The 500-mile races in the Verizon IndyCar Series have been anything but boring this season. After spectacular races at Indianapolis and Fontana earlier this year, the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono was no different. In the end, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay who held on to win his second race of the season, and the 16th of his career. Josef Newgarden was the runner-up, and championship leader Juan Montoya joined them on the podium. Will Power and Carlos Munoz rounded out the top five on Sunday.
The racing itself was phenomenal, but things quickly turned somber as Andretti Autosport driver Justin Wilson was injured in a crash late in the race. Rookie Sage Karam lost control of his car in Turn 1 while leading, and hit the outside wall very hard. Debris from his car was scattered on the track, and it appeared on the replays that part of the nose section of his car struck Wilson in the head. Justin was unconscious and unresponsive as medical personnel arrived on the scene.
At the time of this posting, IndyCar released a medical update on Wilson, saying that he is currently in a coma and in critical condition while undergoing further evaluation at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA. Many people within the racing community have Justin and his family in their thoughts and prayers. NASCAR driver Tony Stewart reached out to Wilson’s family to lend support.
Hunter-Reay pulled into a quiet victory lane at Pocono, as he was concerned about Wilson’s health above anything else. At the time, there weren’t any details, other than the fact that he had been transported to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital via helicopter.
Click here to see the Race Results for the ABC Supply 500
It was a 500-mile race, but it seemed like so much more than that. There were so many story lines and things happening, it felt like there were three or four different races. There were many records set, one of them being the 33 lead changes among 12 drivers. The attrition rate was extremely high, as only ten of the 24 cars managed to finish the race. There were a record-breaking 12 cautions today, and 74 of the 200 laps were run under caution.
The biggest incident involved Graham Rahal, as he was just nine points out of the championship lead entering the race. On Lap 93, he entered Turn 3 just below Wilson, but then Tristan Vautier tried to go below Graham. Vautier got into the grass, then slid up and tapped the rear of Rahal, sending them both hard into the outside wall. Rahal was understandably upset, and confronted the part-time driver. The RLL driver finished 20th, and will have a mountain to climb next weekend at Sonoma. Video of the incident is below.
This, coupled with a third place finish after starting 19th, was good news for Montoya, who now takes a 34 point lead into the final race of the season. “We took our time and were smart. I think we had a car that could win the race, but it wasn’t worth risking it. We did what we needed to do today,” Montoya said. There are still six drivers mathematically eligible to win the championship, but it’s Montoya’s to lose. He has held the top spot in the standings all year long, after winning the season-opener at St Petersburg. If he holds on, he’ll become just the fourth driver (first since Hornish Jr in 2001) to go wire-to-wire en route to winning the title.
Scott Dixon remains third in the standings, 47 points behind Montoya. He had a relatively quiet day, finishing in ninth position. Power is now fourth (-61) and Helio Castroneves dropped to fifth (-77). Newgarden is still in the hunt, sixth place in the standings.
Castroneves started on Pole, but had a roller coaster day, which ended with a spin in Turn 1 while going three-wide on Lap 167. The Brazilian finished 16th, and likely ended his chances of winning the championship yet again. His Brazilian pal Tony Kanaan had a strong car most of the afternoon, but he lost control of his Ganassi machine on Lap 132. He did two full spins before hitting the inside wall, resulting in a 19th place finish. Both Castroneves and Kanaan have one final chance to get a win this season.
For Karam, it was the final race of the season, as Sebastian Saavedra is slated to drive the No. 8 car at Sonoma. Karam might not have been able to race next weekend anyway, as he suffered a right foot injury during his crash. Fellow Pennsylvania native Marco Andretti had a rough day, which ended with a crash on Lap 139. It was the first DNF (18th) of the season for Marco, who was aiming to become just the second driver in history (Kanaan, 2004) to complete every lap of a season.
Ed Carpenter’s disappointing season came to an end early, as he finished 17th after a mechanical issue. Luca Filippi will be in the No. 20 CFH Racing car next weekend at Sonoma. For the first time since 2007, Carpenter failed to record a top-five finish during the season. The owner/driver only finished two of the six races he ran, and led just one lap all season.
There were a lot of wrecked cars and tense moments on Sunday, but right now everyone is thinking about Wilson and his family. Stay tuned to IndyCar.com and @IndyCar on Twitter for future updates on Wilson’s condition.
We now head to Sonoma for the final race of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma begins at 4 PM ET on August 30, which will air on NBC Sports Network. The 85-lap race will award double-points, which will ultimately decide who wins the 2015 IndyCar Championship.
Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy was very strong today and we definitely had a car to win, but the circumstances just didn’t allow for it. There were so many yellows and because of that we had to reorganize our strategies throughout the race. Overall we did a great job and our approach is to do as well as we did today in Sonoma. Just do our absolute best and see where it takes us.”
Juan Montoya: “Our Verizon Chevy was pretty good all day. We took our time and were smart. I think we had a car that could win the race, but it wasn’t worth risking it (with title contenders running behind him). We did what we needed to do today.”
Helio Castroneves: “They said it was going green, everybody in the pits. We’re kind of like, “Are we going green? Are we going green?” Roger (Penske) was kind of in doubt as well. As soon as it went green, everybody was still in a fuel-saving mode situation. I was just trying to go outside. I think we didn’t warm up the tires very well and suddenly I lost the rear and just started going. It’s a shame because we had a very fast car. The car was great. It was just one of those things that, I’m not sure how the message could be a little bit faster for my guys up there.”
Ryan Briscoe: “It was a really long race. The No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was pretty good, we just never had quite enough to really get all the way to the front. We had a solid top-10 run and sometimes up to top five, but it was just a hard battle all day long. We fought hard and I would’ve liked more, but it’s good to bring the car home in one piece. Overall it was a good day and right now my thoughts are with Justin Wilson. We’re wishing him the best.”
Scott Dixon: “We made a lot of adjustments to the Target car throughout the race and we were really just working with the track changes every time we came in. I was hanging back a bit to save some fuel so we could move up a bit later. It just never really materialized with the way the yellows fell and with that final yellow ending the race with no chance for a restart.”
Tony Kanaan: “I have no idea what happened out there, especially in that corner. It’s just not a difficult corner for us. I know they said I was probably under the white line, but I really have no idea. I haven’t seen the in-car footage, but I just lost it. It was unexpected. We had a good car. We were going to try to make it in two (more) stops, we were saving fuel back there. It’s a shame but glad we’re in one piece and get to move on to Sonoma.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously a very disappointing day. I don’t think we had the car to compete, but we were going to make the best of it as usual. I was looking for a long race and it turned out pretty short. That restart, they hadn’t swept the track during the yellow and I got shoved a bit to the outside of the track. I was only halfway up the track and there was just marbles and dust. The car spun around and that was that. It is frustrating that my race ended like that with damages we don’t need and losing points. Now we head to Sonoma and hopefully we can finish better, but today is (about) points we are going to miss at the end.
Takuma Sato: “We knew we were strong at Pocono the last two years, but today we struggled at the beginning with the grip and balance. We put a lot of downforce on during the middle of the race because with 20 Indy cars in front of you, the turbulence was huge. Once I got to the front, I needed to take the downforce off because the cars up front were extremely fast down the straight, which we didn’t have at the end. On the last restart, I overtook (Gabby) Chavez and led for a short time, but he overtook me because he had less downforce and I couldn’t keep the momentum. It’s a shame because the guys did a super job and put us in position to challenge for the win. We finished sixth, a good result, but it feels disappointing because we were right there. Still, I appreciate the support from ABC Supply for our team and also sponsoring this race at Pocono. I heard Justin had a big accident and I hope he is OK. I don’t know the status right now but I wish him a super speedy recovery.”
Graham Rahal: “Obviously, I’m frustrated. We had a pretty good race car today. It was slow initially but we were working on it and we got it pretty good. Then we had an issue in the pits that lost us a bunch of spots, so we were trying to work our way back up. (Tristan) Vautier is not known as the smartest guy and you see why. It’s just a shame for this Steak ‘n Shake team going into this championship second in the points right now. We’re going to be watching the Verizon app to see how many points we fall back for the rest of the race. This one hurts. One race to go and this puts a big, big dent in things. (Justin) Wilson and I were coming through Turn 2. There were a lot of guys driving pretty aggressively and Wilson lost momentum and I just stuck it inside of him and we ran from (Turn) 2 down to 3 together, and then Vautier just decided that he wanted to join the party there at the last moment and unfortunately just punted us. He says I turned in on him, but there’s not any space. We’re already two wide, he knows that, he sees that. It just hurts us. As I said to him “You know I’m in the championship hunt for Honda. Why would you do something like that?” He has no answers. We didn’t have the best of days going with the error in the pits, but I knew my guys had gotten a good stop and we were going to fight our way back into this. We were only 90 laps into a 200-lap race. We’re down but we’re not out. We’ve had a good year, nothing to be ashamed about. We’ll go to Sonoma in attack mode.”
Ed Carpenter: “It was disappointing. For as many problems as we had this weekend and not qualifying well, we were really good in the race. We had worked our way pretty far forward and felt pretty good about how we were looking for the rest of the race. Then (James) Jakes got in the back of us and knocked the bumper pod off. We had to go to our spare wing, which was set at higher level of downforce, which was hurting our pace. Ultimately, we had a mechanical issue. If you look at our results from 2015 on the ovals with the No. 20 car, it looks so bad. We were definitely better than what we showed, it was just one of those years where we couldn’t catch a break. Happy for Josef (Newgarden) to finish second, but more than anything, sending prayers out for Justin (Wilson) and his family.”
Carlos Munoz: “First of all, we are all thinking of Justin (Wilson) right now. He’s my teammate and a great competitor, you just wish for the best. Today we finished fifth – we’re not really happy with the result. I think, as a team, me and the crew, we were not good in our pit stops. We lost too many spots today, which is not usual for my AndrettiTV/Cinsay crew. I think we had the car to finish in the front, but there were way too many yellows in this race. Now we look ahead to Sonoma and hope to finish the season off on a good note.”
Marco Andretti: “We were monitoring the uprights because I was having to use the brakes to keep the car spooled up, and it just went way too violently. That’s not a normal way for a car to let go, so I think something let go. It’s a bummer. The angle wasn’t very nice, but it’s a tribute to these cars. They’re definitely strong. Just wish the wishbone was a bit stronger. I don’t know what was going on in the restarts. We were like a sitting duck, but once we got going, we were going forward. It took us a while to get the center pressure right because we missed practice last night, so that was the first stint that the car was finally coming alive and we were in the top 10. It was going to be fun the rest of way and we were just taking it slow. It’s a 500-mile race, so just bummer for points and the record we were going after (of completing every lap). It’s a shame.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “This team has given my great race cars over the years and this was one of them. We came through the field many times today. I hope the fans enjoyed the show because it was fun in the race car. We knifed through the field about five times, I think, and there wasn’t anybody out there that we couldn’t get around. It was a pleasure to drive today. Obviously, first and foremost, we’re thinking about Justin Wilson. With heads exposed and when you get flying debris, it’s a bad luck deal. Our thoughts are with him. I know him and his family well, they’re great friends of ours. Really, really just thinking about Justin right now.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a long, tough day in the car. CFH Racing did a great job working on the thing, tuning it, making it better. Happy with our result, but I’m just thinking about Justin (Wilson) right now and hoping he’s OK.”
Charlie Kimball: “I just have to start off by giving a lot of credit to the mechanics, the engineers and just the whole team at Chip Ganassi Racing for getting me back on track today after my crash yesterday. The backup car was really good, especially considering that I hadn’t really done a full lap with the backup car and the backup engine. The car was just really good and allowed me to go racing right when I felt comfortable. It took me a little while to find my feet out there, but when I did the NovoLog FlexPen car was there. It was unfortunate that we had the incident mid-race that hindered us a little, but we’ll be able to look at that now and learn from it. After that incident, the car was just never quite right again so we were just safe and tried to take some spots when they came to us.”
Gabby Chaves: “Well, what can I say? Obviously after having a shot to win the race, with three laps to go and our engine blew so it is disappointing, but you know, that’s racing. Racing has its ups and downs and today we had both. We led a lot of laps. We showed what we can do when we are in the front. We just didn’t get to finish it out with a result, but I am very proud of this group of guys we have working. Everyone we have at Bryan Herta Autosport and our No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Castrol EDGE/Deltro Electric car, I am so proud of. This team is a great family and we know good things are coming. There were a lot of wrecks today and in INDYCAR we are a family. It’s always hard to see your competitors and your friends get hurt, so my prayers along with everyone else’s prayers here are with Justin Wilson and his family.”
Race Photos via IndyCar