The rain moved the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono to Monday afternoon, but it was well worth the wait. The second 500-mile race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season had just as much action and excitement as the one we witnessed nearly three months ago. In the end, it was Will Power who captured the win, in what turned out to be a monumental day for the Team Penske driver.
The win was much needed for Power’s chances at winning the championship this year. He came into the race trailing teammate Simon Pagenaud by 58 points. That lead is now just 20 points with three races remaining, as Pagenaud crashed out of today’s race at Pocono. To make things even more interesting, Power has won at each of the remaining three tracks, including three times at the season-finale at Sonoma, where double points are awarded.
Power himself said it wasn’t easy, and he was right. There were a number of strong contenders throughout the afternoon, which included the Pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin. The Russian was easily the most consistent driver on Monday, but just didn’t have enough at the end to get by Power for his first win. Still, a second place finish and leading the most (87) laps capped what was an impressive performance by Aleshin.
Joining Power and Aleshin on the podium was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who may have passed 200 cars during the race. The Andretti Autosport driver had the best car in the field, and proved it by passing everyone – twice. Hunter-Reay started last (22nd) and took the lead after making his first pit stop. He led 31 laps and was leading the race near the end when his car suddenly lost power. He ducked onto pit lane and was able to get the car restarted, but was down a lap. A late-race caution for debris enabled him to get his lap back, and he charged back to the front, eventually getting by Josef Newgarden for the final podium spot. Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top five on Monday.
ABC Supply 500 Box Score
Scott Dixon finished 6th after starting back in 19th, while Carlos Munoz finished 7th after battling up front for most of the day. Juan Montoya had a quiet day but came home in 8th place, while Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top ten finishers. Power, Dixon, and Newgarden are the only three drivers to have finished in the top ten in all four IndyCar races at Pocono.
It looked to be a promising day for Andretti Autosport, who at one point had all four cars in the top nine during the race. Alexander Rossi was aiming for his second 500-mile race win, but that ended in a scary incident on pit lane, where he and Charlie Kimball made contact. That sent Rossi up and over the top of Helio Castroneves. Fortunately no one was injured here.
Munoz had another solid top ten finish, but his car seemed to fade as the race went on. Marco Andretti charged to the front at the start of the race, but he was nowhere to be found after that, finishing in 12th. Hunter-Reay’s afternoon was a roller coaster, which ended in a podium result that felt like a kick in the gut to he and the team.
Graham Rahal had a quiet day, and just missed getting his first top ten at Pocono. Ed Carpenter Racing had a mixed day, as Newgarden was battling up front all afternoon. Carpenter himself had another miserable outing, as his day was once again ended early due to a mechanical issue. In his four starts this year, he has finished 21st, 31st, 18th, and 21st respectively.
Though it was one spot behind where he wanted to finish, it was a great performance by Aleshin. It was his first podium result, but he also finished 5th at St Petersburg and the second race in Detroit, while collecting a 6th place finish at Toronto, and leading laps at Mid-Ohio. He has certainly validated the SPM team as a strong two-car organization.
Today belonged to Power though, as he is easily the hottest driver in the sport right now. His last six races have resulted in finishes of 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, and now 1st. He is aiming to complete a historic comeback to win the championship after missing the season-opening race at St Petersburg. He and Pagenaud both have four race wins this year, as the championship will be decided between the two Penske drivers over these last three events.
The series now heads back to Texas Motor Speedway, for the conclusion of the Firestone 600 on August 27. The race will resume on Lap 72, with James Hinchcliffe shown as the leader. NBC Sports Network will have coverage of the event at 9 PM ET on Saturday night. This will be the final oval race of the season, as the final two events of the 2016 season are at Watkins Glen and Sonoma.
Race Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “The hum by Verizon ran well for most of the race. We had some problems with understeer and that made for a tough day. Things didn’t turn out the way we would have liked it to, as we definitely hoped for better results. I’m very proud of the team and how they pulled together the whole weekend and throughout today. We will continue to hold our heads up and look towards the next race in Texas.”
Helio Castroneves: “Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don’t realize the Verizon IndyCar series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that. Very glad that nobody got hurt. It’s just a shame. The Hitachi Chevy was really having a good day and we just had another good pit stop when I was coming out of the pits. All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. The Team Penske guys worked really hard to try and fix the car but there was a lot of damage. It’s certainly unfortunate because this will hurt us in the championship battle but our team will never give up. We’ll move on to Texas where, fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success.”
James Hinchcliffe: “It was a solid top ten. It certainly wasn’t the result we were hoping for after qualifying but if you heard the whole story of the race, I think you could understand that we’re pretty pleased with that. We had a decent top-five run going for the first half of the race and then we had a piece of bodywork start to separate on the engine cover. It was not only creating a bit of drag but also changed the handling of the car quite a bit. We went wicked loose for about the last four laps of one of those stints and we were just really losing a lot of lap time. We came in and made some repairs to the bodywork. Anytime we’re chucking tape onto a car during a pit stop in a race, you know things have gone a bit south, but the Arrow Electronics guys did a great job to get that fixed and we played some strategy a little bit there to stop early and have a shorter last stop than everyone else when that yellow came out. It wasn’t the true pace of the Arrow Electronics car but from where we were around lap 135, I think we can be pretty happy with a top 10.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “The team did an amazing job with all the pit stops and the car was good. We needed some changes on some of the stops. One of which wasn’t very good and that’s when I dropped (back) but on the next pit stop we gained everything (position) we had lost. Unfortunately, in the end, I just couldn’t get Will (Power). He was just too fast. Seriously, I was on the edge. I almost crashed a couple times when I was right behind him. I had wiggles and I just couldn’t get him.” (About his enjoyment of ovals) “I didn’t know for sure at the end of my first year, obviously after Fontana (crash) especially. But now I understand it and now I like ovals. I like them even more than most of the road courses. Here, it was just awesome, such intense racing. You’re always at the edge. You’re always at the edge and at speeds of 220 mph. You never know what is going to happen and plus today, you had so much wind coming in. So, I’m just happy to bring the SMP Racing No. 7 up to second place. We didn’t get the victory, but we were very close. Will was just so fast. He deserves it. In the end I just couldn’t do anything with him. I’m just happy for the team They just took an amazing step forward to bring my car home in second position and they had some amazing pit stops.”
Max Chilton: “I’m happy since that was my very first experience racing on the Tricky Triangle. That 500 miles seemed a lot longer than the Indianapolis 500 for some reason. I think we learned a lot though. We got through the whole race without incident as well. There was a lot of adjusting going on with the cars with the wind being a big factor. You constantly had to be adapting to the track and conditions. The last run was really close with all the cars packed back up and going for it. We started 18th and moved up in the race to 13th so that was good progress. I also learned a lot so I’m happy with the result for the Gallagher team in our first race here.”
Scott Dixon: “Well we started in the rear of the field and that didn’t help our cause with the Target team. We got held up in the second to last restart and some lapped cars didn’t go when they should have and that really cost us in terms of track position for sure. We clawed our way back into the mix but with so many good cars out there today it was hard to get all the way to the front to contend.”
Tony Kanaan: “We just couldn’t catch a break during the race today. Every time we’d make a run toward the front, something would go wrong. We had a mechanical issue that was affecting the fuel system and that caused a lot of problems for us. Then we lost a piece of our rear bumper pod that caused that last yellow. It just wasn’t our day.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a pretty good day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. We took some penalties with long pit stops to set the car up early on, but even though we were marginal on front grip we were running a pretty solid race. We passed Dixie (Scott Dixon), passed (Tony) Kanaan, passed some Penskes, not the top one, but when you do that, things are going pretty good. Then you end up finishing fifth after there was some computer confusion about our position on the restart. Overall, you have to consider that it was a great day. It was definitely our strongest showing on a super speedway. We learned something this weekend, something we have been missing. The crew did a really good job and the Hydroxycut Chevy machine was really strong. So I am really happy with the result.”
Will Power: “It was so hard to follow in traffic because we started very light on downforce but you know, we just kept adding and adding and adding. Then the team adjusted on the car a bit until it was awesome at the end and I was very good in traffic. I just have to thank Verizon and for all the access they give the fans and I also want to thank Chevrolet. The Chevy engine was awesome today and the body kit was obviously also awesome. So you know it was a very good comeback and I am very happy to win here. I love winning 500-mile races and this is one of the toughest ovals that we race on. We are chipping away at (gaining on the championship leader) and obviously there is still a lot to go. Now we will give it everything because we really want to win this championship. The car started off really, really difficult to drive. We adjusted on it all day and for the second half of the race, the car was just awesome. Awesome in traffic, really fast. Just a lot of fun to drive. The Firestones were really good today. Very consistent the whole stint. Just lost a little at the end there so thank you Firestone, as always awesome tires and very reliable. Mikhail (Aleshin, pole sitter) was giving me a lot of heat there at the end. I was like, ‘Man is he going to get me?’ He was close. I felt like if I could take his air in three but I felt if he had to lift there, I would be okay, but he was very strong. That is as good as it gets. No mistakes. Great stops. As an overall team effort, that was as good of a day you could possible get. Thanks to my team.”
Takuma Sato: “It was pretty hard (hit) but thanks to the safety of IndyCar and Pocono Raceway I was able to walk away. I may have some bruises but I’m perfectly fine. I’m not sure (what happened). Obviously the conditions we have (for the race) are different from what we had for the last practice. We thought we needed more downforce on the ABC Supply car and we discussed the wind. The conditions were a little tricky, but I’m not sure what happened exactly. I went into Turn 3 and it just went free so quickly and I simply lost the back end.”
Graham Rahal: “All in all it was one of those days. It’s frustrating because we would have liked to finish higher up but for whatever reason we are lacking straight line speed. Cornering-wise we were able to pull up on a lot of guys exiting corners but when we get to the straightaways, they would leave us once I pulled fifth gear. We’ve got to figure out why that is, rebound and be better.”
Pippa Mann: “It’s definitely been a tough weekend here at Pocono Raceway for lots of reasons. I was actually much happier with my car in the race today than I’ve been all weekend. I feel like we made progress. We got unlucky with a couple of yellows where we could’ve got a couple of laps back. We also got unlucky with a slight mechanical issue where my anti-roll bar got stuck in the stiffest position. Which isn’t terrible for one end of the track, but it meant that for the vast majority of the race I had my hands very full at the Turn 3 end of the track. We resolved it on one of the pit stops but it happened again for the last stint. Overall I felt that we made real improvements with the car in the race and I’m sure I’m echoing Conor (Daly) when I say I wish we could start the race weekend again right now. I know it’s not the finish Bryan (Clauson) would have wanted but I hope he got to enjoy getting to start and run this race with Conor and I today.”
Ed Carpenter: “Ed Carpenter Racing has performed so awesome this year and the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car can’t catch a break. I haven’t finished a full race this season. I made one mistake at Phoenix, but other than that we’ve just had things happen. Some of it shouldn’t have happened and could have been avoided, so there’s just a lot of frustration. This is one of my last two races this year and I felt really good coming into today. I’m not going to comment on what happened specifically, it won’t do any good to talk about it out in the open. It’s just frustrating.”
Josef Newgarden: “First off, I want to say thanks to all the fans that came out. It’s such a shame we got washed out yesterday. We had a lot of people come back out to watch this race and I think we put on a good show. Thank you to everyone in Pocono that supports INDYCAR. The No. 21 car was strong; We were just lacking a little bit. I was trying so hard to hold Ryan (Hunter-Reay) off there at the end, I just couldn’t quite do it. He was so fast, he had an incredible drive so congrats to him. Also to Will (Power) and Mikhail (Aleshin), they were just a little better than us. I think we were a top five car for sure, maybe a podium, but it was tough to beat those couple of guys in front of us.”
Simon Pagenaud: “I don’t know what happened at this point. The car bottomed and I went straight to the wall. Really weird because I had bottoming but not to that extent. I just lost control of the steering. It felt okay leaving the pits. Turn 1 was fine. Turn 2 was fine. I don’t know. That one’s weird but it’s definitely a bit of a shame. It’s really disappointing because the Menards Chevrolet wasn’t great, but was good enough to score some points. There’s nothing we can do about it now, so we’ll move on to Texas. I don’t think it changes anything. We’ve gone all out all season and that’s not going to change.”
Carlos Munoz: “A little disappointed with the result of the race after running almost the whole race in the top-five. In the end, I don’t know, we lost the speed that we had and it was just a battle in the end.”
Marco Andretti: “It was a tough day for the UFD / Snapple car. I had a big imbalance end-to-end (of the car), turn entry to mid corner – the car was doing something different every lap. I tried to add downforce, but all we did was slow down and still have those same problems. It was definitely a long 500 miles.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I had to come through the field twice. It’s heartbreaking. This the type of year it’s been for us. Really heart breaking. The No. 28 DHL Honda really deserved to be in contention for the win there at the end. Going through Turn 2 it just shut off. I cycled the car once, nothing happened and then I got on pit lane and cycled it again. Power cycle. It turns off then it re-fired and we were a lap down. I had to come through the field twice. The car was a rocket ship. It’s a shame.”
Charlie Kimball: “I don’t know what the 98 (Alexander Rossi) and 3 (Helio Castroneves) were doing there. We were coming into pit lane and they just sent the cars into the side of me. I’m just really disappointed with all of that. We had such a good car. The 83 crew has just really been on it all weekend with fixing the car and having to go to the backup car right before qualifying. I had so much confidence in the car every time I climbed in and for something silly that was completely out of our control on pit lane to put us back like that is just frustrating. After the incident on pit lane, the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet just wasn’t the same. We just had to try and finish the race clean, get a lap back when we could, and really just help our teammates by staying out of the way when we could.”
Conor Daly: “I came into this race wanting to learn as much as I could in the first place, and I definitely learned a lot. It’s just a shame, we need something in the car to allow us to get more speed. Everyone was just pulling away from us and we couldn’t use the draft as well as anyone else. But overall, I’m happy to finish a 500-mile race, I hadn’t done that since my first Indy 500 in 2013. It’s nice to get all that experience. I can come back more ready next year. Despite our finishing result, I hope we made Bryan (Clauson) proud this weekend.”
Alexander Rossi: “Everyone is going to have their own opinion but I was staying in the slow lane, (Charlie) Kimball was obviously trying to come in his box but then Helio (Castroneves) was being released. So I don’t know. It’s very unfortunate. This car was awesome today. We were at the front with relative ease and we were waiting for the end to go to the front for the final time. Obviously I’m not in charge of releasing cars so I don’t know the gap that needs to be had. I was sent. I knew there was a car to my right and I stayed in the slow lane. So, that was all I could do.”