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IndyCar: ABC Supply 500 Preview

Three wide action in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. [Chris Jones Photo]

Three wide action in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. [Chris Jones Photo]

 

by Paul Gohde

Indy cars will race at Pocono Raceway Sunday in the ABC Supply 500, a race that AJ Foyt has won four times during his dominant career. But Foyt, now a car owner, will just watch this time as Scott Dixon tries to extend his points lead while looking to capture his fifth IndyCar title.

Race Facts: The 200-lap, 500-mile chase around the 2.5-mile, three-turn, triangular oval (with all three corners having different banking), will be the 25th Indy car race there since the track’s first in 1971. Mark Donahue captured that inaugural run driving for Roger Penske whose team has won nine more times since then at the “Tricky Triangle”.

Past Pocono Races: Will Power is the only driver who has been able to secure back-to-back wins (2016-17) in Pocono 500-mile history. Power started fifth in last-year’s race that was postponed until Monday due to rain. After going a lap down early due to having to replace his front wing assembly and later his rear wing during a caution period, he managed to get back on the lead lap by lap 75. A quick pit-stop on Lap 177 put him near the front as the leaders had stopped earlier. And when late-race leader Marco Andretti was forced to pit for fuel with just ten to go, Power went to the front and held off Josef Newgarden who started 14th and Alexander Rossi for a come-from-behind win. The competitive race saw 42 lead changes among ten drivers; a Pocono record… Juan Pablo Montoya posted a two-lap record in 2014 (223.871 mph) and the race record (2:28:13.179 seconds, (202.402 mph) that same year.

2018 Season So Far: Point Standings: 1. (Dixon/Honda (494 points, 3 wins) 2. Rossi/H (-46, 2) 3. Newgarden/Chevrolet (-60, 3) 4. Power C (-87, 2) 5. Ryan Hunter-Reay/H (-95, 1). Other winners in 2018: Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais, each one. After 13 races Honda leads Chevrolet 8-5. Thirty-nine drivers have scored points so far in 2018 while the four oval events have been won by Newgarden (Phx), Power (Indy 500), Dixon (Tx) and Hinchcliffe (Iowa).

The Field: The usual 22 cars will start the only other 500-miler on the schedule. Harding Racing, which has rotated drivers lately, has Conor Daly to fill the cockpit again this weekend. Part-time entry Juncos will sit out this weekend. Twelve Hondas and ten Chevrolets are entered.

Notes: With Scott Dixon signing a long-term contract with Chip Ganassi and Fernando Alonso walking away from F1 racing for at least the 2019 season, many wonder what move the McLaren team will make: establish a long-rumored move to IndyCar partnering with an established team like Andretti Autosport with Alonso driving, or wait a year to come across the Atlantic with Alonso if he sits out in 2019…or?…Lee Greenwood will sing the National Anthem at Pocono as he did at Road America…The first motorsport event at Pocono was held on a now long-gone ¾-mile paved track…In 2013 Chip Ganassi’s team swept the Pocono podium with Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti.

Our Take: 500-mile races are a special breed of competition as we have often experienced at Indianapolis where long-shot winners and sure-to win losers have caused many to wonder why or how that happened. But unscheduled pit-stops and unexpected caution flags have time-and-again mixed-up the finish at Indy. For some reason the 24 winners at Pocono have been the big names. Think Foyt, Mears, the Unsers and Power have learned to stay-the-course and win. Team Penske ten wins there tell you something. Josef Newgarden-Chevrolet and Scott Dixon-Honda are my not-so-bold choices for Sunday, but if those unexpected cautions and pit stops occur and an outlier should break the string, I’ll take Robert Wickens to make his winning mark.

Final Words: Tony Kanaan (No.14 ABC Supply Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Pocono is a unique oval with three corners instead of four, and all of them are different from each other. I remember the first time I tested there when I looked down that wide front stretch going into Turn 1 I thought ‘That was crazy’. There’s always a compromise when setting-up the car because the turns are different. But when you get it right, it’s a blast. We tested there last week focusing on the 500 and I believe we still have some work to do.”

 

 

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”