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What to watch for: IndyCar at Milwaukee (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

Aug 17, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

A TIRE-ING SITUATION

Milwaukee’s flat corners and constant traffic are challenging enough in themselves, but tire degradation is also going to be something drivers must watch throughout this afternoon. Track position is always critical at Milwaukee, and looking after a set of Firestones will be important in maintaining spots up front. But if there’s a late caution, don’t be surprised if most choose to hit the pits and get fresh rubber ahead of the last sprint to the checkered flag. It worked for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden in Iowa, after all.

CHAMPIONSHIP DASH TO FONTANA BEGINS

Three races. Three different types of tracks. Three weeks. It’s an ideal way to cap off what’s been another solid Verizon IndyCar Series championship battle, and this critical stretch begins today in Milwaukee. Will Power extended his lead over Helio Castroneves to five points with his pole run yesterday, but neither Team Penske driver has won before at this old oval. If one of them can change that today, it will mean a critical boost of momentum. Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay (third, -64 points) and Simon Pagenaud (fourth, -65 points) need to make sizable points gains today if they want to stay in the title picture.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING?

So far this Verizon IndyCar Series season, we’ve seen 10 different drivers claim victories: Will Power, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter, Carlos Huertas, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and our most recent victor, Scott Dixon. Should another driver step up and take a win in these final three races of the season, it will tie an open-wheel record for most winners in a single season (the 2000 and 2001 CART campaigns each had 11 different winners). And as noted this past week, there’s a lot of quality drivers that are still winless in 2014…

ANDRETTI TEAM GOES FOR MILWAUKEE TRIFECTA

Since its Andretti Sports Marketing offshoot took over operations of IndyCar’s annual visit to Milwaukee in 2012, the Andretti Autosport team has claimed back to back wins at the famous speedway with Ryan Hunter-Reay. But after a sub-par qualifying session yesterday (Marco Andretti will lead the team from ninth on the grid), they’re gonna have to work hard today in order to claim its third consecutive win in Milwaukee. As for RHR himself, he’ll have to go off from 19th on a day that could well determine if he’ll be contending for a second IndyCar title.

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