After two weeks off, the Verizon IndyCar Series is back in action this weekend for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (1:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network). There are only four races remaining in the season, so this weekend’s race at the Pocono Raceway is jam packed with some interesting storylines.
Here are the top five.
With this just being the third race that this universal aerokit has raced on in terms of superspeedway action, Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 is still widely an unknown wildcard in how it will play out. But, after how May’s Indianapolis 500 went and how this race has kind of gone the last few years, it appears that Chevrolet may be the favorites to beat for this weekend’s race at the Pocono Raceway.
See, Chevy drivers dominated at Indy. They had the top two finishers and three of the top six. Overall, Chevy drivers led 150 of the 200 laps. In qualifying, they swept the entire front row and had seven of the top eight starters. While Texas went a bit differently for them in the race, Sunday’s race at Pocono has more parallels to Indy than that of Texas.
For starters, Texas was run at night and saw a track get more grip as the race went on. Pocono, will run in the heat of the day like Indy did. Indy and Pocono are flat 2.5-mile ovals with similar turns and banking where Texas is vastly different.
Over the last two years at Pocono, Chevrolet won each race with Will Power reaching victory lane in both. They’ve actually won three of the last four years at the Tricky Triangle.
So, if you combine what we already know from this universal aerokit and apply what happened at Indy as well as how Pocono has gone lately, the bowties are the ones to beat for Sunday’s race.
Will Sunday’s Race Be A Lot Like Indy
While I touched on Chevrolet’s power above, will the race itself mirror Indy’s in terms of action. See, over the past few years of the aerokit era, Indy and Pocono produced a ton of passing. There were 33 lead changes in this race in 2015. In 2016, there were 29 more. Last year, we saw 42 passes for the lead.
Indy was the same way in that era.
From 2012 through 2017, there were 30+ lead changes in every ‘500.
But, this past year, while we saw 30 lead changes, only a couple of them were actual passes on track for the lead. Unlike the years past that saw that slingshot passing for the top spot, this past year’s Indy 500 saw a lot of single file action with passing being difficult.
Credit this new car and the heat for that.
The new car allowed cars to close up better than ever before, but when cars got a run, they’d slideout towards the wall in the corners. You couldn’t follow as close as you’d like which in turn hurt the passing. Some drivers liked it saying this is the way racing should be. Others thought they needed to add more downforce which would allow for better action.
The series is bringing some different packages to try out this weekend to help allow the racing to be closer at Pocono than it was at Indy, as some of the reasons for the lack of passing at Indy goes to the race being the second hottest ever. A hot and slick track didn’t produce a ton of grip either, so less downforce and less grip mean drivers are skating around more.
There were seven cautions for 41 laps at Indy. All for crashes. Will we see that on Sunday? Other than 12 yellows in 2015, the INDYCAR race at Pocono has had 10 combined cautions in the other four races. There were only two in 2013, one in 2014, four in 2016 and just three last year.
This race has the potential to see a lot of green flag running.
I wrote about this during the Month of May at Indy but it has to come up again as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads towards the Pocono Raceway this weekend. Will Power is the best oval racer in the series today. Yes, Will Power.
A few years ago, this statement would have knocked fans off their feet. See, out of Power’s 34 career INDYCAR wins, 27 have come on road and street courses. He’s arguably one of the best drivers ever on those circuits. AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Al Unser Sr. have 29 combined road course wins. Michael Andretti has 28. Scott Dixon has 24. Those are the top five drivers on the all-time INDYCAR wins list.
While 19 of his first 20 INDYCAR wins came on road/street courses, four of his last six have been on ovals. Furthermore, he’s won the last three of the last four superspeedway INDYCAR races and four out of the last five. Also, since 2013, the series has hosted 32 races on ovals, Power has won six of them, most out of any driver.
As we head towards Sunday’s race, Power is certainly a favorite. He dominated the Indy 500 back in May in leading 59 of 200 laps. He won in each of the last two years at the Tricky Triangle. He has finished outside the top four in four of his five Pocono starts. He’s also had his No. 12 Chevrolet out front in every Pocono race as well with laps led of 15, 69, 2, 55 and 34 respectively.
He is coming off of a sixth place finish at Iowa and third place run two weeks ago in Mid-Ohio. There’s reason to believe Power will win on Sunday.
Pocono is the start of the final push for the championship. This weekend marks the first of the final four races, three of which all consecutively between now and Labor Day. This is the final superspeedway, while next week we race on a short oval in Gateway. After that, it’s to two natural terrain road courses to close out the season.
Currently, Scott Dixon leads Alexander Rossi by 46 points. The defending champion Josef Newgarden is 60 points out in third, while his Team Penske teammate of Will Power is 87 points behind the lead in fourth. Ryan Hunter-Reay is arguably the last driver with a shot of winning the title as he’s fifth, 95 points behind Dixon.
They all will have shots of winning on Sunday too which creates more pressure on them because they all know the others could have top five days this weekend.
Dixon and Rossi have won the last two races of the season with Dixon winning at Toronto and Rossi two weeks ago in Mid-Ohio. Newgarden, dominated Iowa in leading 229 of 300 laps but didn’t win that day but he did win the race before that in Road America where he led all but two of the 55 laps. Power and Hunter-Reay have combined to win the last three trips to the Tricky Triangle with Hunter-Reay winning in 2015 and Power each of the last two years. Plus, Power won the Indy 500 back in May as well.
Dixon, won the other superspeedway race at Texas in June and has finishes of first, fifth, ninth, sixth and sixth respectively at Pocono. He was third at Indy in May too.
Rossi, finished fourth at Indy in May and third at Texas in June while also finishing third at Pocono last year.
Newgarden, has two runner-ups in his last three Pocono starts but finished eighth and 13th respectively on the two superspeedways this year.
Power, has led at least one lap in every race at Pocono and has four top four finishes in five tries.
Hunter-Reay has a win, a third and an eighth place run in his last three starts at Pocono and finished fifth in both superspeedway races in 2018.
As you can see, these are the five to beat for Sunday’s race and the points standings may not change a whole lot because all should have good days up front.