Josef Newgarden leads the IndyCar Series standings by just two points heading into the qualifying section of the 2018 Indy 500, a pressure-filled weekend that could dictate whether he keeps his place on the perch.
The marquee event of Indy racing returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week, and Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi is the man hot on Newgarden's heels in second.
The official IndyCar Series Twitter account provided a full breakdown of the drivers' list for this year's race ahead of qualifying:
We take a look at some of the top contenders and names to keep an eye on during the qualifying section at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, complete with television schedule and live-stream information.
Qualifying Weekend Schedule
Saturday, May 19
9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET: Practice (All)
12 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. ET: Qualifying (Positions 1-9, ESPN 3)
Sunday, May 20
12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. ET: Practice (Positions 10-33)
1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET: Practice (Fast 9)
2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. ET: Qualifying (Positions 10-33, ABC)
5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. ET: Qualifying (Fast 9, ABC)
Viewers in the United States can live-stream portions of qualifying weekend via WatchESPN.
After more than 80 months away from IndyCar racing, 36-year-old Patrick will stage her farewell on the sport's biggest stage of all. But despite her age, the veteran will be competing for all the marbles, sentiment or no sentiment.
She said after announcing her contention that victory would be the best note on which to sign off, regardless of the stars of today competing in the field, via Autoweek's Matt Weaver:
She'll drive on behalf of Ed Carpenter Racing but won't be the only woman gaining attention during qualifying, with Londoner Pippa Mann also set to take part for the sixth year in succession.
As was the case in her less-involved 2017 season, this will be Mann's first race of the season, and the pair received well-wishes from fellow professional driver Leilani Munter ahead of qualifying:
But neither Patrick nor Mann will be fancied to take a prominent place among the Fast 9 come Sunday. Newgarden has won two of the last four races this year, and his finish of 11th at the IndyCar Grand Prix last Sunday was his first time ending outside the top seven.
The 27-year-old Team Penske sensation will again be viewed as the man to keep at bay, and he's given the impression he's out to set records in this year's Indy:
Already familiar with the conditions at Indianapolis following the Grand Prix, it would be a surprise if Newgarden didn't improve his results this time around, and the early signs are he'll do just that:
IndyCar Series @IndyCar
.@josefnewgarden opened the day with a Qual Sim and the last two laps of his four were the fastest of the month. By anyone.👀 P1🥇 227.998 mph Welcome to Fast Friday.💨 WATCH LIVE 🎥 📈 https://t.co/SAdeSxSfa7 📲 @verizon INDYCAR Mobile #INDYCAR // #Indy500 // #ThisIsMay https://t.co/TobfbzQA9N
The Grand Prix of Alabama in April was the only race this season in which Newgarden has managed to claim pole position, with Rossi in second and third-placed Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais also taking one apiece.
With only two points separating the top contenders, the Indy 500 could be the race in which 2017 IndyCar Series champion Newgarden either stages his release from the chasing pack or sees his lead cut down from under him.