2017 Verizon IndyCar Series
After a couple of weeks off we saw three races in three weeks, though the third was in September so will follow next time.
The last two weekends in August saw very different oval races: the long, incredibly fast, wide open three-turn Pocono Raceway was followed by the short, tight, technical Gateway Motorsports Park.
ABC Supply 500 at Pocono
20th August 2017 – Race 14 of 17 – Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania, USA.
Video: Full race
WATCH THIS RACE!
I was ready for this race to be 6-car-abreast, hide-behind-your hands scary starts & restarts followed lots of laps of a strung out field. How wrong I was! The 2017 Pocono IndyCar race was a stormer.
It raced the way IndyCars on a superspeedway should race: Close together but not in a pack. Working the throttle not floor-to-the-board. Drafting up to the next car but with the driver making the difference, neither a slingshot pass (Handford wing or F1 DRS) nor stalling as soon as the car got alongside another and getting stuck there (IRL style).
The driver choosing the best line got the pass done. I loved every bit of it.
Okay. It took a stint or two to develop in this way. There were periods of single-file, but that’s okay, a 500 mile race is an endurance race. Cars were still moving up, some moving back, as they tweaked setup.
There is no way to recap everything that happened. Castroneves jumped ten places on lap 1, 20th to 10th. Sato, Rossi, Kanaan, Dixon all took turns to lead. Hunter-Reay and Carpenter had moved up 10 or 12 spots from the back row, by lap 40.
Well before halfway, Will Power changed his front wing and fell a lap down, but later caught a yellow to gain the lap back.
Lap 102 Hinchcliffe with the save of the year, sliding into the wall – caught it and continued! Temporary team-mate Saavedra was less lucky, very similar incident saw him hit the wall and retire.
Hinchcliffe himself ran out of luck on lap 125, tyre on tyre contact with JR Hildebrand, just a racing incident, one of those things but it took out both cars.
Into the last 50 laps it looked like a battle between Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Rossi – but then Power came out of the pits significantly ahead of the others! He had pitted slightly later in the last yellow and it really paid off. With one pit stop left the race was his to control.
After the stops Power held a lead which the other set about chasing down, and they were doing it! Meanwhile Marco Andretti stayed out until 10 laps to go and took fuel only for a quick stop, but without new tyres he just fell away.
Kanaan led the chase, Rossi with him but Newgarden passed the pair of them and set off after Power. TK couldn’t stay with them. And this set up a fantastic battle over the last 7 laps between Power and Newgarden, Power with some very smart defences – not blocking, just holding the inside line before Newgarden made his move, the leader being entitled to run whatever line he liked. Very clever, forcing Newgarden to try the outside, unsuccessfully. So tense! Anything could’ve happened.
Newgarden said afterwards he settled for second and the points lead in a great 1-2 finish for the team.
- 12 Will Power (Team Penske Chevy);
- 2 Josef Newgarden (Team Penske Chevy);
- 98 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport Honda);
- 1 Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske Chevy);
- 10 Tony Kanaan (Chip Ganassi Honda);
- 9 Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Honda);
- 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske Chevy);
- 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport Honda);
- 15 Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda);
- 14 Carlos Munoz (AJ Foyt Chevy);
Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway
27th August 2017 – Race 15 of 17 – Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Illinois, USA.
Video: Full race
Just a week later was a Saturday night race at the 1.25 mile oval of Gateway Motorsports Park, just over the state border from St Louis. The first IndyCar race here since 2003, that race was won by Helio Castroneves.
Winter testing was conducted on a very bumpy old surface and the track was repaved in time for the race. Unfortunately on race night it was very, very slippery. This caught out Tony Kanaan on the start, he spun on the final warm-up lap as the field approached the green flag, causing the race officially to begin under yellow.
It then caught out Power, who had just been passed for the lead when he hit the wall, Carpenter’s car running over the top of Power’s. The race didn’t properly get under way until lap 17 of 248.
After that it was a Penske white-wash, the remaining of the Captain’s cars all taking turns to lead. Newgarden led about 170 laps. Later on running second to Pagenaud, Newgarden made an audacious move to pass him including a bit of contact. It worked, both continued and Newgarden won. Dixon secured 2nd.
The move split opinion: on the one hand it was a classic short-track move, on the other hand ‘rubbing is racing’ is not for IndyCar. I’m in the latter camp (admittedly as a Pagenaud fan!), it was just on the bounds of acceptability in open-wheel. But you can’t argue Newgarden’s determination for the title, with this move and the one on Power.
And: Sebastien Bourdais was back! Remarkable recovery after breaking bones in qualifying at Indy just 3 months earlier.
Otherwise? It was okay, not a lot happened other than the start crashes and that Newgarden move, though there were some great results on the board.
- 2 Josef Newgarden (Penske Chevy);
- 9 Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda);
- 1 Simon Pagenaud (Penske Chevy);
- 3 Helio Castroneves (Penske Chevy);
- 4 Conor Daly (AJ Foyt Chevy);
- 98 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda);
- 83 Charlie Kimball (Ganassi Honda);
- 5 James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson Honda);
- 14 Carlos Munoz (AJ Foyt Chevy);
- 18 Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne x);
Two Foyt cars in the top ten – with Daly an excellent 5th – and Bourdais 10th on his return!
Points Scored in August
- A win and a 2nd place puts Newgarden well clear of the pack.
- Dixon, Pagenaud, Rossi and Power scored quite well but each had problems.
- Nobody else got close.
Points Total to August 31st
This month made a huge difference for Josef Newgarden as he has now stretched to a 41 point lead with two races to run.
|24||23||-1||Juan Pablo Montoya||93||93|
- Newgarden extends lead: it was 17 over Castroneves, now it is 41 over Dixon.
- Dixon is up to 2nd.
- Rossi takes 7th.
- Hunter-Reay is up to 11th.
- A good month for drivers well down the order as Munoz, Kimball and Daly scored better than they have all year.
Top 26 positions shown, 36 drivers have scored points this year.
The historic Watkins Glen in the first week of September, followed two weeks later by the double-points season finale at Sonoma Raceway in California.