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

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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.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.