The coronavirus pandemic has given the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg a one-off honor.
Instead of serving as the IndyCar Series' season opener, it will serve as its championship race this weekend when Scott Dixon battles Josef Newgarden for the title. Dixon enters the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course as the favorite and will clinch his sixth career title by finishing ninth or better.
Here’s a look at the only two drivers still in contention for the 2020 crown:
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Previous IndyCar Series championships: Five (2003, ’08, ’13, ’15, ’18)
Career victories: 50 (third-most all-time, behind only Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt for the most ever)
Best Grand Prix finish: Second (2006-07, 2012, 2019)
How he got here: Dixon won the first three races of the season, then finished in the top five in five of the next six races (including a win in the first part of the doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis). That let him build up enough of a lead to overcome some recent struggles (four straight finishes of eighth or worse) and make him the favorite coming into one of the few tracks where he has never won.
What a win would mean: A sixth career championship would put him one behind Foyt for the most in North American open-wheel racing history. It would also further his reputation as one of the most dominant athletes of his era.
Fast facts: Has driven for Ganassi for 19 years — a remarkable achievement in an often transient sport and series. … Won the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and was a strong contender this year, too. … Has at least one victory in 16 consecutive seasons.
Team: Team Penske
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Previous IndyCar Series championships: Two (2017, ’19)
Career victories: 17
Best Grand Prix finish: First (2019)
How he got here: Newgarden fell back to fifth in points through four races before finding his stride. He led 215 of the 250 laps at Iowa in July and added two more victories and a second-place finish along the way to keep Dixon from pulling away.
What a win would mean: He’d become the first driver to win two consecutive titles since Dario Franchitti won three in a row (2009-11). Newgarden’s third career championship would move him into a tie for sixth all time, behind only Foyt, Dixon, Andretti, Franchitti and St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais.
Fast facts: Climbed through the Road to Indy feeder series to get to IndyCar and won the championship in Indy Lights —the equivalent of Triple-A baseball — in 2011. … Led 60 of the 110 laps to win last year’s Grand Prix after starting second. … Has also appeared on American Ninja Warrior.