 points in this double-points-paying race. With no bonus points factored in, Newgarden only needs to finish fourth or better to claim the Astor Cup.

The Astor Cup: It was first awarded to an INDYCAR champion in 2011 (to Dario Franchitti). Originally, it was commissioned by Vincent Astor for a 350-mile race on a 2-mile board track in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. That inaugural race was held in October 1915 with a purse of $50,000 (a figure, by the way, that matched the Indianapolis 500 purse of that year). The Stutz team outlasted a field of 20 to win in 3 hours, 24 minutes, 42 seconds. The names of all Indy car champions are laser-etched into the three black granite bases supporting the sterling silver trophy that keeps a permanent home in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The winning driver and team receive a replica trophy.

INDYCAR Champions in Astor Cup era:

2011: Dario Franchitti, Chip Ganassi Racing

2012: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport

2013: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing

2014: Will Power, Team Penske

2015: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing

2016: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske

2017: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

2018: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing

Finale Broadcasts: Television coverage will begin on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT local) with the green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).