7:15 PM — The 2019 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway is officially finished, and Will Power is the winner after the race was stopped at 128 laps. Power started up front, fell back early, got a lucky break on a yellow flag, got caught out on another yellow flag, then drove his way back to the front after his final pit stop.
The race was marred by another first-lap accident as five cars were collected when Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato tried to put three cars into a place where only two cars would fit. The causes and blame for the accident will be debated hotly over the coming days and weeks, but the end result was that those three, along with Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe, had any hopes of victory slashed approximately 1.5 miles into the 500-mile event.
After a red flag for fence repairs that lasted nearly an hour, the race resumed with a long period of processional racing that lasted through the first pit stop. During this time, Will Power ran near the rear of the field and appeared to not have a car that was capable of moving forward. In the post-race press conference, he mentioned, however, that he spent that first stint running the engine as lean as possible and just following the train. Once cars in front of him started to pit, Power turned the engine to full rich and found himself second when the pit stop shuffle completed.
Power had good and bad luck with the yellow flags on his next two pit stops. Will was on pit lane when Spencer Pigot crashed to bring out the yellow flag on lap 40. He immediately jumped from about 12th place to 2nd again. His good luck was taken away, however, on the next pit stop when Colton Herta crashed after everyone else besides Power had pitted. Though he fell back in the field, Power was fast enough to quickly dispatch of the cars in front of him, ultimately passing Dixon on lap 115 like he was standing still and driving away to a 6-second lead before the race was red-flagged for lightning.
One team that will be leaving Pocono Raceway on a high note is Dale Coyne Racing. The small, two-car effort based in the Chicago suburbs put both of their Honda-powered entries in the Top 7, and young Santino Ferrucci, after starting 13th, ran a very strong second for a good portion of the race. Ferrucci drove like a smart and cautious veteran after his final pit stop when he could have easily stuffed his car inside Simon Pagenaud in Turn 2 as Pagenaud was on his pit out lap. Ferrucci chose the safe approach though and backed off, saving his car for another run. Unfortunately another run never materialized for him, but a fourth-place finish showed the maturity the young Connecticut native has gained this year.
Ferrucci’s elder teammate, Sebastien Bourdais, brought his car home seventh. It seemed to be a rather uneventful run for him, and knowing Bourdais, that’s exactly how he would like it. I’m sure he’ll just be glad to be done with the superspeedways for another year and take the very respectable finish.
I’ll have a nice 12-hour drive tomorrow to give this race some more thoughts. For now, I’m going to call it a night and go find some dinner. If this is indeed INDYCAR’s final visit to the 2.5-mile triangular oval, it is a very sad occasion and a regrettable decision. I truly hope INDYCAR and Pocono Raceway can come to an agreement to keep this race going as it really did feel like it was gaining momentum. I expect those decisions should be formalized in the coming days and weeks.
2:05 PM — Welcome to Race Day at Pocono. If there were fears yesterday that the ominous forecast would keep racing in cheque today, those fears have been alleviated and we have been treated with glorious weather here today. The sun in out, it’s partly cloudy, and the temperature is currently in the mid 80s. The crowd appears to be very healthy today so it doesn’t appear yesterday’s forecast has put a damper on the gate today.
I’ve seen quotes from Pocono Raceway’s CEO Nick Igdalsky saying he expects attendance to be up this year over last year and that each of the past several years has been a year-over-year increase. It doesn’t seem he is optimistic of INDYCAR’s return here in 2020, but that’s yet to be determined.
To wrap up a point I was making yesterday about the schedule (or lack thereof) that I believe it hurting attendance here at Pocono, another point came to mind last evening as I was driving back to the hotel.
This race weekend at Pocono is the only two-day oval event on the IndyCar calendar that runs Friday-Saturday. All other oval events (sans Indianapolis) have practice and qualifying on Friday with the race on Sunday night. In fact, the last time IndyCar ran a two-day Saturday-Sunday oval event was Iowa in 2018.
For several years, Iowa ran on Saturday night and drew a very strong crowd. They moved that race to Sunday afternoon a few years ago and the crowd suffered greatly. (Of course, running late on a Sunday afternoon as they did discourages a great many people from more than three or four hours away from attending in person as most people aren’t excited about a six-hour drive home starting at 7:00 on a Sunday evening). Many IndyCar fans, both those who attended in person and those who watched on TV, expressed their desire for a return of that race to Saturday night. INDYCAR, NBC, and Iowa Speedway heeded that request for 2019 and made many people happy.
With Pocono not having any lights, the option of a Saturday night race is obviously non-existent, so INDYCAR can’t schedule a Friday-Saturday evening. With that in mind, I have no good solution to this issue, but it’s something I honestly think contributes to the lack of buzz surrounding this event, more so with the nationwide IndyCar fan base overall and keeping their attention rather than the at-track crowd.
Pre-race festivities are about to get underway so I’ll post and get heading out to the track. I’ll watch the start of the race from atop the billboard in Turn 2 with IMS Radio’s Jake Query and then move onto pit lane.
Last call for my pick to win the race: Scott Dixon (narrow branch I’m going out on, I know…).