By: Phil Mathew
August 18, 2019 | 5:30 PM
On a day which saw massive wrecks, varying strategies and weather issues, Will Power in the Verizon Team Penske Chevy won his third race at Pocono Raceway. This is Power’s 36th win and extended his streak of winning at least one race in a season to 13. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Santino Ferrucci and polesitter Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five.
The race was marred by a serious multi-car accident on Lap 1 which saw Takuma Sato cut across the car of defending race winner Alexander Rossi on the Long Pond straightaway. In the process, Sato collected former Pocono winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, recently-married James Hinchcliffe, and rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
Sato said he believed he was clear but video evidence showed a different perspective. Frustration was expressed by Hinchcliffe and Rossi based on the move and the lack of respect that was shown so early in a 500-mile race.
The accident was eerily similar to the one suffered by 2018 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe early in last year’s race.
Rosenqvist was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation but was eventually cleared and released after dragging across the wall and making contact with the catchfence in Turn 2. Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay and Rossi all came back out later in the day after their teams repaired the cars but were assessed ten-lap penalties for working under a red flag.
The initial start saw outside polesitter Rossi get off slowly which allowed Indianapolis 500 winner Pagenaud to get a run on Rossi and Newgarden. Soon after, the accident occurred which took out those contenders.
After a 45-minute red flag to repair the catchfence, the remaining 17 cars went back to racing but Power ended up getting debris which caused a low tire pressure warning and meant he had to pit. This would play a key role in the eventual outcome for the driver of the No.12. Once back under green,
Pagenaud held serve and kept a near half second gap on Dixon through the first set of green flag pit stops. Soon after the cycle, Spencer Pigot crashed exiting turn one after a mechanical failure going over the bumps on Lap 41. This gave Power a chance to cycle back up through the field and he soon made his presence felt.
On the restart, Power went high on Pagenaud and they raced wheel through Turn 1 and down the Long Pond Straightaway before the Penske Truck Rentals No. 22 reclaimed the top spot in the Tunnel Turn. The teammates would swap the lead a couple of times before holding station till the next set of stops.
Behind them, a battle between Dixon, Ferrucci and Marcus Ericcson took place with the two rookies providing a challenge to the five-time series champion.
Newgarden started the second cycle of pit stops with Ferrucci coming in soon after on Laps 68 and 69. Pagenaud and Power were held up by the repaired car of Hinchcliffe getting through Turn 3 which saw Dixon hit pit road. That time loss along with a further delay for Pagenaud on pit entry with Marco Andretti saw the Frenchman relinquish the top spot to the 2013 Pocono winner.
Another accident after pit stops saw Circuit of the Americas winner Colton Herta swap ends exiting Turn Two and hitting the SAFER Barrier, sliding down towards an emergency opening and hitting the inside wall in the short chute between Turns 2 and 3. Herta’s day was done but the rookie had been running decent and clean.
During all of this, the talk of rain and lighting first came up which changed the strategy from a 500-mile race to a race to halfway.
The restart on Lap 83 saw Dixon, Ferrucci, Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Newgarden in the top five. Power restarted in seventh behind Ed Carpenter but was soon back into the top five. Dixon, Ferrucci and Pagenaud pulled away during that stint with the Connecticut rookie continuing to show the pace that has developed quite a fan base.
At halfway, Dixon and Ferrucci were separated by less than a second with Pagenaud close behind.
Newgarden started the final pit stop cycle at Lap 104 with Ferrucci and Carpenter coming in two laps later. Dixon pitted three laps later but Pagenaud and Power waited longer which hadn’t worked earlier in the day.
However, that gamble for the Penske duo along with a bad set of tires allowed Power and Pagenaud to split Dixon. Power would pass Dixon in Turn 1 soon after his final stop and pulled away for the victory.
Due to lightning in the area, the race was put under yellow and eventually red at Lap 128. The recent focus on safety due to lightning comes from an incident which took place at Pocono when a fan was tragically killed at a NASCAR race. With the impending rain and safety in mind, the race was called.
In a year that has been one of the most difficult in the words and eyes of Will Power, the Australian made the move of the day and utilized good timing to get his first win of 2019.
Newgarden leaves Pocono with a 35-point lead on Rossi who was the last driver running at the stoppage in 18th. Pagenaud is 40 points behind his teammate and Dixon is a further 12 points behind Pagenaud with the teams and drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series heading to World Wide Technologies Raceway at Gateway in six days’ time for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for continued wrap-up of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway and coverage of next weekend’s event at Gateway.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.