The NTT Indycar Series returns to on track action after a break that saw lots of offtrack action. In the week ahead of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway Indycar announced a plan to implement a hybrid component to the new engine in 2022, and McLaren joined the series as part of the former Arrow Schmidt Peterson team. The shock waves from the McLaren announcement are still being felt.
Like the recent announcements, this year’s Pocono race has more questions than answers. Will the race be on the 2020 schedule? Is Pocono going to be on the schedule every three years, as I have heard? Will Richmond replace this event next year?
Having a race at a track every three years destroys date equity. Attendance has been an issue for Pocono since it returned to the schedule. I have heard reports of an uptick in ticket sales for this year. How do you keep fans interested for the next two years with no race? If the series races at one track every three years, do they race somewhere else for two years then take a break from that track? That leaves two tracks without date equity and a struggle to build a fan base. I don’t think returning to tracks every two or three years is in Indycar’s best interests. End of rant, back to the race.
Getting back on track will be a welcome relief to many. There is still a close championship to decide. Josef Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by just 16 points, Simon Pagenaud is 47 points off the lead, and Scott Dixon has pulled to within 62 points. With four races left, the title is too close to call.
The 2019 race will be the 26th Indycar race at Pocono. The series first raced at the triangular track from 1971-1989, but then didn’t return until 2013. Juan Pablo Montoya drove the fastest 500 mile race in history in 2014, averaging 202.402 miles an hour. he is the only driver to win at this track from the pole since the series returned. Be4tween 1971 and 1989 the pole winner won the race 6 times. A. J. Foyt and Rick Mears each won twice from the pole.
Will Power won two in a row in 2016 and 2017. He finished second last year. There have been five different winners the last six years. Rossi dominated last year’s race after the red flag for Robert Wickens’s accident. Rossi finished third in 2017.
There have been some tragic incidents at the track the last four years. In addition to Wickens’s crash last year, Justin Wilson lost his life in a freak accident in 2015. A piece from another car flew the air and struck Wilson in the head. I hope NBCSN doesn’t show either of theses incidents during the race coverage. In the oepening of the Toronto race the network showed one still of Wickens just before his car left the track. I felt that was tasteful enough. Let’s leave it at that.
This will be an intriguing weekend. Power has been the best driver at Pocono for the last three years, and he is still looking for his first win of the season. Should he get back to the top of the podium, he takes points away from his teammates Newgarden and Pagenaud. Chevrolet should have a power advantage this weekend, although the six races since 2013 are evenly split between Honda and Chevy.
I look for Alexander Rossi to win his second straight ABC Supply 500 and close the gap on Newgarden. He could possibly take the points lead, but probably not by a lot. Power will again be strong and likely grab a podium spot.