Indycar returns after their mini summer break to take on The Tricky Triangle, Pocono Raceway. With the championship standings still giving Scott Dixon a heavy advantage, Pocono will prove to be a make or break race for those hoping to catch the 38 year old New Zealander, namely Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden.
Opened in 1971, Pocono is one of only three super speedways on the Indycar schedule for 2018. Pocono is unique among its super speedway brethren, and indeed, it is unique among most tracks anywhere.
Pocono is a thoroughly asymmetrical tri-oval, with each of its three corners being modeled after a famous racetrack somewhere in the United States. Turn One is a 14 degree corner modeled after the now defunct Trenton Speedway. Turn 2 or the Tunnel Curve is a 90 degree curve with 9 degrees of banking, designed to mimic the four turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And finally, Turn Three is a nearly flat, with 6 degrees of banking, resembling the corners around the Milwaukee Mile.
Pocono was a mainstay on the circuit from its first race in 1971 up until 1989 when CART officials decided to stop running the circuit due to safety concerns about the barriers around the tracks and the notoriously bumpy surface around the 2.5 mile circuit.
Back in the day, Pocono was a part of the so called 500-mile Triple Crown (the other two races being, of course, Indianapolis and the California 500 held in Fontana, CA.
The long distance of the race, combined with the all together variable and challenging nature of the track, make it an especially difficult race for drivers and teams alike, but one that is often sees as one of the most difficult races on the calendar to win. Despite being an oval, every corner at Pocono presents its own set of challenges and, as we've seen time and time again, the wide nature of the track allows for fantastic, multi-wide racing.
Indycar drivers putting it all on the line and going 7 wide following a restart in the 2016 race. Photo Credit: NBC Sports
Scott Dixon currently sits a whopping 44 points ahead of his nearest competitor for the 2018 Indycar Series Championship. His form this year has been absolutely impeccable, winning on street courses, road courses, and super speedways alike. Although a qualifying error forced him to start farther back the field last time out in Mid-Ohio, his charge through the field was remarkable and brought him home in 5th place.
Dixon is knows as the Iceman among Indycar circles, namely for his ability to keep cool and collected even in the most hectic of situations, situations that seem to happen quite often a Pocono.
That said, Honda's top end power gap to rival Chevy is still something to be taken into account. Despite winning in Texas, Honda engines seem to far prefer time spent accelerating rather than time spent at full speed. Dixon will, no doubt have his hands full this weekend, but to count him out of the race is nothing short but ludicrous.
Last time out in Mid-Ohio, Rossi, yet again, proved that a good strategy can often defeat a team with a faster car. His sublime execution of a two stop strategy saw Rossi take to the top step of the podium for the 2nd time this year, and catapulted him into 2nd of the points standings.
While still a ways back from Dixon, Rossi has it all to put on the line come Sunday. He's proven himself to be able to win on all manner of circuits and if his theatrics at Indianapolis, ISM, and Texas this year are any indication, he's able to pass just about anybody on an oval.
With Indycar adding downforce elements to the front wings of the cars, in an effort to aid overtaking, Rossi should be able to be even more lethal than normal. Watch him, and perhaps not Dixon, as the driver who will most likely be able to finish as the top Honda.
After winning the 2018 Indianapolis 500, Will Power has found himself in a bit of a slump. He was able to break that slump by taking 3rd place in Mid-Ohio and may just be able to shatter it at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit, Pocono.
Power has dominated Pocono in the past, winning the past two races around the 2.5 mile tri-oval and 2018 may just prove to be his 3rd in a row.
Driving a Chevy will certainly give him an advantage, as will his natural style of driving, which suits Pocono itself. His teammate, Josef Newgarden, is another to watch out for around Pocono. Newgarden has finished 2nd and 4th at Pocono in the past, but has never been able to break through the bubble. And with Newgarden's only real hope of staying alive in the championship being winning out, he desperately needs to take top step at Pocono.
OTHER STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
Conor Daly returns to Harding Racing for his 3rd straight race. Harding has found itself in the middle of massive amounts of speculation regarding its future, with a proposed Andretti/McLaren satellite team, ostensibly run by Harding being kicked around the paddock. Daly, as he often as, will be driving for a ride next year, but this time around, he may find himself in a winning team if the rumors hold true.
Marco Andretti will be looking to prove his worth following a contract extension with Andretti Autosports.
Ed Carpenter steps back into the #20 Fuzzy's Vodka machine for his 4th and final appearance in the 2018 Indycar season.
Pietro Fittipaldi is back for his 2nd race in Indycar following his horrific crash in Spa earlier this year, during a WEC race.
Green flag for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono is at 1:30 PM ET on Sunday, August 19th.