After a two week off stretch, the NTT IndyCar Series drivers head to the final chapter of the season. Four races remain in 2019 with 62 points separating first to fourth in the standings.
The next two weeks are on ovals, the final two of the year, so who can remain strong on them will prevail in September.
Here’s the race preview for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
The start of the 2019 ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway in 2019 – INDYCAR Media Site
Pocono was always a desired track to return to the Indy Car schedule. For a majority of early portions of the 21st century, open wheel fans asked for Pocono back. After a somewhat ugly split following the 1989 race, the series didn’t come back until the grandchildren took over. From 1990 through 2012, there was no Indy Car activity on the Tricky Triangle. But, the return happened in 2013.
Now, 2019 could be the final straw in the relationship. As we sit here today, no deal has been made for the series to return for 2020. Could Sunday be the seventh and final edition?
The attendance has been rising in recent years but the drivers aren’t too keen to be racing in Pocono. The fans see excitement where they see danger.
In 2015, Justin Wilson was tragically killed when a piece of debris hit in in a late race accident in Turn 1. Last year, Robert Wickens was left in a wheelchair following a horrific crash on Lap 6 of this very race.
The track unfortunately has been labeled as “danger.” Mix that with fans now showing up like they should and you get a race on the brink of extinction.
See, ABC Supply coming on as a title sponsor helped save this race. But, the deal with them is up past this season. That and a contract for the venue and IndyCar being up too means that unless a huge crowd shows up on Sunday, the series may not be back in 2020.
It’s no secret, the series is looking to add a couple of tracks for next year. Does it take Pocono’s date?
Ryan Hunter-Reay leads a group of cars during last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
How Will Passing Look?
Pocono has been feast or famine in terms of racing. We’ve had lead changes of 33 in 2015, 29 in 2016 and 42 in 2017 but only 11 last year. Part of the fewest amount of lead changes a year ago was the new racing package – the other was the drivers just trying to get the race over with following Robert Wickens’ scary accident.
So, will we see another domination or will we see a lot of passing?
Last year, Alexander Rossi led 180 of 200 laps in his dominating victory. Back in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a similar track to Pocono, Simon Pagenaud led 116 of 200 laps in a win too.
Will Sunday’s race look like one driver nailing the setup and driving away from the field or will the new package not allow for much separation?
Don’t Expect Many Cautions
The yellow flags are down this year. That’s a known fact. I don’t expect many on Sunday either. Last year, we only had two cautions. In 2017, we had just three. In fact, in half of the six years that the series has been coming back to the 2.5-mile track, we’ve seen two or fewer cautions in them. We’ve seen four or fewer in all but one (2015). This year, we’ve seen two or fewer cautions in three of the last four races including two of which going green flag to checkered flag without a stoppage.
Indy had four cautions, Texas had three.
Expect to see four or fewer again on Sunday afternoon.
Alexander Rossi wins last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
“Big 3” Can Win Again
Combined, Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport have won the last 10 Indy Car races on the season. In Pocono, the site of this weekend’s race, they’ve won in all six years that the series has been coming back to the Tricky Triangle as well.The top four in the oval standings so far? Penske-Penske-Andretti-Penske.
With how this season has gone, expect a Penske, Andretti or Ganassi car to pull into victory lane on Sunday afternoon.
Top 4 In Standings Shining
Want to win in the NTT IndyCar Series, you need to be on top of your game. There are now fluke winners here. Just look at the last 10 races on the season – all 10 of them had the race winner be in the top four of the current points standings.
Yes, Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon have combined to win every Indy Car race since Long Beach.
All four are on top of their games right now and in an intense title race for the Astor Cup. With how this season has gone, expect one of which to win on Sunday afternoon too.
Josef Newgarden looks on during the Mid-Ohio race weekend – INDYCAR Media Site
Championship Contenders Say Time Is Now To Win
We’re to the final quarter of the NTT IndyCar Series season. Four races remain before we crown a champion next month at Laguna Seca. Currently, we have four drivers are have the most realistic chances of hoisting the Astor Cup championship trophy following the season finale. All four are more than capable of going on a run here until the end to accomplish that feat – after all, three of the four are past champions including them having combined to win the last four titles.
Currently, Josef Newgarden leads the points championship by just 16 points over Alexander Rossi. Simon Pagenaud (-47) and Scott Dixon (-62) are within striking distance.
While being consistent is one thing, these four know that in order to win this year’s championship, you’re going to have to control your own destiny and win some races still too.
“I’m really excited to get back to Pocono,” said defending ABC Supply 500 race winner Alexander Rossi. “It’s one of my favorite tracks to go back to each year – and obviously, we had a good race there last year. We’re getting into a critical point of the championship and we need to win races. Pocono is a great place for us to hopefully do that. Hopefully, we can leave the weekend leading the championship.”
Rossi, has finished second in each of the two superspeedway races run in 2019 and led 180 of 200 laps at Pocono last year. His rivals have taken notice what he can do in his No. 27 Honda this weekend.
For Simon Pagenaud, he’s excited to get back racing. He won the Indy 500 earlier this year and considers himself a pretty good superspeedway racer now.
“I’m very excited to be back competing,” Pagenaud said after having the last two weeks off. “I love this time of the year because ‘it’s crunch time’ so it’s time to go for it with four races remaining.”
The last three times the series had an extended break between races, Pagenaud won the races following. The series had a month between Long Beach and the INDYCAR Grand Prix, Pagenaud won. The series had a week off to qualify before racing the Indy 500 – Pagenaud won. The series had two weeks off between Road America and Toronto – Pagenaud won.
With having a good car on ovals, Pagenaud can win again this weekend.
So can Scott Dixon. He’s won this race in 2013 and heads to Pocono coming off of a win in the last race at Mid-Ohio. The defending series champion has three straight top two finishes on the season, but knows that in order to really make the gap up on the drivers in front, he has to take more chances in order to get to victory lane.
“It’s a long race and it’s now time to roll the dice and take chances,” Dixon said. “Race wins are all that matter at this stage in the season if you want to have a shot at defending this championship title. I hope we come ready to race in the PNC Bank car and fight for the win.”
To add to this, just look at the last 10 races on the season – all 10 of them saw one of these four drivers win.
Yes, Newgarden, Rossi, Pagenaud and Dixon have combined to win every Indy Car race since Long Beach. That’s why they each know that they have to win and it all starts this on Sunday at the Pocono Raceway.
Newgarden Has Been An Underrated Superspeedway Racer
In the last race at Mid-Ohio, Josef Newgarden left with a bad taste in his mouth. He had a car capable of a podium and definitely a top five machine. Instead, he pushed too hard to go for podium and spun while doing so. He went from a fourth place finish and 34 point lead in the standings to a 14th place run and 16 point advantage heading to Pocono.
Now, Newgarden is hoping to not let anymore points go. The problem is, the guys chasing him for the championship are really good superspeedway racers and could easily win Sunday’s ABC Supply 500.
Scott Dixon is a past Pocono winner and finished third in this race last year. He’s never finished worse than ninth. Rossi, won this race last year in leading 180 of 200 laps. He finished second in both superspeedway starts in 2019. Simon Pagenaud won the Indy 500 and has scored the most points on ovals this season. Will Power has won this race in two of the last three years and finished second in the other.
Newgarden, has never won at Pocono but did finish fourth and first respectively on superspeedways in 2019. He does have two runner-ups in his Pocono career and five top five finishes in six tries. His worst finish is eighth. He’s very undervalued on these three tracks annually. In fact, he sits second in points scored on ovals this season, only trailing Pagenaud by three for the lead.
So, while everyone may be pressing for wins on Sunday, Newgarden can settle for another solid top four, his 11th of the season.
Alexander Rossi races his No. 27 Honda through Turn 3 during last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
Rossi Looking To Regain Form This Weekend In Pocono
Alexander Rossi looked like the championship favorite back in June. Following a dominating win on June 23 at Road America, Rossi cut Josef Newgarden’s points lead down to single digits.
See, from the Indy 500 through Road America, Rossi has three runner-ups, a win and a fifth place effort. He looked like he would be the one crowned as the season champion.
Unfortunately, he’s looked pedestrian ever since. Granted, pedestrian for him.
Rossi’s last three finishes are third, sixth and fifth respectively. While those are solid results and gives him eight consecutive top eight finishes heading into Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway, he just hasn’t had the speed to contend lately.
He was a distant third in Toronto. He never had a car capable of competing in Iowa. In fact, he fell a lap down in the Iowa 300. In Mid-Ohio, he was on the wrong end of strategy and didn’t have the pace to make up for it.
Last year in Mid-Ohio, he led 66 of 90 laps en route to a win. This year, he led zero. In fact, Rossi hasn’t led a lap since leading 54 of 55 on June 23 in Road America.
Now, he heads to a strong point of his – superspeedway racing.
Rossi, led 180 of 200 laps in this race last year. He finished second to Simon Pagenaud in the Indy 500 in May. He finished second to Josef Newgarden at Texas in June. He’s hungry for a win. He’s scored the third most oval points in the series this season.
Can his No. 27 Honda get there on Sunday?
Scott Dixon pits during last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
Can Dixon Keep Hot Streak Going? Next 2 Weeks Will Shape Championship Chances
Leaving the June 8 race at the Texas Motor Speedway, everyone thought that Scott Dixon was down and out for this year’s championship. He went from scoring four podiums in the first five races of the season including three of which being runner-up results to three finishes of 17th or worse in a four race span after. He also went from six points out of the championship lead to fourth, almost 100 points down in a month as a result of that.
Dixon, finished only 17th in the Indy 500. He made a rare mistake in the first race in Detroit and crashed for a 22nd place finish. One week later in Texas, he made another rare mistake and crashed with 20 laps-to-go with Colton Herta and finished 17th.
From then on though, it’s been all Dixon.
He spun on the opening lap of the race on June 23 at Road America but without a caution to help him, he drove up to fifth in the end. The next two races, he finished runner-up in each. Then, the last race at Mid-Ohio, Dixon led 38 of 90 laps en route to his second win of the season.
Now, on the heels of three straight runner-up finishes and consistently beating Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud in the finishing results, he has a shot. Yes, he’s 62 points down but that can be made up quickly.
Dixon, made up 38 points in Mid-Ohio alone. But, these next two weeks will let us know if Dixon is a contender or pretender.
On ovals in 2019, Dixon has scored just 82 points. That’s good enough for 11th in the series. Meanwhile, Pagenaud has scored 174 which is best in the series. Newgarden, has scored 171 with Rossi 151. They’re 1-2-3. Dixon, needs to improve on ovals or his title chances may evaporate again.
Rossi, has finished second on each of the two superspeedway’s run in 2019. He was also sixth in Iowa.
Newgarden, was fourth, first and first respectively on ovals this year.
Pagenaud, was first, sixth and sixth respectively himself.
Dixon, hasn’t fared well this season but he’s been good at Pocono and Gateway in the past. He’s a past winner at Pocono before and finished third last year. He has two straight podiums in the next race at Gateway. If he can stay within striking distance, then all bets are off.
Where Dixon has lacked in 2019 on ovals, he’s been great on natural road courses. In fact, no one has scored as many points on them than that of Dixon. 184 of his 442 points in 2019 were on natural road courses. The next best is Rossi with 144. Newgarden, is third at 140. That’s a 40+ point advantage on the competition. With the final two races on natural road courses and the final one being a double points race, all Dixon needs to do is maintain and he can close that gap quickly over the final two races.
Will Power heads into Turn 1 during last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
Will Power Eyeing Victory
I can make a case where the Pocono Raceway is Will Power’s playground. He won the ABC Supply 500 in both 2016 and again in 2017 before finishing runner-up to Alexander Rossi a season ago. Now, can he get back to victory lane in Sunday’s race at the Tricky Triangle?
Power, is riding a 15 race winless streak, the second longest of his Indy Car career. The latest he won a race in a season was race No. 15 in 2013. This weekend is race No. 14.
Also, Power has won at least one race every season of his Indy Car career as well. That’s 12 straight years. Only Scott Dixon who now has won a race in 15 straight years has more.
Last race in Mid-Ohio, you could see the relief in Power when he won the pole for the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He just wanted so badly to turn that into a win. Unfortunately, he was on the wrong end of tire strategy on his first stint and settled for a fourth place result.
This season is wearing on him. Mid-Ohio was a prime example. He’s watched his Team Penske teammates win seven times this season alone. They’re in the title hunt where Power (-148) is likely too far out.
He’s just had bad luck this year. He got into a couple of incidents in Toronto and finished 18th. He had a pit commitment violation in Iowa and finished 15th. He had a pit road violation in Indy and came home 18th. He had an ill timed caution while leading in COTA and a mechanical problem on his pit stop after and finished 24th.
One thing after another for Power. A win on Sunday would at least give him some momentum to end the year with. That’s all he’s after now.
Josef Newgarden wins the Iowa 300 at the Iowa Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
Team Penske Oval Specialists?
2019 has been a great season for Team Penske. Currently, all three of their drivers sit in the top five of the NTT IndyCar Series points standings. Josef Newgarden in fact leads all drivers with 504 points scored. Simon Pagenaud is third with 457 points accumulated this year while Will Power (356) is fifth.
But, heading into this next two week stretch, Penske should shine in both races. In the oval standings, they sit 1-2-4.
First up though is Pocono where they’ve won two of the last three races on the Tricky Triangle and three of the last five overall. On superspeedway’s this season, they’re 2-for-2. On superspeedway’s the last couple of years, they’re 5-for-7. In fact, since the start of the 2016 season, Penske has won six of the 11 races contested on superspeedway’s.
Josef Newgarden has finished fourth and first respectively in 2019 on them. Simon Pagenaud has finished first and sixth respectively on them. Will Power has finished fifth and ninth respectively on them.
In fact, in Pocono, Power has three straight top two finishes including two of which being wins. Newgarden, has five top five finishes in six tries with his worst finish being eighth. Pagenaud, has five top eight finishes in six tries himself.
From there, it’s to Gateway where Penske is riding a four race win streak including both since the series’ return in 2017.
Newgarden, has finished first and seventh respectively in Gateway. Pagenaud, has finished third and fourth respectively. Power, has finished 20th and first respectively on the 1.25-mile St. Louis area oval.
On short ovals, Penske has won three of the four under this current aero package with the new car and six of the last seven overall.
Also, on ovals in general, Penske has won four straight and 12 of the last 17 overall. They should win the next two weeks which only helps their case for the season championship too.
Simon Pagenaud in his No. 22 Chevrolet at the Pocono Raceway in 2018 – INDYCAR Media Site
Can Pagenaud Capitalize After Another Long Break?
Simon Pagenaud has needed the breaks this season in the NTT IndyCar Series. After a grueling Month of May that saw him sweep both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the media tour and sponsorship engagements naturally went up. After his Indy 500 win, Pagenaud was up at the crack of dawn on Memorial Day for the winner’s photo shoot. Then, it was a winner’s press conference – again. Then, it was to a jet to go across the country on a media tour. Then, it was to Belle Isle for not one, but two races in as many days. But, the catch during that weekend in Detroit was, it was a race put on by Penske. He’s a Penske driver who just won the Indy 500. He had to do a ton of sponsor appearances.
After Belle Isle was more media tours, then a race down at the Texas Motor Speedway in 90+ degree heat. A long and grueling stretch. Pagenaud, was worn down. He needed a break. One was soon coming. He’d get a week off before Road America then two weeks off after that. The two weeks is what he needed to refocus and recharge.
After the break, Pagenaud stormed to a perfect weekend in Toronto. He was quickest in practice on Friday, quickest in practice on Saturday, won the pole for the race and led 80 of 85 laps en route to his first win since Indy. He later admitted to being worn out and that the break was just what he needed for a championship charge.
That started a three week stretch though. Pagenaud, would finish fourth at Iowa and sixth in Mid-Ohio. His car got tougher and tougher to handle as the weeks went on. Now, he got another two week break before this weekend’s race at Pocono.
We’ve seen what he can do after breaks.
A break between Long Beach and Indy and he won. A week of practice/qualifying for the ‘500 then the ‘500 itself a week later – he’d win. Two weeks between Road America and Toronto and he yet again won. Two weeks between Mid-Ohio and Pocono…another win?
This could be exactly what he needed to get back into the championship hunt again. Pagenaud, has a top eight finish in five of his six career starts at Pocono. He won on a superspeedway already this season. He heads to the Tricky Triangle with five straight top 10’s on the season in his No. 22 Chevrolet including 10 of the last 11 overall.
Then, it’s to Gateway next week, a place where he’s excelled too. He finished third in 2017 and fourth last year.
After that, it’s to Portland where he was sixth last year. Then it’s another two week break before the season finale.
Graham Rahal races his No. 15 Honda during last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
Can Rahal Get Another Top 10?
Graham Rahal is on a heck of a streak right now. Heading into Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway, the Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing driver has scored a top 10 finish in his No. 15 Honda in seven straight NTT IndyCar Series races. Furthermore, if you go back to Long Beach in mid-April, the second generation driver has finished in the top 10 in all but one race.
Now, he heads to a track where he’s only had one top 10 in six tries. That was a ninth place finish in 2017. Can he get another top 10 on Sunday though?
If so, it would be the 106th of his Indy Car career. The problem with all these top 10’s are, and it’s the only problem, not many are in the top five.
Rahal, has finished in the top five just four times all year, none since Road America on June 23. He’s also not led a lap since leading one circuit in Elkhart Lake and has nine four laps led all year.
Can he better that this weekend?
Sebastien Bourdais leads Marco Andretti during last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
Bourdais Sleeper To Watch Sunday
Sebastien Bourdais has never been confused as an oval specialist. Out of his 35 career NTT IndyCar Series wins, only five of them have come on ovals. The last came in Milwaukee in 2015. The last one prior to that?
But, Bourdais is actually a legimiate sleeper to win Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway. The Dale Coyne Racing driver enters this weekend with four top 10 finishes in his last six tries on the season. He was in the top 10 solidly at Indy before crashing with 24 laps-to-go in the Indy 500. He started third and finished eighth in Texas back in June.
At Pocono the last two years, he finished fifth and fourth respectively. I think he can grind out a podium on Sunday.
Rookie Santino Ferrucci at the Texas Motor Speedway back in June – INDYCAR Media Site
Ferrucci Has Been A Big Surprise On Ovals In 2019
Everyone thought that Santino Ferrucci would be at his best on road/street courses. See, the young American grew up racing on these types of tracks. He moved overseas as a teenager in hopes of making an F1 dream come true. He was even fast tracked to a point where his stardom was on the verge of making his big break. Then, controversy happened last summer which took him from a potential F1 opportunity back here to the United States.
Ferrucci, had always said that street courses are his favorites. He’s scored 82 points on them in 2019 which ranks only 16th best. On natural road courses, he’s scored another 74 points which is ranked 18th.
But, where he’s excelling at is on ovals. For a driver with no past oval experience, Ferruicci has scored 103 points, which is tied with Will Power for fourth most in the entire series.
The only drivers that have as many or more points than him are the three Penske’s and Alexander Rossi. That’s how remarkable he’s been.
In Iowa, he put on a show. In Indy, he made daring passes and maneuvers through places no one dared go. He looked a lot like Rossi in fact. Now, he heads to Pocono eyeing his first career win.
His teammate Sebastien Bourdais has done very well at Pocono the last two years. He’s finished in the top fie in both races. Ferrucci, ran extremely well on the last superspeedway at Texas in finishing fourth. He was seventh in Indy.
Seven to four is a three spot gain in two superspeedway starts. If he can get another three spot gain on Sunday – he will be celebrating in victory lane.
Ed Carpenter drives his No. 20 Chevrolet back in June at the Texas Motor Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
Ed Carpenter Racing Duo Excelling On Ovals In 2019
Ed Carpenter stepped away from road/street courses a few years ago to become just an oval specialist. While he’s had some years better than others, 2019 looks to be a good year for him again. While he’s hasn’t won a race yet, he’s been in contention more times than not. Forget his crash at Iowa, he had a top five or six car all night. Plus, the stats prove that he’s among the better drivers on ovals this season. He’s scored 93 points on ovals, eighth best in the series. He’s scored five points fewer than Takuma Sato in sixth.
His teammate Spencer Pigot as done pretty well too. He’s scored the ninth most points in the series as both ECR cars are 8-9 in the oval standings. Pigot, finished 14th at both Indy and Texas and was fifth in Iowa. In fact, Pigot comes to Pocono this weekend scoring two straight top 10 finishes on the year.
This group has been underrated.
Marco Andretti at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past Spring – INDYCAR Media Site
Marco, Veach And Herta Been At Their Best On Road/Street Courses, Not So Much Ovals In 2019
When you look at the driver standings and see Colton Herta, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach being 14th, 16th and 17th respectively, you’d think that their NTT IndyCar Series season has been downright dismal. While they have certainly had some bad moments, they’ve also been strong in some places too.
As we head into a two week stretch of ovals, these are the tracks that if you take a deeper look, have hindered this trio from more success.
Herta, won on a natural road course back in COTA. He’s scored the 11th most points in the series on natural road courses. On street circuits, the rookie driver has 93 points scored on them, 13th best. These have been the tracks that he’s had his No. 88 Honda running up front.
Same for Andretti and Veach.
Andretti, ranks 15th in points scored on natural road courses. He’s 11th though on street courses and is one point shy of 10th.
Veach, has been at his best on street courses too in raking 12th, one point behind Andretti and two behind Sato.
But, on ovals, this group hasn’t been at their best.
Veach, has scored only 46 points on three ovals, one of which was a double points race. That’s 18th best. Andretti and Herta have each only scored 39 points a piece – tied for 21st.
Andretti’s finishes on ovals in 2019 are 26th, 10th and 21st. He’s had terrible handling race cars in two of the three.
Herta’s finishes are 33rd, 18th and 18th respectively. He’s yet to finish an oval race.
With Pocono and Gateway the next two races, this group can fall either further or show that they have found something instead. If it’s further behind, they’re going to slide down the standings even further.
Felix Rosenqvist gets a high five for congratulations following his runner-up finish in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – INDYCAR Media Site
Rosenqvist, Herta Enter Pocono On Hot Streaks But Could Slide The Next 2 Races
Felix Rosenqvist scored his first podium finish in the NTT IndyCar Series two weeks ago in Mid-Ohio. He narrowly finished runner-up to his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate of Scott Dixon. On the season, Rosenqvist now has three top six finishes in his last four starts in his No. 10 Honda. He’s starting to look like the driver we all thought that he’d be.
Colton Herta is also making strides too. He heads to Pocono with three top eight finishes in his last four starts in his No. 88 Honda too.
But, with what’s coming up, these two could slide a bit and see their momentum change heading into the final two races of the season.
See, we have two ovals up next – Pocono on Sunday, Gateway next Saturday night. Unfortunately, this duo have struggled on ovals in 2019.
Herta’s finishes are 33rd, 18th and 18th respectively on them. He’s yet to finish an oval race. In fact, he’s had four DNF’s in 2019 and three were on ovals. He’s scored only 39 points on ovals in 2019 too which ranks him 21st best, or last among the full time drivers.
Rosenqvist, hasn’t fared much better. He’s open about ovals not being his favorite stops on the schedule. He crashed in practice as well as the race at Indy and finished 28th. He was 12th in Texas and 14th in Iowa. He’s yet to finish on the lead lap for an oval race.
With two coming up, these two just need to get solid finishes or Santino Ferrucci can steal this Rookie of the Year title.