Stories abound as Will Power continued his strong, late 2016 charge at Pocono as he claimed the top spot at the end of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The win comes at no better time as Power continues his championship assault on teammate Simon Pagenaud, who crashed out during the race. Completing the podium was Mikhail Aleshin who led 87 laps, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started from the last position on track. Josef Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais completed the top 5.
Rain throughout Sunday forced officials to postpone the start of the ABC Supply 500 one day, but the fans didn’t allow that to stop them from enjoying Monday’s main event. Members of the media and paddock lauded the hearty IndyCar fan base for showing up in impressive numbers on everyone’s least favorite day of the week.
The pause in action may have been a gentle reminder from Mother Nature to pay respects to those dear to the motorsports community that have been lost in the last year. Pocono weekend represents one year since the tragic passing of Justin WIlson at the famed Tricky Triangle. This weekend also comes just two weeks after Bryan Clauson was killed in a midget sprint car accident at Bellville Speedway. Both drivers played significant roles at Dale Coyne Racing, who fielded Conor Daly in the No. 88 and Pippa Mann in the No. 18 Honda-powered entries to honor those missed so dearly.
Contemplative thoughts soon turned Monday’s race as, reaping the benefits of his first career pole, Aleshin led the 22-car field to the green on a bright and sunny Monday afternoon. It wasn’t long before Josef Newgarden jumped to the front, leading from Lap 2 after a waved-off start. Despite his early lead, Newgarden would go on to finish fourth.
Takuma Sato’s single-car incident in Turn 3 caused the first break in action.
Mikhail Aleshin led the majority of the laps coming to the first set of green flag pit stops with the Andretti Autosport drivers of Alexander Rossi and Carlos Munoz added to Hunter-Reay’s early-race pace as Honda-powered entries had the advantage early on.
The second round of green flag pit stops began to cycle when contact on pit lane produced a bizarre accident. Rossi was released into Charlie Kimball and projected into the air onto Helio Castroneves’ Chevrolet. Despite contact between Rossi’s chassis and Castroneves himself, all drivers escaped serious injury, but the Nos. 3 and 98 were done for the day.
Another long green flag run allowed Hunter-Reay to catch and pass Rossi just before the third round of green flag pit stops, but the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew was able to beat Andretti’s pit road warriors in their rush for fuel and tires. Aleshin and Hunter-Reay continued to fight for the lead with Newgarden until another single-car accident stopped the action for a third time – this one with much heavier repercussions.
Championship leader, Simon Pagenaud spun and hit the wall a mere eight laps after his championship rival and second-place contender, Power, took the lead, significantly reduing Pagenaud’s 58 point lead.
Power continued to fight for the top spot with Aleshin through the next full course caution, while Hunter-Reay experienced power-loss and power-cycled his Honda, losing a lap. The debris caution called on Lap 176 allowed for a 21-lap shootout for the win, and for Hunter-Reay to return to the lead lap.
After losing three spots in the pits, It only took Aleshin four laps to catch back up with Power. Hunter-Reay surpassed the effort of his Russian competitor as he charged from 12th place. Power was able to hold off Aleshin to gain the maximum points for the day, a crucial finish for his hunt for a second championship. Hunter-Reay was able to fight his way all the way back to third place, passing nine cars in the closing stages of the race.
Pagenaud’s misfortune was Power’s gain as the championship fight is now just 20 points between the two rivals. Newgarden was able to climb another spot in the rankings, now sitting 100 points out of contention as Scott Dixon fell to fourth after his sixth place finish.
“Now we will give it everything. We will give it everything because we really want to win this championship.” – Will Power
The next round of the Verizon IndyCar Series is just a week away as the Firestone 600 resumes after a multi-month postponement due to rain. The teams hit the track again at Texas Motor Speedway for a single day of competition on Saturday, August 27 at 4:35 PM local time for warm up. The Firestone 600 will restart shortly afterwards at 8:20 PM.
Featured Image: Bret Kelley