Will Power

FORT WORTH, Texas – The DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend is significant for the Verizon IndyCar Series season for several reasons.

As the ninth of 17 races on the 2018 schedule, Saturday’s nighttime event on the high-banked oval serves as the midpoint of the calendar. The first eight races have provided plenty of excitement, passing and unpredictability – with six different drivers winning at least one race and seven drivers claiming Verizon P1 Award honors in qualifying.

DXC TECHNOLOGY 600: Entry list; Weekend schedule

The championship standings heading into Texas bear out the tight competition. Team Penske’s Will Power holds the lead on the strength of his spectacular month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he won both the INDYCAR Grand Prix and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Power also arrives in Texas as the defending race champion.

"I'm really looking forward to going back to Texas,” said Power, who also finished second in Sunday’s closer of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader. “The team has really been on a roll with a lot of success in the past month and we are ready to keep doing that.

“The No. 12 Verizon Chevy team brought home a win last year at Texas and we feel strongly that we have another good shot at it. The fans are always a lot of fun there and really seem to enjoy the type of racing we get to do there."

Power, however, has just a five-point advantage on four-time champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, with Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi 11 points out of the lead. With more than 500 points still on the table in the last nine races, the title chase remains wide open.

The remaining schedule will provide a true test of a deserving champion. The last nine races consist of two on superspeedways (Texas and Pocono), two short ovals (Iowa and Gateway), four permanent road courses (Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Sonoma) and one temporary street circuit (Toronto). Whoever masters the most of those disciplines the best will be the driver to hoist the Astor Cup come September.

First up are 248 grueling laps in the grueling heat at Texas. Projected daily high temperatures are in the mid-90s on Friday and Saturday, with not much of a break when the race starts under the lights at approximately 8:40 p.m. ET Saturday.

Texas Motor Speedway is implementing additional safety measures for those attending this weekend, including the addition of air-conditioned cooling buses, trailers and stations for fans seeking relief. The drivers have no such luxury in the race.

"Texas is always an exciting race under the lights,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of Sunday’s second Detroit race in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. “The conditions this weekend will be very hot, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the racing.

“We have a few top-10s at Texas Motor Speedway, but it's a track we haven't been able to add to a win list yet. Coming off a strong weekend in Detroit for the DHL team, we're hoping to keep the momentum rolling."

On-track activity begins with a 90-minute practice starting at 12:30 p.m. ET Friday that streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Verizon P1 Award qualifying, consisting of two timed laps for each of the 22 cars, starts at 4 p.m. Friday and airs live on NBCSN. A final 60-minute twilight practice is set for 7:15 p.m. (streaming live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.)

Race coverage on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday. The first 20,000 fans through the gates on Saturday receive a James Hinchcliffe bobblehead. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver appeared pleased with his tiny lookalike in this video: