For the second year in a row, Will Power overcame adversity to win at Pocono.
The Penske driver held off teammate Josef Newgarden in the closing laps to earn his third victory of the 2017 season, and the 32nd of his career. That moves him up to ninth place on the all-time wins list. The comeback victory also puts Power just 42 points behind Newgarden in the championship standings, with three races remaining.
Joining the Penske duo on the podium was Alexander Rossi, who had a strong car all day. The Andretti Autosport driver has finished 2nd, 6th, and 3rd in his last three races. Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five.
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Scott Dixon finished in 6th, just behind his Ganassi teammate. He finds himself 18 points behind Newgarden for the championship lead heading into Saturday night’s race at Gateway. Helio Castroneves had a quiet day, but managed to finish 7th to stay in the championship hunt. Ryan Hunter-Reay went to the hospital yesterday after a 138G crash during qualifying. Today he started from the last row, led 12 laps, and finished 8th in what was an incredible effort.
Graham Rahal was battling for the lead all day, but settled for 9th place. It was the first top ten finish at Pocono for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver. He and Dixon are the only two drivers to have finished in the top ten in every race since Indianapolis. Carlos Munoz rounded out the top ten, which was a much-needed result for AJ Foyt Racing.
James Hinchcliffe was very strong in the first half of the race, but slid through his box during a pit stop, putting him in the back of the field. It was there that he and JR Hildebrand made slight contact in Turn 1 on Lap 125 that sent both drivers hard into the outside wall. They finished 19th and 20th respectively. It was a rough day for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, as Sebastian Saavedra’s day in the No. 7 car also ended with wall contact earlier in the race.
There was action all throughout the 500-mile race, with plenty of hold-your-breath moments. There were hundreds of passes on the track, and featured 42 lead changes among 10 drivers. Dixon led the most laps with 51, and Rossi led a total of 44. Power led 34 laps on his way to victory, and Kanaan had the fastest lap of the race, at 218.325 mph.
Three races remain until a champion is crowned for the 2017 season. The next one comes in less than a week, as the series heads to St Louis for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. Castroneves won the last IndyCar race there, in 2003. It is the final oval on the schedule, and will take place under the lights. Coverage for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on August 26 begins at 9 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “The DXC Technology was a rocket ship at the end. This is such a long race, and all of the changes to the car seem to come together at the end. It’s a little bit of a shame that we lost the train earlier in the race. I think that was costly for us. I was racing (Scott) Dixon and we lost touch with the pack. It might have been interesting had that not happened. But that’s how it goes sometimes. The championship battle is still very close with just three races to go.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a good day for points. Tough when you have an opportunity to potentially win a race at the end of it, but I don’t think we had enough for Will (Power) to be honest with you. I did everything I could to try and get by him. I just felt like he was a touch quicker than us. That was difficult for me to overcome. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for Team Penske. It’s a one-two at the end of the day, so keeping it in the family. When one car wins, we kind of all win. That’s the way we view it. And certainly for the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy, it’s a points extension day, so we can’t be disappointed in it.”
Helio Castroneves: “All things considered. It was a great weekend. I can’t thank the Hitachi Chevrolet crew enough for all of the hard work after the crash in qualifying. They did an awesome job at getting the car together for the race. We started from the back, so our work was cut out for us. Our progress kind of stalled a little, but then the changes to the car all clicked and we were able to finish seventh. The championship didn’t get jumbled up too much, so we head to Gateway (Motorsports Park) next week for another round.”
Conor Daly: “That was the first 500-mile race I finished on the lead lap, so that’s good. I think we had a really good shot at it when we got the track position (P9), but then we got the drive through (penalty), which is a shame because I didn’t see the yellow light on my dash. But it’s one of those things. It’s pretty much the worst luck you could have in that position, but we tried to deal with it. I thought our car was fairly competitive, but I just really struggled in Turn 3 – it was difficult for me all day long. Once we lost track position, it was difficult to stay up, but I think we made a good step forward today.”
James Hinchcliffe: “We were two-wide racing there shortly after the re-start and I was on the inside there. The guys in front of us started racing and I guess JR (Hildebrand) got a bit of push when everybody was side-by-side and put a bunch of wheel in it, it pitched him loose and I was just there. If I had been a bit back, he probably would have spun down in front of me. I might have gotten into him either way, (so) you don’t really know. It’s unfortunate and at the end of the day we really shouldn’t have been back there. We should have been running up front like we were. I made a mistake in pit lane and put us in that position so I’m gutted for the SPM boys. They deserve better than that. We’re going to regroup and try to do well at Gateway.”
Sebastian Saavedra: “Very disappointing situation to be honest. We were struggling since yesterday with a loose car, which unfortunately got marginally looser as we went into the race. The whole No. 7 team did an amazing job getting the balance back to me, and we had a very strong second stint, which we really capitalized on. We were moving very strongly through the field looking for a nice top 10 there, then had a situation with Munoz, contact that put me into the apron. We might have bent a shock, which basically ended our day. Our mission was to bring it home, but unfortunately this couldn’t happen. We were losing water pressure, and so there were a lot of issues that were happening, and it just ended up not our way. Looking forward to what’s to come next weekend. Not our weekend for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports organization, but we just need to continue working and building something stronger for what’s to come.”
Scott Dixon: “We had a great NTT Honda today despite missing the chance to make final adjustments in practice yesterday. We reverted back to an earlier setup and the car was fast early today. We decided to get out front and lead and I was happy with the car in the first half of the race. We made some adjustments after that and settled into the top five. In the last 25 or so laps we were contending, but just couldn’t get back to the front.”
Tony Kanaan: “We needed a little bit there at the end that we just didn’t have. Regardless, we fought pretty hard all day long and it was a really exciting race. That battle with Graham (Rahal) was the highlight of my race – exchanging positions back and forth for the lead. We found out after the race that we had a broken front wing that we didn’t know about. We don’t know how it happened or when it happened. We were so strong at the beginning of the race and I couldn’t understand why we were falling back, but now we know why. Regardless, it was a great battle. I’m pretty sure my kids at home got a kick out of that. I think this place is becoming my Indianapolis, but I hope it doesn’t take me 12 years to win here like it did there. The No. 10 NTT Data Honda was awesome. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of things that happen. This is INDYCAR, everyone is just so competitive. Sometimes you have a car to win, but you have a little bit of a hiccup and finish fifth.”
Will Power: “What a crazy day for us. I mean, we had a really strong car. The Verizon Chevrolet was getting back to the front, and then suddenly, boom, the wing broke. Lucky I didn’t hit the wall. We went a lap down, and then I was thinking to be smart and anything can happen. You get your lap back and get through the field, and that’s exactly what we did. So very, very good day. Once I got my lap back, I was like, all right, it’s game on. I can definitely get back up there. I was thinking like top 5, but when I was pumping out like 217 laps, I’m like, okay, we’re going to make some serious hay here. The crew guys did a fantastic job in the pits having to do all that and still able to go ahead and win the race.”
Carlos Munoz: “It was a fun race. It’s been a long time to have a fun race, I think the last one was at Texas. The car was really good. We’ve made a good program at the speedways so I’m really happy. I think we just missed a little bit of speed, but I think setup wise, the car was great. The guys did a great job on the pit stops. The No. 12 and the No. 2 car did a different strategy, and I think that cost us P8, but on track the car was quite strong fighting with the Penskes and Andrettis. In the last stint we were missing just a little bit of speed, but I’m happy to bring the car home 10th. We were fighting the whole race and it was fun to make some good passes. So we’ll continue to try to do that.” (About the broken wing): “I got hit in the rear under the first yellow and it broke my rear bumper, so it had to be replaced. So I went all the way to the back and had to come back through. Very few people passed me on track today so I was happy about that.”
Graham Rahal: “I think we had a really good race car today. We were a little too draggy on a downforce level to win today and just fell back. We were just never able to get the wing out during the pit stops to pick up a little speed. Unfortunately, as people saw on the one stop right before we lost a little bit of time, we came in and then came out in the middle of a group and got freight-trained. After that, it was all about trying to recover. Everybody did a great job on the No. 15 team today. We’ll go back and review strategy to see where we could have been better. Our team has worked awfully hard and we had a car that was capable of running in the top three certainly. I don’t know that I had even (Alexander) Rossi’s pace. He would have struggled to get by us, but I think he was a little bit quicker and the same with a couple of other guys. When we were up with TK (Tony Kanaan), if that train could have just kept working, swapping lap-to-lap-to-lap, I would have been perfectly cool with that, but sometimes that’s not the way these things go. I think we were a little too slow. Other guys could draft up on us with ease. We’re just going to have to work harder to be better and finish as high as we can in the championship. We will go out there and continue to push hard to end the season strong.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “I was having a really good race up to that point (when I brushed the wall). I came into the corner, and by the time I was in the middle of the corner, I had massive understeer and I just couldn’t save it. Fortunately, I did my best to reduce the impact, but at that moment I was a passenger. It’s quite fun, I have to say. It was really good racing out there and we were really doing well, we had good pace. We were fighting with the other cars. I was trying to find the rhythm, the timing, but unfortunately it didn’t end well. It’s all part of gaining experience.”
Ed Jones: “It was a difficult race. The approach we took with the set up made it really hard to make any progress unless the cars in front made mistakes. So, it was challenging. We still had a decent race, but we were pretty unlucky with the timing of the yellows. We were looking all right in the end and then I made a mistake on the last pit stop and that cost us. That said, it was quite fun out there at some points. Some guys were quite aggressive and there were a few crazy moves, so I was adjusting to that. It’s just frustrating because I feel that we should have had a decent result.”
Ed Carpenter: “We just couldn’t get it figured out this weekend. I crashed yesterday in practice, but we thought we made some gains in practice last night. We’ve had some OK runs here previously, but Turn 3 is where we struggled all weekend. We were pretty good in Turn 1, but for as much better as we were in (Turn) 1, we were equally bad in (Turn) 3. We just never really could get it figured out. We tried a lot of things that had worked here before and even tried some new things, but it just turned into one of those races. We weren’t in the window today.”
JR Hildebrand: “Heading down into Turn 1, it was two-wide for a couple of rows deep. I was on the outside, James (Hinchcliffe) was making a pass on the inside, and when the guys in front of us spread out and went two-wide I started getting a big push on the outside and fed wheel-in, and it just hooked up. I went down and James was there. I’m annoyed for both of us. It was close racing there, we were getting towards the end of the race and it’s just a bummer certainly for the Fuzzy’s Vodka team, but also for these guys (Hinchcliffe’s team).”
Takuma Sato: “It was a tough race. Up through qualifying, it was a fantastic weekend. The No. 26 boys and the Expedite Home Loans car worked extremely well – outstanding job to the crew. It was a great feeling to put the car on the pole here in Pocono. I always look forward to this race; it’s always an exciting race. Today we struggled a lot. It’s a shame we finished in 13th from where we started, but that’s racing. We need to understand what happened and hopefully we have a strong race next weekend.”
Marco Andretti: “It was a tough day, it felt like we had a lot going against us. We caught a yellow (flag) at a bad time, and then cut a tire and went to the back a few times. It was an unfortunate day, but we kept fighting and were able to lead some laps. It’s a bit of a bummer not to finish higher in my home race, but the UFD boys did a great job with the car and in the pits. Onward to Gateway for one last oval of the season.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I’ve been through 500 miles plenty of times, but I’m just beat after this one. It was a great run though, we started with a lot of downforce since we started at the back of the field. Because we didn’t have a final practice or warmup after qualifying, it took a while to get the balance of the car right. We started really slicing our way through it and I thought ‘Hey, we really have something here.’ We were leading at halfway. I thought it was going to be a good end to the race, but we just didn’t get enough downforce out of (the car). I was getting big runs on guys, but just couldn’t complete it. But I’m really happy to just get back in the car today and put the effort forward. We put on a good showing for DHL and for the fans out here, and that’s important. It was a test today; it was a mental test, no doubt, and a physical one as well. I was really glad to roll back into pit lane after the race and see the crew here with smiles on their faces.”
Charlie Kimball: “I’m really disappointed. I think the car had more in it than our results show. We had a mistake on that first pit stop, but we recovered well from that, then got caught up in other people’s mess. That’s what happens when you run back there. At the end of the day, though, we didn’t have the car to keep moving forward. We were just kind of hanging out – the balance wasn’t there. It was really disappointing and frustrating, especially having so many friends from Novo Nordisk here today. Qualifying third, running that first stint in fourth, a great restart in the middle of the race… all of it makes this result that much harder to swallow.”
Alexander Rossi: “The fuel mixture knob came off about two-thirds of the way through, so we didn’t have full power there at the end. We know these Honda engines have something for the competition. The Military to Motorsports car was great all day. The NAPA Know How crew was stellar all day. It’s a really good result, but when you come so close to a win, it’s sometimes difficult to swallow. Looking back to where we were at Pocono last year, when we had a strong car and didn’t finish, to come back to be on the podium is a testament to Andretti Autosport and the entire team and the work that they’ve done all year.”