By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500 continuing the 2017 season. The event is slated for August 19-20, 2017.
About the Race
The ABC Supply 500 at Pocono is round fourteen of seventeen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017. The event is held on a paved oval track, one of six such races on the schedule. This will be the 25th race for Indycars at Pocono.
The defending race champion is Will Power, who drives the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet for Team Penske. The rain delayed race was Power’s fourth win of the 2016 season en route to second place in the final standings.
The race will consist of 200 laps for a total race distance of 500 miles. Standard oval track qualifying procedures will apply.
Support events include racing action from the Challenge Cup Series, featuring some of the finest Formula Vee drivers in North America running on the infield road course, The Vintage Indycar Celebration by Classic Racing Times, as well as three-quarter midget racing.
About the Track
Pocono Raceway is a 2.5 mile paved asphalt oval track located in the Pocono Mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The layout of the track is unique in that it features just three turns, and the track is triangular in shape. Each turn is different, and each straightaway differs in length. Turn one is banked at 14° and resembles the turns at Trenton Speedway. Turn two is a 90° corner, banked at just 8° and is patterned after the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The third turn is sweeping and flat in nature, and is taken from the Milwaukee Mile, banked at a mere 6°.
The difficult nature of the track has earned it the nickname “The Tricky Triangle” as it presents a considerable challenge to both drivers and engineers to get the setup right. It was the great Rick Mears who once said, “You can get the setup right, or at least close, for two of the three turns, and hold your breath through the other one.”
The track opened in 1971 and has been owned by the Mattioli Family under the business name Mattco since its inception. The track layout was designed by two-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward, and there is not another track in the world quite like it.
Three separate infield road course configurations are available and are used year-round by the SCCA and various driving schools. Although the track location is remote, it is located within two hours of the large population centers of Philadelphia and New York City.
The facility boasts grandstand seating for over 76,000 fans. In addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Raceway also hosts the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity and Trucks, in addition to several club racing and vintage racing events.
The first IndyCar race at Pocono was held in 1971 under the sanctioning body of USAC. Mark Donohue took the win in the inaugural race in the Penske Car. From there, Pocono became a regular stop on the USAC calendar. When the CART series split away from USAC, Pocono was one of the few tracks to remain loyal to USAC.
With more and more team owners moving to CART, the 1981 Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500 at Pocono was one of the oddest, and most embarrassing events in motor racing history. With only a handful of Indycars entered into the race, USAC added Silver Crown dirt racers to the grid to fill the field.
The resulting two-class race was both problematic and confusing at the same time. Thankfully, the rains began to fall after 300 miles to put an end to this atrocity. An interesting footnote has this particular race as being the final win for the legendary A.J. Foyt.
In 1982, Pocono was added to the CART schedule, as Rick Mears took the win in the first event for that Series. The race remained on the schedule through the duration of the decade, but deteriorating track conditions made driving an Indycar on the tricky triangle increasingly difficult.
The Series had begun racing at the nearby Nazareth Speedway a few years prior, and thereby had a presence in the Northeast. With track officials unwilling to upgrade the facility, Pocono was dumped off the CART calendar after 1989.
It would be 24 years until Indycars would race at Pocono again, as the Verizon IndyCar Series added the track in 2013. Scott Dixon won the race in the series’ return to Pennsylvania. In 2015, the race was marred by an accident that took the life of popular series driver, Justin Wilson.
Both the Verizon IndyCar Series and Pocono Raceway have announced a contract extension that runs through 2018.
About the Field
The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed, top-to-bottom lineups in all of racing.
22 drivers will take the green at for the ABC Supply 500. There are three former Pocono winners entered; Scott Dixon, Ryan-Hunter Reay and the aforementioned Will Power.
Joining the series regulars will be Gabby Chaves in an entry from Harding Racing. The new team made its debut at Indianapolis in May, and also ran the car at Texas. Pocono will be their final race in 2017 as the team prepares to run the entire schedule in 2018.
Ed Carpenter will be behind the wheel of the #20 ECR Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet as their road course driver, Spencer Pigot, will sit this one out. While Dale Coyne driver, Sebastien Bourdais, has been cleared to drive, he will not be returning this weekend. Esteban Gutiérrez will once again be in the No. 18 car.
The No. 7 Schmidt-Peterson Entry, formerly occupied by Mikhail Aleshin, will be driven by Sebastian Saavedra as Aleshin leaves the series, moving over to Sports Cars.
The reigning Series Champion is Simon Pagenaud, who drives for Team Penske. Pagenaud hails from Poitiers, France, and 2016 marked his first series title. The current points leader is Josef Newgarden, who has taken three wins on the 2017 season in his first year with Team Penske.
Fifteen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, five have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champcar, and five are Indy 500 winners including Takuma Sato, who won the 101st running in May. There will be one true rookie in the field, with Ed Jones behind the wheel of the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Drivers in the series represent twelve different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.
About the Series
The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen steady growth in attendance and television ratings.
The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which ran for the 101st time in May. Mark Miles is the Chief Executive of Hulman and Company, and Jay Frye is the President of Competition and Operations for the Verizon Indycar Series.
Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer. The 2017 rules called for a freeze on aero-kit development, in anticipation of a common aero package for 2018.
Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.
Where and When to Watch
Tickets for the ABC Supply 500 can be purchased here. Pricing ranges from $25.00 to $150.00 with options available for camping, weekend packages, and box seats.
Television coverage will be provided by NBC-SN. Qualifying will be televised Saturday at 1:00 pm EST with race coverage set to begin at 2:00 pm EST on Sunday. Coverage of practice can also be found streaming on the Verizon IndyCar Series You Tube Channel, Facebook Page or at http://racecontrol.indycar.com/
Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Fans can also keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.