Photo: Bret Kelley/INDYCAR

Event Preview: The ABC Supply 500 at Pocono

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500 continuing the 2016 season. The event is slated for August 20-21, 2016.

About the Race

The ABC Supply 500 at Pocono is round thirteen of sixteen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016. The event is held on a oval track, one of five such races on the schedule.

The defending race champion is Ryan Hunter-Reay, who drives the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport . This will be the 24th race for Indycars at Pocono.

The race will consist of 200 laps for a total race distance of 500 miles. Standard oval track qualifying procedures will apply.

Support races include exhibition laps from vintage IndyCars and USAC dirt midgets.

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.

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, and hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity and Trucks, in addition to the IndyCar Series and the SCCA.

Event History

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 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 2016 Verizon IndyCar Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed top-to-bottom lineups we have seen in years.

22 drivers will take the green flag in Pocono. Of those, three are former winners at at the venue. Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Hunter-Reay have won the past three events at the facility.

Pippa Mann will be behind the No. 19 Dale Coyne Honda in Pocono. This will be the second 2016 start for the British driver, who also competed in the Indianapolis 500. Ed Carpenter will be driving the No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Entry for his team, as he completes his oval-only schedule.

The current season points leader is Simon Pagenaud, who drives the No. 22 Chevrolet for Team Penske. Pagenaud holds a 58 point lead over teammate Will Power.

Seventeen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, six have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champ Car, and six are Indy 500 winners. Three of the drivers will be contending for rookie of the year honors: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, and Max Chilton. Rossi currently leads that group by a decisive margin after taking a win in the Indianapolis 500, an event that paid double-points.

Drivers in the series represent eleven 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 slow, but steady growth.

Over the past several seasons the racing produced by the series has been second to none, and the Championship battle has gone down to the final race.

Without the benefit of a gimmick like the Chase, the Verizon IndyCar Series has produced enough close racing and drama to satisfy the racing fan.

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 celebrated its historic 100th running this season.

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.

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. Grandstand ticket pricing ranges from $25.00 to $150.00.

Television coverage will be provided by NBC-SN.  Race coverage will begin at 3:00 pm EST on Sunday August 21. Practice and qualifying will be available on www.indycar.com.

Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at www.indycar.com and fans can keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

Tags : , , , , , , ,

A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.