Pocono Preview: Honda’s Last Stand?

The last super speedway of the year, Pocono usually produces one of the best races of the Indycar season.  There is no reason to believe this year’s version will be any different. At least one of the six drivers still in contention for the championship could be eliminated from the title race Sunday. The rest will still be tightly bunched heading to Gateway next weekend.

Like Indianapolis, this is a track where Honda should have a huge advantage. Hondas were very strong here last year only to be taken out by mechanical issues and a pit road incident. Will Power in a Chevy for Team Penske won the 2016 event with some brilliant pit work.  A particular track’s supposed advantage for one engine or the other hasn’t followed form at times this year.  The remaining tracks should favor Chevrolet. This is Honda’s last best chance for a race win in 2017.

Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal are the two Honda drivers in the points battle. Both should be very strong this weekend. Dixon has had some annoying bad luck at times this season, but a second  win this season is not out of the question. Rahal has had a consistent run of top 5 finishes. While he may not win, he will likely finish well enough to keep his title hopes alive.

This is the type of track Andretti Autosport lives for.  The team has won abck to back Indianapolis 500’s and Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race here in 2015. Hunter-Reay appeared to have the race in hand last year until an engine hiccup cut the power for a few seconds.

Of the six title contenders, four are the Team Penske drivers. Josef Newgarden is the only driver to have three wins this year and just one of two drivers to have back to back wins.  A good run Sunday could stretch his points lead.  Teammate Helio Castroneves trails by Newgarden by just seven points, but he is only one ahead of Dixon and ten ahead of Simon Pagenaud. Castroneves has to look both ahead and behind  Rahal and Power, on the other hand, just need to finish as high as they can and ahead of as many of the top four as possible.

I think a Honda car will prevail here and it won’t be someone in the title hunt in Victory Circle. Look for Ryan Hunter-Reay to get his first win since this event in 2015. The fun part of his winning would be an even tighter points battle among the leaders.  Then we look for Gateway to sort things out.

My Pocono recap will be out Tuesday as I am hunting the great eclipse Monday going south and west. I will likely not see the race until Monday night. I will also have  a review of the McLaren documentary, which I saw last night. When it comes to your area, run, don’t walk to see it.


News and Notes

Sebastian Saavedra will be in the number7 car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this weekend and at Gateway. It sounds like these races may be an audition for 2018.  No word on who will drive the car for Watkins Glen or Sonoma. Robert Wickens is thought to be a strong candidate.

Sebastien Bourdais has been cleared to drive by medical personnel. Bourdais tested at mid-Ohio the day after the Indycar race and reached Fast six speeds. He will probably be back for Sonoma. Watkins Glen is a slim possibility as well.

That is all the Seb news I have.

Gabby Chaves returns to Pocono in the 88 Harding Racing car. Look for him to have another strong finish and possibly steal some points from one or two of the top six.  Chaves has top 10s in both his starts this year.

Your favorite driver is likely in a blue and white car this weekend.  There are 8 cars carrying that color scheme and the AJ Foyt cars also have blue and white with red thrown in.  I pity the media announcers.

It looks like another low attendance weekend for Pocono.  Will 2018 be the last race here?