2017 IndyCar series: Pocono 500 talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

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    You don't race with Will Power. You strap yourself in and feel the Gs. (SarahStierch / Wikimedia Commons)

    The final super-speedway event of the season is in the books, following a frantic five hundred miles around the tricky triangle of Pocono Raceway. And it was a good day for Australian fans of the IndyCar Series.

    This was Will Power’s best IndyCar win
    For the second year in a row, the pride of Toowoomba drove to victory lane at Pocono Raceway, keeping his championship chances alive heading into the final three races of the season.

    The Queenslander didn’t dominate the 500-mile Pocono event. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was a close run thing right to the end, the Aussie having to hold off Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi for his thirty-second career win, but I believe that Sunday was Power’s best win in IndyCar racing.

    He showed great mental fortitude and perseverance coming back from a lap down due to wing damage, and, helped by some smart strategy calls, made his way back through the field to snare a memorable win.

    Australian IndyCar driver Will Power

    You don’t race with Will Power. You strap yourself in and feel the Gs. (SarahStierch / Wikimedia Commons)

    The championship chase tightens
    Three races to go, and Power’s win pulls him to within forty-two points of championship leader/Penske teammate Newgarden. New Zealander Scott Dixon lurks eighteen points behind Newgarden in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and the evergreen Castroneves is four markers further back. Simon Pagenaud sits in fourth, and is in striking distance, too.

    There’s plenty of drama left to play out over the season’s final three races.

    Ryan Hunter-Reay is super-human
    The Floridian was involved in a heavy accident during qualifying on Saturday and he was some chance to not be given medical clearance to drive in the race. It turned out that Hunter-Reay got the green light from IndyCar Series doctors, and made the most of the day, driving through the field to lead a handful of laps.

    I don’t even want to imagine what sort of pain RHR was in. To make the grid, let alone be at the pointy end is stupefying. Anyone who says IndyCar drivers aren’t athletes is kidding themselves.

    Alexander Rossi gets better with every oval race he runs
    The surprise winner of last year’s hundredth Indianapolis 500 showed a heap of potential Sunday, running third behind the Penske duo of Power and Newgarden, after being there or thereabouts throughout the entire race. Come next season, I expect the American to be a legitimate threat at every event. No wonder he’s in such high demand from the likes of Chip Ganassi as silly season ramps up.

    The crowd was good and the race was great.

    If you didn’t enjoy Sunday’s race, you’re pretty tough to please. We saw cars seven wide across the vastness of Pocono’s main straight, there were more than five hundred on-track passes and a thrilling race to the flag between three of the sport’s brightest stars, and the grandstand was more occupied than I expected.

    Based on what we saw for five hundred miles today, there’s clearly nothing wrong with the on-track product at Pocono, and the encouraging crowd seems to suggest that Pocono has a chance to remain on the schedule in years to come. Hopefully it doesn’t go the way of Fontana – brilliant on-track action, and absolutely no one in the stands – because the series needs as many oval races as it can get, especially when the racing is as good as it was today.

    Team Penske’s 2018 plans are falling into place.
    Earlier in the week, Roger Penske confirmed one of the sport’s worst-kept secrets: two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya would be driving an Acura prototype in North America’s sports car championship next year, beginning in February at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and will be joined by rising American star Dane Cameron.

    If the persistent rumours are to be believed, current IndyCar star Helio Castroneves, currently locked in a tight battle for what would be his first series championship, will be announced in the second Penske Acura prototype. It’s a blow for IndyCar, who will lose it’s most popular and most visible driver to a rival series. But all is not lost: it’s likely we’ll see both Castroneves and Montoya at the Indianapolis 500 next year.

    Off to Gateway
    The IndyCar Series is back at it next weekend, returning to Gateway Motorsports Park near St Louis for the first time since 2003 for a Saturday night (Sunday 1pm, Australian eastern time) event on the recently-repaved 1.25-mile flat oval. Only Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan have raced at Gateway in an IndyCar, so anything could happen.

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