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

It was quite a weekend last year for Scott Dixon and Team Ganassi

After a 24-year absence, the Verizon IndyCar Series enjoyed a successful return to The Tricky Triangle in 2013. Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon led a 1-2-3 finish for the Ganassi organization, in launching what turned out to be his third series championship campaign.
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.

Marco Andretti was ultra-quick last year at his home race. Can he convert that speed into a win this year?

Of course, the current field of drivers has only made one visit to Pocono, so the data is sparse. However, Andretti Autosport swept the front row in qualifying last year with hometown favorite Marco Andretti on pole, Ryan Hunter-Reay second, and James Hinchcliffe third.

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.

A.J. Foyt was quite successful at Tricky Triangle

Dixon started 17th, Kimball 12th and Franchitti 20th. Yes, the front-runners had trouble but as Team Ganassi showed last year, the key to Pocono is having a good car over a long run.

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?

You have to admire Young Josef's never-say-die attitude. The Tennessee native could use a little good fortune once in a while.

There are a few, but the two that spring to mind are Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden.

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?

Good question.

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.

James Hinchcliffe's first lap crash turned last year was the first unfortunate incident of a miserable day for Andretti Autosport.

That said, you can’t overlook the sheer speed Andretti Autosport showed last year. While Ganassi outfoxed them on strategy, the fastest cars were in the Andretti stable. Remember too that James Hinchcliffe crashed on the first lap, and Hunter-Reay had a potentially race-winning car eliminated when Takuma Sato ran over him in pit lane. Also, Andretti was one of the teams to test recently at Pocono.

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.

Anyone else?

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?

Juan Pablo Montoya has been more than solid over the past few weeks.

It’s hard to call a seven-time Grand Prix winner, Indy 500 winner, and CART champion, who drives for Roger Penske a sleeper. However, Juan Pablo Montoya could have won Indy, finished third at Texas, and drove a sensational two races at Houston. Also, Montoya has run Pocono numerous times in a stock car.

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.

Winning races and celebrating with Fuzzy's Vodka seems to be the M.O. these days for Ed Carpenter Racing.

So give us a winner

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

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