Friday Pocono Report

AR1 will be live at The Tricky Triangle this weekend

With a cool, gentle breeze, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s it is an absolutely gorgeous day here at Pocono Raceway. The Verizon IndyCar Series teams are setting up their cars in preparation for this weekend's ABC Supply Co. 500. And if you're coming to the track weekend I have good news: as of now, the weather forecast for the remainder of the weekend looks to be quite similar to today.

We imagine both track and series hope the good weather forecast helps at the box office.

You might remember Raceway President Brandon Igdalsky expressed his frustration with ticket sales in the days leading up to the race last year. While there was great fanfare surrounding the series' return to Pocono after a 24-year absence two years ago, which was supported by an encouraging crowd, last year was a different story. The crowd was down, and Igdalsky's comments certainly contributed to what was a less-than-uplifting atmosphere. Clearly, whatever honeymoon period there may have been, seemed to be over.

While no one has said anything official, the word on the street is that the track is pleased with advanced ticket sales. In speaking with a few of the locals, Pocono Raceway has marketed the event on local radio and there was signage for the event coming into the track. One AR1 reader who lives in Philadelphia texted me earlier in the week saying he saw a billboard advertisement for the race.

Sage Karam makes his first IndyCar appearance in front of the hometown crowd this weekend

Although, the Andrettis hail from nearby Nazareth, PA, it is another Nazareth native who seems to be the big star here in eastern Pennsylvanian this weekend. When I went by the Ganassi garage area the not-at-all-camera-shy Karam was filming a TV spot with a local television station. Earlier Karam was showing off his #8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet, which carries an advertisement from country/pop music band Rascal Flatts, to a group of onlookers.

With Karam's recent strong run at Iowa, fearless driving, local roots, and the fact this is his first appearance in the big cars before the home crowd, Pocono 2015 is shaping up to be The Weekend of Sage.

Pocono's unique layout provides a setup conundrum for the IndyCar teams. Last year Juan Pablo Montoya and Team Penske seemed to have the right setup.

Moving to the racing, I asked around to see how big of an unknown the aero kits would be going into the weekend. One crew member of a 2015 race-winning Chevrolet team told me he believes both manufacturers and the series have done their due diligence with simulators and the like regarding the aero kits. Generally speaking, the teams have a general baseline with how the kits perform. A team principal from another winning Chevrolet team echoed this sentiment, saying he thought they had the aero kits 80-85% figured out with relation to Pocono.

The general consensus was that the difficulties in setting the car up would be more a function of the tricky Pocono layout rather than the aero kits. Pocono of course with its three distinct corners is an never-ending riddle. In short, whatever woes the teams face setting up their car are less likely to be an aero kit problem and more likely to be a Pocono problem.

I also bumped into Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull near the Ganassi haulers. Using the recent race at Mid-Ohio as an example, I asked Hull how pit strategy has changed with the rule to close the pits. While Hull was not making a criticism, he says that the closed-pits rule has sort of flipped the script if you will when it comes to strategy. Whereas previously the goal was to essentially stretch a window as long as possible, nowadays coming in as soon as the window opens seems to be the optimal strategy.

Hull also, noting my article this week about covering last week's Washington D.C. Global Rallycross event talked about the series. My apologies if I'm restating something that is general knowledge. However, the cars used in Global Rallycross are specialty-built overseas by companies that build Rallycross cars. And their estimated cost is about $600,000 per car.

Mark Cipolloni and I will be here tomorrow and Sunday. Stay tuned to AutoRacing1 for all the happenings throughout the weekend from Pocono Raceway.

Brian C. reporting from Pocono

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