Alexander Rossi Wins at Pocono

The last race in the Verizon IndyCar Series came three weeks ago, but Alexander Rossi didn’t miss a beat. For the second consecutive race, Rossi dominated the event, and cruised to victory. The American led 180 of the 200 laps on Sunday, after leading 66 of the 90 laps at Mid-Ohio. It is the third win of the season for Rossi, who has quickly closed the gap between himself and championship leader Scott Dixon. The Andretti Autosport driver now trails Dixon by just 29 points with three rounds remaining in the 2018 season.

Will Power was aiming for his third straight win at Pocono, and his third consecutive 500-mile race win as well. Unfortunately for him, he came up one spot short and had to settle for a runner-up finish. Power has now led laps in 14 consecutive 500-mile races, which is now the longest current streak after Tony Kanaan failed to lead a lap today. Dixon managed to capture another podium finish after starting in 13th position. In his six races here, the Ganassi driver has started no better than 9th, but also never finished worse than 9th at the Tricky Triangle.

ABC Supply 500 Box Score

While Rossi’s domination was one storyline, there were more serious matters at hand. A frightening crash on Lap 7 had everyone holding their breath for nearly an hour. Robert Wickens and Ryan Hunter-Reay touched entering Turn 2, and Robert’s car got up and into the catch fence, shredding the SPM machine as it spun like a top. The Canadian was awake and alert before being transported by helicopter for further observation at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest.

An update provided by IndyCar stated that Wickens was being treated for injuries to his lower extremities, right arm, and spine. He also sustained a pulmonary contusion and will undergo an MRI and probable surgery.

Fortunately Robert is going to be okay, with due time. The replays and horrific photos of that crash show that it could have been so much worse. There were three other drivers involved in the accident – Pietro Fittipaldi, Takuma Sato, and Robert’s teammate James Hinchcliffe. Thankfully all of those drivers were able to exit their cars without serious injury.

The in-car video from Hunter-Reay’s car showed just how close of a call it was for him, as he went underneath the airborne car of Wickens. His rollhoop was destroyed, but his immediate thoughts after the incident were with Wickens. This tweet from his wife Beccy after the race will give you goosebumps.

The race itself continued after a nearly two-hour red flag to repair the fencing. Sebastien Bourdais did not like the look of the repairs, and was adamant that he would not get back into the car. He ultimately did, and put in a fantastic performance. The Dale Coyne Racing driver finished in 4th place, just ahead of Josef Newgarden.

Rookie Zach Veach was fastest in practice on Saturday, qualified in 7th, and finished the race in 6th place. Just behind him was teammate Marco Andretti, who ran inside the top three for most of the afternoon. Rossi gave credit to his teammates for today’s victory. “The fact that we were able to win is just a testament to the car I had from Andretti Autosport, really the work that my teammate Zach Veach put in at the test here last week,” Rossi said. “We were able to roll off instantly competitive and strong. It was a big team win from that standpoint and a great day for the NAPA Auto Parts Andretti crew. Great on pit stops, strategy, gave us the tools we needed to get it done today.”

Simon Pagenaud had a decent afternoon and brought his Penske machine home in 8th, while Charlie Kimball collected another top ten finish for Carlin Racing. Ed Carpenter rounded out the top ten on Sunday. It was a disappointing weekend for Kanaan, who had high hopes heading into Pocono. Entering today, there had been 15 total 500-mile races since the start of the 2012 IndyCar season. Kanaan was the only driver to lead laps in every one of those races. That came to an end when his AJ Foyt Racing machine lost power just after the race restarted.

Three races remain until a champion is crowned. The next event is the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 25. NBCSN will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 8 PM ET on Saturday night.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Josef Newgarden: “Yeah, it was just a tough day. We didn’t have anything for anybody. We were scrapping to keep that top 5. That was the big thing for us. I was driving my butt off and I think the team was trying everything they could to help me and this was all we had. Will looked like he gave (Alexander) Rossi a good run for his money, which was great. It was just not enough. So we’ll look at everything. It’s always kind of tough right after this type of race. You don’t have all the facts and you want to go back through the data and try to figure out what you can do better next time. So, that’s what we’ll do. But, I’m thankful that all the fans stuck around to watch this race. We’ll work hard for these last three now.”

Matheus Leist: “Great to be racing here at Pocono; we had great support from the fans mainly from the ABC Supply family. We didn’t have the fastest car – maybe top 10 but 11th place is OK. Looking forward to Gateway now. We’ll try to maximize everything and get our first top 10 under our belts.”

James Hinchcliffe: “Yeah – not the race day we were hoping for. You know, I saw the accident happening in front of me. (Zach) Veach started sliding up, I tried to slow down and just kind of lost it in the fray. As I was going backward, I think Pietro (Fittipaldi) had nowhere to go and came into me. Other than that, there was a bunch of stuff going on, I’m not sure exactly what happened. I took my hands off the wheel when I went backward, and I think some piece of debris came in as I was holding them (my hands) in, kind of just smacked the top of them so I took a bit of a beating, but nothing is broken, just some swelling and some cuts. We’ll rest it up and be fine. Obviously, I’m just hoping Robbie’s (Robert Wickens) alright. Never good to see a car go up (into the fence) like that, but I know he is in good hands. Hopefully, we’ll see him back in the car soon.”

Scott Dixon: “It was a tough race for everyone I think. Obviously, you never want to see an accident like that at the beginning. I’m glad there was some good news on that front and our thoughts and prayers are with Robert and his family. We made several adjustments to the car – taking wing and more wing. We got it to handle pretty well but congrats to Rossi and their team. They did a hell of a job and deserved to win it. I’m looking forward to coming back strong Saturday at St. Louis in the PNC Bank car.”

Ed Jones: “We didn’t really get a lot of practice time this weekend which limited the improvements we could make to the car. The start of the race was pretty crazy but we made it through. Obviously, we sat and waited for a while after the accident and it’s great to hear the positive news on Robert. We picked up some damage and had to repair the car when we got going again. We went laps down after that and from there just tried to adjust the NTT DATA car the best we could to get the most out of it.”

Will Power: “I actually thought we’d be able to jump him again, but I got caught up with a lapped car coming out of the out lap and almost went to the wall, and came back; and then had a miss-shift on the out lap. It was just a terrible exchange altogether. I wasn’t quite good enough in traffic. (Alexander) Rossi was very good running in traffic. We just had way too much push. So yeah, that’s all we could do. The guys did a great strategy. We went long. That’s how we jumped in but weren’t quite good enough in traffic, but it was a great day for the Verizon guys.”

Tony Kanaan: “It was a throttle sensor failure so I lost all power and unfortunately it’s going to take 15-20minutes to change it. That’s going to be so many laps down that we decided to park it. It’s a shame. We were really looking forward to this race. We have a lot of ABC (Supply Co.) employees here supporting us. It’s racing, sometimes you have one of those things. We haven’t had a mechanical issue all year. That’s unfortunate that it happened here. “[On the conditions] It was hard to pass, definitely. I mean, you can see right now nobody is passing anybody. It’s pretty much spread out. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t what we were used to racing close to each other like that. It’s been pretty difficult. [unintelligible track noise] I think it’s going to be a track position race today.”

Graham Rahal: “Most importantly, I’m hoping for good news on Robbie. I’m sure he is a little banged up which we all would be in that situation.  I started racing against Robbie and Hinch when I was 10 years old. We’ve had a lot of good battles over the years and he’s had an amazing year so I hope that his recovery will be extremely quick and he’s back out here with us. It’s a real shame about the start of the race because I think our car might have been better than Rossi’s. It was a very good race car.  It’s a shame but we can take a lot of positives out of this and move forward so I’m pretty pleased.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “I am just happy that Robbie’s injuries are not life-threatening and the other guys are OK. That is the main thing. As for the race, it was a good day for the SealMaster Honda No. 18. It was a solid finish, fourth place. There were obviously some weird circumstances. It’s tough to get your head back in the game, but we pulled through as we usually do. It was a solid effort by the whole team. I am really proud of the guys. It was a good day for us.”

Pietro Fittipaldi: “I’m feeling great. I’m obviously a little sore from the impact but I’m 100 percent, no broken bones. Thankfully. I just saw a lot of smoke ahead, I was in the middle of the corner behind Ed (Jones), it was full of smoke and all I saw was that I was going to hit (James) Hinchcliffe head on, so I had to slam on the brakes and try to get low. When I did that, I think with the debris on track, the fluid, and the cold tires I just lost the rear of the car and then hit him sideways. There are three races left, so I am going to try and get some good results to finish off the season. I’m looking forward to Gateway.”

Ed Carpenter: “It was a very long day! Early in the race, I thought we were going to be okay. We had the speed to run with the cars in front of us and were even close to leader pace. We lost some track position in the pits which didn’t put us in a great spot. We tried to go off-strategy and pit outside of a fuel window, but with it staying green, we ended up having to run slow to save fuel the rest of the day. I don’t think we had a winning car but I feel we had a borderline Top 5 car instead of just a Top 10 car. Unfortunately, it was just a long second half of the race with riding around to save fuel and try and stay out of the leaders’ way.”

Spencer Pigot: “The guys did a great job getting the Fuzzy’s Vodka car fixed. At the end of the day, there was really nothing else we could do in terms of improving our position and there was no need to risk anything else. That was always the plan, to go out and do a few laps and gain the positions we could. Unfortunately, our race was over before it began. The car had a lot of damage to the right rear and never felt quite right when we went back out. It’s extremely disappointing, you come here wanting to continue some good momentum we’ve had the last handful of races, but we never got that shot. We’ll have to look forward to Gateway next weekend and try to rebound there.”

Simon Pagenaud: “We got damaged in that first crash and we had to change the tow link which the guys did an amazing job – we didn’t lose a lap. We restarted in the back, and it was very, very difficult to move forward.  I don’t know if there was more damage under the car. We will check at the shop. I think that was the best we could do today with what we had. It was unfortunate without yellows.  Just not much we could do. I was so proud to drive the Shell Chevrolet Marketplace car.  It is what it is, we will go to Gateway to bounce back!

Charlie Kimball: “First off, my thoughts and prayers are with Robert (Wickens). I really hope he’s OK and recovers quickly because he’s been a huge addition to the series this year. Overall, the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet just fought all day. The guys did a great job on pit lane and they got me two stops on that last stop. I’m really proud of the effort the whole team has put in this weekend, especially with only running one hour worth of practice and going straight into qualifying and 500 miles with tough weather conditions. They gave me a car that was really solid to start with and we were able to bring home another top 10 for the team. We had a really good test at Gateway a few weeks ago, so I’m excited to get back out there next weekend and hopefully bring home another good result.”

Zach Veach: “I’m very satisfied with how our race today went. During the big crash in the beginning, it turned out that our front wing adjuster got ripped off the nose of the car. We started the race a little conservative on front wing, to get through the first stint. Our plan was to keep adding throughout the race, but we weren’t able to so that kind of hurt us. We were stuck with that same front wing angle. As soon as I got close to cars, I struggled. We just needed a little more front wing which we couldn’t put in. But, all-in-all, I’m pretty happy with our day. Hoping that Robert (Wickens) is OK.  We’re all thinking of him.”

Alexander Rossi: “We came out in some traffic and it was really hard to be behind cars for some reason today. The No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Honda was better than everyone else so it was an exceptional day but right now Rob (Wickens) and James (Hinchcliffe) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and everyone involved in that incident have our thoughts. It’s tough to really celebrate after what happened. It’s the team. I have amazing teammates. Speaking of teammates, Zach (Veach) and Marco (Andretti) really helped me there in traffic so I owe them a beer or a case of beer. It’s just been leaning on Ryan (Hunter- Reay?) and Michael (Andretti?) and Bryan (Herta?) ever since day one to help me overcome the challenge that is superspeedways. You can’t do any of this without an amazing team, so I am very thankful to be on Andretti Autosport and have this great group of people. It’s a special day today. (Can you win the championship?): “We’re going to try. We’re executing like we need to do on Sundays and we’ll do everything we can to keep that rolling. There’s no time to rest now as we’re in Gateway in five or six days.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I’m OK. I’m just thinking about Robert (Wickens) right now. I haven’t had any information yet. They’re just waiting for him to come back to the medical center. It’s unfortunate in the first half of the race. I just hope Robert is alright. [I’m] just lucky to get out of that one.” (Did you know Wickens was alongside?): “Well yeah, he had a run out of Turn 1, came up along the side of me, but I was in the draft of (Will) Power in front of me so I started pulling ahead. Once we got to (Turn) 2 he was at my corner at best. I mean barely there. It was one of those corners you’re not up alongside, you know…its…yeah. The first lap of the race. I mean I thought, at that point, I had got to him, cleared him. I even gave room. I left a lane; left a half of a lane, if not more. I’ve gotta look at it again. I was pretty shocked I got hit in the back. That is neither here nor there right now – we’re just thinking about Robert. It’s all very very unfortunate.”

Takuma Sato: “I saw Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car hit the wall and I immediately backed off but I was covered by oil, my helmet and my car, and there was nothing I could do.  I just went straight into the wall. There were obviously a lot of cars involved and it’s a pity it happened in a 500-mile race. Right now I’m just worried about other drivers that are injured. When you are side-by-side, drivers get adrenaline and want to go faster but the problem was in Turn 2, it used to be just a kink; it’s nothing, you could go flat side-by-side. But now, with the less downforce, it’s really bumpy and you’ve got to be really careful with that. I was side-by-side with Bourdais into the corner and I backed off and braked but in front, unfortunately, Robert and Ryan made contact and that was nothing we could control.”

Max Chilton: “That definitely felt like a 500-mile race, especially with that time delay. Obviously, my thoughts are with Robert after the earlier accident, which shook everyone up a bit. I think it was a good thing that we were able to put on a bit of a show for the fans though, although it probably wasn’t the most exciting race. Good job by the safety crews to get the fence repaired in time to allow us to race today. I felt like at times we were quick and during some stints, we struggled a bit when I had to let the leaders by, but I tried to make the most of what we had. It’s another 500-mile race under the team’s belt and essential experience at a track the team has never been to before. We’ve tested at Gateway before so we’re aiming to get the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet nearer the front next weekend.”

Conor Daly: “It was obviously a tough day for us. We had to go into the race with almost no track time, so it was a big guess. At every stop, we put in a lot of front wing. We just kept trying to adjust, but still just struggled with the front of the car. I think by ourselves our pace was good, and we were maintaining a decent spot for where we were on track. I had one chance to pass someone for position and went for it with Ed, but I had no front grip at all and then clipped it. It’s a shame. You hate to end your day like that, thankfully the car wasn’t badly damaged, just small stuff. I would love another shot at it because I think there are some positives to our car and some positives to what we have, I just don’t think we had enough time to evaluate everything.”

Marco Andretti:  “I think we made a good gamble to pit early. We came out and we were flying, and we leap-frogged everybody… and it figures we’d go 480 miles with no yellow, so we ended up right back where we started. But, we went for it and all we needed was a little help to be on the podium, but we had to save [fuel] for most of the race. Coming away with a 100th top-10, but wish it was a win. We’re on to Gateway next weekend but sending good thoughts tonight to Robbie [Wickens].”

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