In a Nutshell: Juan Pablo Montoya continued his stellar form as of late and delivered a convincing victory in what is arguably the second biggest race on the INDYCAR calendar. Montoya won the pole for the race and then proceeded to duel with old CART rival Tony Kanaan in a grueling battle that was only interrupted by one caution. Montoya’s victory was his first since returning to INDYCAR earlier this year, thus putting him within striking distance of his teammates in the championship race.
Montoya and Kanaan battled hammer and tong for the lead for most of the race, but divergent fuel strategies at the end of the event proved to be the difference in which of the two would take the victory. Kanaan was forced to pit for fuel with only three laps remaining in the race, thus handing the lead (and the eventual win) over to Montoya.
– The race was the fastest 500 mile IndyCar race ever contested. With record speeds being produced by the DW12 and only one caution to break up the action, it was not exactly a surprise to see the race be completed so quickly.
– And that one caution? It flew on lap 158 courtesy of a spinning Graham Rahal. Needless to say, his underwhelming season is not showing any signs of improving.
– For as good as Montoya was all weekend long, Kanaan was truly the class of the field on this day. Kanaan led a race high 78 laps in what was certainly his strongest run of the year thus far. Perhaps a sign of things to come from the ailing Ganassi outfit?
– Rookie Jack Hawksworth had a violent crash in Saturday’s practice and suffered a myocardial contusion that forced him to sit out Sunday’s race. The impact was reportedly 100Gs, a stunning reminder of just how dangerous this sport can be. No relief driver was on-hand, and as such Hawksworth’s No. 98 car did not start the race.
– Marco Andretti’s mistake-prone nature reared its ugly head once again early in the race. Andretti, who had high hopes entering the race in front of a hometown crowd, was caught speeding and promptly was issued a penalty. The penalty largely ruined Andretti’s shot to win.
– Ed Carpenter, the man who has arguably been the most prolific oval racer in the series as of late, was decidedly unimpressive on Sunday. Carpenter ran outside the top 10 for the majority of the race and finished an underwhelming 13th, one lap down.
– The early portion of the race had a similar look to the Indianapolis 500. The draft was incredibly strong and thus many drivers rode in line for much of the race in an effort to save fuel. The fuel conservation ended up playing a big role in the outcome of the race, as few were expecting such long green flag runs.
– Rookie Carlos Munoz put together yet another solid race, and was a factor for the win all race long. He and his fellow rookie of the year contenders have been solid all season long, and it would not be a surprise if Munoz found victory lane sometime before the end of the season.
– Ryan Hunter-Reay’s nightmare summer continued on Sunday. Mechanical problems sidelined his car early in the race, relegating him to a disappointing 18th-place finish. If he has any hopes of bouncing back into the championship race, he’ll need to find his early season form, and fast.
– The stands were decidedly empty on Sunday, and track owner Brandon Igdalsky even went on record before the race as saying that Pocono’s future with IndyCar is “in jeopardy” due to the soft ticket sales. It’s a shame, because IndyCar is in desperate need of ovals for it’s schedule going forward.
Notable Driver: Juan Pablo Montoya. This might not be the sexiest pick given the fact that Montoya won the race, but he simply deserves it given his recent performance. He looked lost at the beginning of the season in his return to IndyCar, but his results over the past few weeks would indicate that he has seemingly recaptured the knowledge necessary to be a success in this discipline of racing once again. Montoya’s superb performance in June and early July have vaulted him to fourth in the points standings, and with plenty of racing left this season, it is not unreasonable to think that the former Indianapolis 500 winner could be the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion.
The Iowa Corn Indy 300 is the next race on the IndyCar Series slate, and it has returned to its rightful Saturday night slot that made the race popular a few years back. The race can be watched live this Saturday July 12th on the NBC Sports Network at 8 PM EST. Sirius Channel 213 will have live radio coverage of the event.