Random Thoughts On Pocono

There is really no way to know how this race looked on television, but it was spectacular in person. Like all five hundred mile races, there was that lull around the halfway point – but what a finish!

As is usually the case with a Will Power drive, he quietly hung around and suddenly about three-quarters of the race through, you suddenly realize he is in the lead. That’s exactly what happened at this race. He had started eighth and had been somewhat invisible throughout most of the day. By now, we should all know that it is a mistake to ever overlook Will Power. He took the lead on Lap 151 and led all but a handful of laps for the rest of the day on his way to his fourth victory of the season.

With about fifteen laps to go, pole-sitter Mikhail Aleshin made it interesting. He passed Josef Newgarden for second and was catching Power. At one point, Aleshin was only .22 seconds behind Power. But Power held him off and won by over a second.

TV Coverage:  Obviously I did not see any of the coverage since I was here. I’m just hoping that I was able to reset my DVR from the app on my phone. As of this morning, Xfinity had not updated the programming taking the rescheduled race into account. The time change here on my phone put all the programming to Eastern time. Who knows what I got? Here’s hoping I was able to get the race and not a review of the Olympics.

Scary moment:  If you watched the race, you know there was a very scary moment in the pits on Lap 64. The cars of Alexander Rossi and Charlie Kimball collided in the pits. Rossi’s car was launched and it came down on top of the cockpit of Helio Castroneves. Fortunately, it appears no one was injured in the frightening looking incident. The day was done for Rossi and Helio, but Kimball was able to continue on his way to a fifteenth place finish.

Points lead shaved:  Of course, the big story is that points leader Simon Pagenaud crashed into the outside wall of Turn One on Lap 158. Pagenaud was uninjured in the crash, but you can’t say the same for his points lead. What seemed like an insurmountable advantage has dwindled down to a mere twenty points over his surging teammate Will Power, with three more aces to go – one of them being a double-points race.

I’ve been saying this since June, but Will Power is going to win this championship. He has been charging hard ever since he won the second race at Belle Isle in early June. His stock is rising, while Pagenaud’s has been holding steady at best. His poor finishes up until today have all been blamed on engine problems and what not. As a driver, Pagenaud had not made a single mistake – until today. From what I can tell, this one was all on him and he’s paying the price in the points.

Power’s charge is even more remarkable considering he did not start the first race of the season in St. Petersburg. Had he at least started that race, he would have eight more points to his total and would trail Pagenaud by only twelve points. I’m wondering if those eight pints will figure into the championship when it is all over.

Monday Magic:  I was actually happy that the rains came as early as they did yesterday. I was afraid that IndyCar officials would try to move Sunday’s start time up an hour and would aim to get a 252.5 mile race in and be done with it. Although the attendance suffered as well as the TV ratings, we knew the weather was going to be perfect today and it was – except it was very breezy. The drivers put on a great show for whatever eyes were here or watching on TV.

Will Power was also happy. After the race, he pointed out to everyone that over the past six years, he had won every race that had been pushed back to a Monday – Brazil, St. Petersburg and now Pocono. I haven’t looked it up and no one challenged him on it, so I’ll take his word for it.

Drive of the Day: After the Pagenaud crash on Lap 158, Ryan Hunter-Reay was at or running near the front when his engine suddenly cut out on him. He fell back, came into the pits and lost a lap. I figured his day was done and he would be settling for a finish around thirteenth or so. Like a man possessed, he charged to the front to finish third – easily the drive of the day. He acknowledged after the race that he didn’t have the speed to catch Aleshin or Power, but it was impressive to see him on the podium after such a late race setback.

Keeping it out of the fence:  Pippa Mann struggled with her car the entire weekend. I spoke to her on the grid just before the race and she was not happy with the way her car was handling. Pocono is her best track and she got her best career finish here last year (thirteenth).

Pippa was bringing up the rear most of the day and it would be easy to assume she was the problem when you look at her seventeenth place finish today and see that she was three laps down. But I will point out that her Dale Coyne Racing teammate Conor Daly finished just ahead of her in sixteenth and many were predicting a strong day for Daly. I would still like to see what Pippa (and Conor) could do in a car that was consistently fast, week in and week out.

Quite honestly, I think both drivers should be commended for not wadding up their respective cars that were apparently such handfuls.

Getting closer:  While Mikhail Aleshin did not win the race in which he won his first pole, I think he has earned a lot more respect within the paddock and from fans alike with the way he has driven in the second half of the season. After a botched pit stop ruined his shot at a win at Mid-Ohio, he responded with a pole and a second place finish in the very next race.

I never thought I would say this at the start of the season, but I don’t think Aleshin’s first win is far off – possibly even coming this season at one of the next three races. He has certainly gotten my attention. That and four dollars will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

All in all:  The ABC Supply 500 was an exciting race to attend. The skies were sunny, the temperature was pleasant and the racing was exciting. I did not witness the frightening incident in the pits, but I saw the replays. But watching Will Power check out on the field when it mattered, was like watching a masterpiece in the making.

The tightened points race will make Saturday night’s continuation of the Texas race even more intriguing. For those that thought that things were boring with Pagenaud apparently running away with the championship – things just got a lot more interesting.

Reminder:  By the time Paul and I leave the track, it’ll be close to 6:00. We’ll be getting on the road and we’ve targeted Akron to spend the night. Then we’ll make Indianapolis by lunchtime on Tuesday and I’ll make Nashville by late Tuesday afternoon. With that travel schedule, I’ll have no time (or energy) to write anything for Wednesday. Therefore, there will be no post here on Wed Aug 24, but I’ll return on Fri Aug 26.

Photos:  Here are a few photos I took today that really require no captioning. Thanks to everyone that followed this site throughout the extended race weekend. Lastly, as much fun as this race weekend was, it would have been even more fun with my better half Susan. She was missed.











Again, thanks for following along this weekend and all of the race weekends we attended this season.

George Phillips

28 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Pocono”

  1. Great coverage all weekend, George. It was a fun race and looked great on TV.

  2. The race was exciting listening to radio and watching timing and scoring.
    Have a safe trip home.

  3. I found this to be a damned exciting race. It is obvious now that Aleshin is the real deal. Color me wrong about that. Will Power is just sneaky fast. He could fool Penn and Teller. RHR was a rocket.
    Perhaps drivers should get points for how many cars they pass. I thought the crowd was very respectable for a Monday. If you missed the race it will be on YouTube before the week is out. The team crews will be damned tired by the time they unload at Texas.
    I don’t think Simon’s car could have bottomed that much without low tire pressure.

    George, your driver was mentioned on the IndyCar radio broadcast.

  4. Thank goodness for Dale Coyne Racing. Those cars run as fast as they are funded. Dale makes the most of his sponsorship money, just glad he shows up every week with 2 cars. Some weeks are good, others are not so good. I expect a lot of downforce was placed in Conor’s car today, with the idea of today being a learning day for him and to go 500 miles. 22 cars are better than 20 every week.

  5. ecurie415 Says:

    How many breaks are people giving Mann before she actually is required to perform (as in, get a result in a race)? Contrast that with Aleshin. He has two years on ovals, total, with a year layoff in between due to a serious injury. He took pole position and finished second at Pocono. Mann qualified last and finished last at Pocono. How often does “evil handling race car” serve as her excuse for performances near the bottom of grid? Or does she get a free pass because she’s active on Twitter and people like her? Daly is not a valid comparison to Mann – he has four top ten finishes this year. “Keeping it out of the fence” is a pretty low bar to set for the series.

    • Are we wrong to cheer for someone that’s a nice person and friendly to fans? I didn’t expect Pippa to win but that’s not the point. Someone has to run towards the back of the field in IndyCar, NASCAR, or any other series. I have been able to interact with Pippa enough to almost consider her my friend. I think George feels the same way. And keeping it out of the fence was more than some of the drivers could do over the weekend.

      • ecurie415 Says:

        Hi Patrick. First, I’m expressing my opinion and it’s not “wrong” to like what you like. But I’m old school. I don’t think being a nice person is a qualification to run wheel to wheel on an oval at 220 mph. I have no doubt she is a lovely person and a tireless worker for racing and the causes that she supports. All of that is great. But I beg to disagree about her on substantive terms…and that is really what matters most. Of course, there is always a guy in last place. However, she is well off the pace on ovals. By the first set of pit stops at Pocono, she was about 27 seconds behind the leader, and she was about 10 seconds adrift of her teammate. So it’s not the equipment. I can’t say for sure, but my assumption is that she is funding her own rides when she can. I understand why someone might want to do that, but I don’t think it helps the series to have her in a race. As for the suggestion that “some of the drivers’ could not do more than keep it out of the fence, I’d have to disagree. As far as I know, Sato was the only driver who put it into the wall on track early, and Pag late in the race (I’m not counting the pit accident). I like a driver who can push hard every lap, not one who is hanging on for dear life while the field laps her before Lap 40. Stated differently, I’d rather have someone charge hard and hit a wall, than trundle around at 90% of the pace all day.

        • Fair enough and I don’t really disagree with you. I just happen to think she does a decent enough job for a part time driver that gets little to no testing. My comment about other drivers crashing included the 3 in practice. As I said, not everyone can run with the leaders and I believe Pippa is good for the series in the way she interacts with fans. That wouldn’t matter much if she never got to race or was a complete embarrassment like Milka. I understand if you don’t agree.

    • I agree on Pippa. Nice person but when I watched cut down on James Davidson and end up on her lid several years ago, I said “NEXT”. I guess I was done with her being a decent driver based on that. She seems really nice, but if I am pulling for a female driver, it’s Simona!

      • ecurie415 Says:

        Simona had a great career ahead of her but I feel she was poorly managed.

        • Simona is my very favorite driver and I thought when she got with Andretti that would be the break she was waiting for. But I guess they couldn’t find a sponsor for her, which I will never understand. She didn’t do very well in Formula E and I think she wants to come back to IndyCar but I don’t see a spot for her, especially with no sponsor. A shame.

          • I was so disappointed when she did not receive a permanent ride. I enjoyed meeting her at Long Beach. She is another fan favorite and could drive with the best of them if given a chance (and $$$). I need to win the lottery.

          • I met her at Milwaukee. Like so many, I am very disappointed that she did not get a decent ride. I will long remember that after her horrifying crash practicing at Indy, she wrapped her burnt hand, went back out, and put her car in the race.

          • Simona has a big fan base thanks to her talent, personality, and attitude. She belongs in IndyCar but with only 22 seats at most races she seems to be on the outside looking in. She will probably end up driving Australian stock cars, which is a big loss for us.

  6. don newcomb Says:

    hey George. good race it looked like a decent crowd. felt bad for rhr and ed carptner. the fact that power wonmade want to puke again. glad to aleslhin making progress.

    texas should be as good a race as ponoco if not better.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    I thought the race looked great on television. Pocono has the coolest restart camera angle in the series. I’m sure Hunter-Reay’s charges were even better in person, but it was pretty awesome to see on the screen too. I feel bad for Ryan, though, as he was the class of the field in both 500 mile races and was unable to collect a win in either.

    A couple of non-race things I liked on the broadcast:
    – When did the Nations Cup return? Prior to the race, they showed the Indycar “Nations Cup” standings, which appeared to be calculated using the old CART system of attributing the points scored by each nation’s highest finisher to the each nation’s total. I’ve calculated this for kicks and grins over the past several years, so it is cool to see it back in any capacity. The Indycar “Olympic medals table” was a nice touch as well, attributing gold-silver-bronze medals to podium finishers by nation.
    – While brief, the in-race rememberences of Justin Wilson and Bryan Clauson were well-said and touching. I would have liked to have seen more on both drivers and what they meant to the series and its fans, but I understand how little time they had in both pre- and post-race.

    • Gurney Eagle Says:

      The Nations Cup graphic was just something NBC put together to tie in to their Olympic coverage. I doubt that we’ll see it again this season.

  8. Edgar Emmitt Says:

    RHR was the hard luck guy today.Twice he came from the back.
    In my opinion that guy should of had 2 500 wins this year.

  9. Thanks George for the good coverage of this race all around. Somehow, I wonder what your employer said about you sticking around Pocono on a Monday. My guess is that you had booked an additional day off in advance, just in case. How much would you recommend doing that for people who want to attend an oval race?

  10. George – great coverage of the weekend! I was afraid you had to go home to go to work, but am pleased you were able to stay and cover Monday. Kudos to NBCSN for showing the race live yesterday. Aleshin is developing into a very competent oval driver. I so wish he had been able to reel in Power for the win.

  11. Matt B. (Dayton, OH) Says:

    As I mentioned in a previous post, after the Sunday rain-out was announced I hopped in the car and drove the 558 miles/8.25 hours to Pocono, stayed overnight at the local Motel 6, attended the race on Monday, then drove straight home afterword and got home about midnight. Whew! Great race and great track (a new track for me). I sat in the 300’s section at the start/finish line and could see the whole track which surprised me a bit. Because of the sharp turn 1 the track is “shallow” for a 2.5 miler, meaning the backstretch (exit of 1 through 2 and to 3) is closer to the main straight than a typical 2.5 mile oval. The infield looks noticeably smaller than IMS even though the tracks are the same length. I was disappointed Aleshin didn’t win but he sure looked strong. Rossi looked good too until the pit issue put him out. It was interesting seeing those two blank sidepods running at the front for most of the race. Now I might have to head to Watkins Glen in two weeks.

  12. What is that fuzzy orange thing behind Roger Penske in your photo? Is that Trump?

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