Pocono IndyCar Preview
During the 2014 season, AutoRacing1.com columnist Brian Carroccio will preview all Formula 1 and IndyCar races. Below, is Brian's preview of this weekend's Pocono IndyCar 500 fueled by Sonoco.
A Brief Overview
One thing that will be different in 2014, is the race has been extended from 400 to 500 miles. As a 500-mile race, Pocono will like Indianapolis and Fontana, pay double-points.
There are five multiple Indy car winners at Pocono. A.J. Foyt won four times, Rick Mears three, Al Unser, Danny Sullivan and Johnny Rutherford twice.
Charlie Kimball, of course, came home second to Dixon. The now-retired Dario Franchitti was third, with Team Penske’s Will Power fourth, and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden fifth.
How important is qualifying at Pocono?
If you go by last year? Meaningless.
However, Dixon’s win from 17th marks the deepest starting position anyone has scored a win in 20 Indy car races at Pocono. Previously, only two drivers won from outside the top-10: A.J. Foyt won from 14th in 1973 and Al Unser won from 16th in 1976.
The race has been won from pole six times.
What will be some of the storylines this weekend?
You’re going to hear a lot of drivers talk about the setup compromise between Turns 1 and 3. Turn 1 is a 14-degree banked, sharp radius turn, whereas Turn 3 is a 6 degree turn without the same degree of turning radius. In short, whereas many ovals have similar turns at opposite ends of the track, Pocono has vastly different ones.
This will be a setup puzzle that will challenge the teams and drivers.
Who are some drivers desperate for a good run?
I outlined Sato’s poor run of form in Tuesday’s Houston Postscript. Newgarden, who seemingly has some of the rotten luck possible, has finished 17th or worse in 7 of the 10 races this year. This past weekend, Newgarden finished 20th in both Houston races.
What kind of racing are we going to see?
It’s not going to be the action-packed affair we saw this weekend in Houston. Also, at the recent Pocono test, Hunter-Reay did mention that the track is one groove.
What I think you’re going to see is a lot like what we saw last year, with prolonged green flag runs, and an emphasis on drivers managing their tires over a long run.
So, who are the favorites coming into this weekend?
I haven’t been exactly distinguishing myself in the prognostication category of late. And given there’s been only one race in the last 25 years, and the team which finished 1-2-3 last year has struggled so much in 2014, makes Pocono even more of a head scratcher.
What about Ed Carpenter, who could have won Indy and won the last oval race at Texas?
As I said in the Texas Postscript, Carpenter is not merely a good oval driver, but the MAN-TO-BEAT at any of the roundy-rounds. The driver of the #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka machine will however have to compete with a formidable Andretti stable.
Yes, Will Power finished fourth last season, won at Fontana, and long with Carpenter had the best car at Texas. If team Andretti falters again, I expect the race may boil down to a Power-Carpenter showdown a la Texas.
Any potential sleepers?
And although this is somewhat harder to quantify, it seems to me Montoya’s is in a very positive frame of mind currently.
It’s hard to imagine, Montoya won’t have a win by year’s end. That win may come this weekend.
The romantic in me wants to say hometown favorite Marco Andretti scores pole again, and finishes the deal this time in his hometown race. And I can tell you, the crowd at Pocono will go crazy if Marco can pull of the win.
However, if I have to pick one guy, give me Carpenter. He's the man to beat on ovals right now, and he knows it. I expect him to grab his second win of 2014, and the third for the #20 team.
Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.
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