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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from ABC Supply 500 at Pocono

The Big Picture:  It’s a sprint to the finish for the remainder of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Four races to go including Pocono, with two ovals and two fabulous road courses. Pocono is a late-comer in the schedule but has much to offer the series in terms of being a competitive venue.

Event:  And yet, NASCAR also runs here, and in front of much larger crowds than IndyCar draws. If the series and the track are willing to take the time to build this into a quality event, the bones are there.

Qualifying:  It looked for some time as if Simon Pagenaud was going to take the pole with his two blistering laps. Then Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed during his run, injuring himself in the process. The only driver left to go was RHR’s teammate, Takuma Sato. Whether it was timing or track conditions, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 victor easily picked up pole position.

Race: The ABC Supply 500 may just be the event of the year. There were 42 lead changes among 10 different competitors, adding suspense with fans continuing to try and guess the winner almost until the end.  Four drivers led more than 30 laps: Scott Dixon, 51; Alexander Rossi, 44; Will Power, 34; and Tony Kanaan, 32. They all had solid performances and would have been deserving victors. Power prevailed, though, for  his 32nd IndyCar  triumph to put him  in sole possession of ninthplace in overall victories in series history. In addition, the Australian is the first ICS driver to win backtoback at Pocono.

Biggest Surprise:  Will Power’s come from behind victory. First, he had to pit for a broken front wing assembly on Lap 66, putting him a lap down. Later, he had to pit for a new rear wing. But he was able to get back on the lead lap and fight his way through the field, finally retaking the top spot for the final 10 laps.

Biggest Disappointment:  When the race was over.

Best Team:  Team Penske, mostly because they won the race but also because the four drivers work well together.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  ABC Supply, in addition to being one of A.J. Foyt’s major sponsors, also sponsored the race.

What We Learned:  That Will Power is still as awesome as he ever was. That under the right conditions, superspeedway racing can be the most exciting way to compete. Also, that this race deserves some serious investment because the quality is there.

Schedule:  On August 26th, the final oval of the year, when IndyCar returns to Gateway for hopefully a great race under the lights.

Quotes of the Weekend:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “What a crazy day for us. I mean, we had a really strong car. The Verizon Chevrolet was getting back to the front, and then suddenly, boom, the wing broke. Lucky I didn’t hit the wall. We went a lap down, and then I was thinking to be smart and anything can happen. You get your lap back and get through the field, and that’s exactly what we did. So very, very good day. Once I got my lap back, I was like, all right, it’s game on. I can definitely get back up there. I was thinking like top 5, but when I was pumping out like 217 laps, I’m like, okay, we’re going to make some serious hay here. The crew guys did a fantastic job in the pits having to do all that and still able to go ahead and win the race.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’ve been through 500 miles plenty of times, but I’m just beat after this one. It was a great run though, we started with a lot of downforce since we started at the back of the field. Because we didn’t have a final practice or warmup after qualifying, it took a while to get the balance of the car right. We started really slicing our way through it and I thought ‘Hey, we really have something here.’ We were leading at halfway. I thought it was going to be a good end to the race, but we just didn’t get enough downforce out of (the car). I was getting big runs on guys, but just couldn’t complete it. But I’m really happy to just get back in the car today and put the effort forward. We put on a good showing for DHL and for the fans out here, and that’s important. It was a test today; it was a mental test, no doubt, and a physical one as well. I was really glad to roll back into pit lane after the race and see the crew here with smiles on their faces.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): “The fuel mixture knob came off about two-thirds of the way through, so we didn’t have full power there at the end. We know these Honda engines have something for the competition. The Military to Motorsports car was great all day. The NAPA Know How crew was stellar all day. It’s a really good result, but when you come so close to a win, it’s sometimes difficult to swallow. Looking back to where we were at Pocono last year, when we had a strong car and didn’t finish, to come back to be on the podium is a testament to Andretti Autosport and the entire team and the work that they’ve done all year.”

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By Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.