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IndyCar Preview: Pocono INDYCAR 500 Fueled by Sunoco

IndyCar Preview: Pocono INDYCAR 500 Fueled by Sunoco

The INDYCAR schedule is keeping its drivers up on the wheel.  The series will have gone from the Texas oval to the street course of Houston and now to the testy triumvirate of turns better known as Pocono.  The variety of tracks is an under-appreciated aspect of the tests that the drivers must face to win the championship.

What’s News

Pocono marks the third oval on the schedule, with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning at Indianapolis and Ed Carpenter doing so at Texas.  The race is also the second on the schedule where a driver can earn double the points, with the third being Fontana to close the season.  That means that Will Power’s lead over the field is a tenuous one should he falter or turn in a middling performance.

At one point the awarding of double points seemed gimmicky but its inclusion might provide one of the more compelling storylines for the series as it reaches its midpoint and could tighten the whole field this weekend.

So far, there have been seven different winners in the 10 races, seven different drivers to earn the pole and seven different teams represented in the top 10 in the standings.  If that is not a form of entertaining parity in some regard, then it is difficult to know what is.

The Track

After a hiatus that began in 1989, the Pocono track will now welcome the IndyCar Series for a second year in a row.  The 2.5-mile, three-turn track features one of the longest straightaways in racing.  Each turn provides a unique challenge as none have a similar radius or is banked the same.  Marco Andretti set the track record last year at 221.377 mph.

What’s the Points?  Drivers

Will Power, with finishes of 14th and 11th at Houston, somehow escaped with little in the way of damage done to his lead.  He maintains first over his teammate Helio Castroneves, who is 39 points behind, while Ryan Hunter-Reay is just two points astride in third.  Holding the fourth position is Simon Pagenaud.  The big surprise may be Juan Pablo Montoya, who, with top-10 finishes in the last three races, has jumped into the fifth slot.

Will Power looks on at Fontana in 2012. (Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Will Power looks on at Fontana in 2012. (Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)

What’s the Points?  Engines

Going into Houston, Chevrolet held a commanding lead over Honda.  However, just as the bowtie had battered the big H at Texas, the opposite happened at the duals last weekend.  Chevrolet now sits with 1,300 points over Honda’s 1,005.

Driver(s) to Watch

One train of thought would be that Scott Dixon is the driver to watch and that he might craft a similar run as the one he did last season, which began with his victory at Pocono.  It seems, however, that Dixon is unlikely to match that success with the Ganassi outfit struggling to find that little bit of something to put them at the front.

With that in mind, it’s time to focus on Juan Pablo Montoya.  First, Montoya is on a roll recently, as noted by his solid finishes, meaning that he very well may be adjusting again to open wheel racing.  Second, Team Penske — no need for further explanation.  Third, more than any other driver in the field, Montoya has experience at Pocono.  Sure, that experience may have come in a NASCAR Cup ride, but his time at the track still equates to him having, perhaps, a better feel than anyone else.

Other News?

The IndyCar Series is one that seems to be in a continual state of flux and therefore it is good to know that the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Growers Association have already signed on for the 2015 season.  It may not be a long-term contract, but it does provide a sense of continuity and a bit of encouragement toward the future.

Silly Season for IndyCar is just beginning and the hot name is Simon Pagenaud, with Andretti apparently taking a look.  At this juncture, everything is just rumors, however, and there is nothing that seems to be overtly solid.

Who Ya Got?

He won Indianapolis; no reason to think that he might not be able to pull off the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Not only would that change the complexion of the championship but it would also set Ryan Hunter-Reay to earn $1 million at Fontana.  Matt Stallknecht is going with Montoya, while Toni Montgomery sees local boy Marco Andretti earning the win.

What’s Next?

The drivers keep the concept of solely making left turns going at the Iowa Corn Indy 300 on July 12 at 8 p.m. EST.  The race will be shown on the NBC Sports Network, which has coverage of the series for the remainder of the season.

About Huston Ladner

Huston Ladner
Promoted to editor this season, Huston works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of his own: Happiness Is… (Fridays). “Stranded” on the islands of Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor our IndyCar and Formula One racing coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update (Mondays) each week.