“Prix-Viewing” the ABC Supply 500

Photo Credit: sagekaram.com

The 13th race out of 16 scheduled races of the 2016 Verizon Indycar Series calendar takes us to Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania on Sunday, August 21st. The indycars will race 200 laps around the 3-turn 2.5-mile tri-oval.

Simon Pagenaud leads the Verizon IndyCar Series points championship by 58 points over Will Power. Power had to sit out of the season opener at St. Petersburg with concussion-like symptoms, a race that started a streak of 5 consecutive top 2 finishes for Pagenaud, including 3 wins. Power is currently on a streak of 5 consecutive top 2 finishes including 3 victories. Pagenaud, however, has won since his streak ended, winning last race at Mid-Ohio, while Power did not win at all during Pagenaud’s streak.

Race winners from this season are Simon Pagenaud, who won at Long Beach, Barber, Indianapolis, and Mid-Ohio, Will Power, who won at the 2nd Detroit race, Road America, and Toronto, Josef Newgarden, who won at Iowa, Scott Dixon, who won at Phoenix, Alexander Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500,  Juan Pablo Montoya, who won at St. Petersburg, and Sebastien Bourdais, who won at the 1st Detroit race. Those drivers sit 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, and 14th in the championship standings, respectively.

Former winners of the Pocono race in this year’s field are Scott Dixon, who won in 2013, Juan Pablo Montoya, who won in 2014, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won in 2015.

Also of note is the Chevrolet vs. Honda battle. Drivers of the Honda-powered cars have seemed to race slightly better than they’ve qualified so far this year, but have only won 1 of the 12 races thus far this season, that being Alexander Rossi at the Indianapolis 500, which, like Pocono, is a superspeedway. James Hinchcliffe, also driving a Honda-powered car, took the pole for the Indianapolis 500 as well. That pole position was Honda’s first in 31 races.

The drivers of the Honda-powered cars were also very strong at Texas Motor Speedway, running 1st, 2nd, and 3rd when the race was suspended after 71 out of 248 laps. Taking the pole for that race was Carlos Munoz, who also drives a Honda-powered car.

So far this season, drivers of the Honda-powered cars have done well, but not fantastic, at pretty much every track, but have been seemingly equal to if not better than the drivers of the Chevrolet-powered cars on the superspeedways (took the pole and the win at Indianapolis and took the pole and were running 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at Texas before the race was suspended).

With the drivers of the Honda-powered cars doing well in races (not qualifying) at pretty much every venue and driving spectacularly on the superspeedways, this year’s ABC Supply 500 looks like it could be another pretty even battle between drivers driving cars of both Chevrolet and Honda, much like it was last year, and much like many of the races on super-speedways have been with the new Chevrolet and Honda aero kits, which were introduced at the beginning of last season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won last year’s race at Pocono, and he did so in a Honda-powered car at a point in the season where it was believed that the drivers of the Honda-powered cars would not even be competitive at a track like Pocono. Last year’s race was one of the most competitive the series has seen in a while, featuring 33 lead changes among 12 different drivers (half of the field). All of those lead changes happened despite the IndyCar record 12 caution periods for 74 of the 200 laps of competition. Only 11 cars ended up finishing the race.

Last season’s excitement-filled Pocono race ended in tragedy, however, when Sage Karam spun out leading the race with just 21 laps to go and the nose cone of his mangled car bounced across the track and hit Justin Wilson’s helmet as he passed by. Wilson lost consciousness at the moment of impact, and thus lost control of his car. He hit the inside barrier of the track before being extracted from his car and taken to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Wilson died the following day from head injury after being in a coma since the accident occurred.

Drivers to watch for in this year’s race (with engine manufacturers):

The obvious:

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda): Hunter-Reay won at Pocono in 2015.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevrolet): Montoya won at Pocono in 2014.
  • Scott Dixon (Chevrolet): Dixon won at Pocono in 2013.
  • Josef Newgarden (Chevrolet): Newgarden’s best finish at Pocono is 2nd, which was in 2015.
  • Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet): Castroneves’ best finish at Pocono is 2nd, which was in 2014.
  • Will Power (Chevrolet): Power’s best finish at Pocono is 4th, which was in 2013 and 2015.
  • Simon Pagenaud (Chevrolet): Pagenaud’s best finish at Pocono is 6th, which was in 2013 and 2014.

Less Obvious:

  • Charlie Kimball (Chevrolet): Kimball’s best finish at Pocono is 2nd, which was in 2013.
  • Carlos Munoz (Honda): Munoz’s best finish at Pocono is 5th, which was in 2015.
  • Marco Andretti (Honda): Andretti’s best finish at Pocono is 9th, which was in 2014.
  • Tony Kanaan (Chevrolet): Kanaan’s best finish at Pocono is 11th, which was in 2014.
  • James Hinchcliffe (Honda): Hinchcliffe’s best finish at Pocono is 12th, which was in 2014.

Sleepers:

  • Takuma Sato (Honda): Sato’s best finish at Pocono is 6th, which was in 2015 .
  • Mikhail Aleshin (Honda): Aleshin’s best and only finish at Pocono is 7th, which was in 2014.
  • Ed Carpenter (Chevrolet): Carpenter’s best finish at Pocono is 9th, which was in 2013.
  • Graham Rahal (Honda): Rahal’s best finish at Pocono is 18th, which was in 2013.
  • Alexander Rossi (Honda): Rossi has never raced at Pocono in an IndyCar.

Other notables:

  • Sebastien Bourdais (Chevrolet): Bourdais’ best finish at Pocono is 16th, which was in 2013 and 2014.
  • Jack Hawksworth (Honda): Hawksworth’s best finish at Pocono is 22nd, which was in 2014 and 2015.
  • Conor Daly (Honda): Daly has never raced at Pocono in an IndyCar.
  • Max Chilton (Chevrolet): Chilton has never raced at Pocono in an IndyCar.

 

-Asher Fair