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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vasser Drives To Keep Edge In Standings

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin -- The championship battle in the PPG IndyCar World Series is beginning to feel like a tug-of-war for Jimmy Vasser.

The 30-year-old racer has led the standings since winning the season-opening race at Homestead, Florida, and he will carry a 17-point edge into this weekend's Texaco-Havoline 200 at Road America.

At first, it looked like he was going to glide to his first series title with a minimum of disruption, winning four of the first six races and moving out to a 44-point lead over then-second place Scott Pruett.

That's when the struggle began, with Vasser working hard just to place in the top 12 and earn points each race. Meanwhile, two-time series champion Al Unser Jr. and Vasser's rookie teammate Alex Zanardi were hitting their stride.

Unser, who has not won a race this season but has been a model of consistency, moved within one point of Vasser going into last week's race at Mid-Ohio.

Unser crashed on the last lap at Mid-Ohio and finished out of the points, while Vasser was second behind Zanardi. But Unser remains second in the standings, trailing the leader 128-111 with three races remaining.

The red-hot Zanardi has boosted himself into championship contention in the last five races, winning two and finishing second in two others. He is now third in the standings, just ahead of Brazilians Christian Fittipaldi and Gil de Ferran and only 34 points behind Vasser.

"It has been a hard pull, real back and forth," Vasser said. "I had a huge lead after the U.S. 500 [on May 26] and it evaporated pretty quickly. Seventeen points is not much. We've just got to take it one race at a time.

After Sunday's race, the remaining events this season are in Vancouver, Canada on Sept. 1 and Monterey, California, on Sept. 8.

Practice and provisional qualifying will be held Friday on the 6.346-kilometer, 11-turn permanent road course that winds through the rolling hills of central Wisconsin.