Preview: 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Pocono

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Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Just four races remain until the champion of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series is crowned. This weekend, the series get’s back in action with the first of three consecutive race weekends. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

What happened in 2017 at Pocono?

When the Verizon IndyCar Series last visited Pocono twelve months ago, it was the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion at the time, Takuma Sato, who took pole position; once again underlining the strength of the Andretti Autosport Superspeedway package. The Japanese driver was the only person to get below the 1:22 barrier with his two-lap qualification run, with Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud just under a tenth of a second behind in second place.

In the race, an incredible recovery drive from Penske’s Will Power saw the Australian claim his second consecutive victory at Pocono Raceway. After sustaining front-wing damage at the start of the race, Power was forced to make an early pit-stop for repairs which saw him fall a lap down from the leaders. Thankfully, a caution soon after due to an incident between James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand saw Power get back onto the lead lap.

From there, Will began to work his way through the field. After his penultimate pit-stop, he found himself well ahead in the lead of the race. It would not be smooth sailing, however, as a late-race attack came from his team-mate Josef Newgarden. Power was able to successfully fend off Newgarden to take the chequered flag first, with a winning margin of just half a second.

After leading forty-six laps earlier in the race, Alexander Rossi would come home in third place, with Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan completing the top five. The pole-sitter, Sato, fell through the order early on and ultimately finished thirteenth, with prevalent balance issues costing him any chance of a decent finish.

You can read the reports from last year’s qualifying and race at Pocono by following the links below

What should I look out for this weekend?

For the last five years that Pocono Raceway has been on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar, Team Penske has seemed to be the team to beat. The team has taken three victories in the five races, with Will Power having taken the last two wins in succession.

Power enters the weekend in fourth place in the championship standings with a huge gap of eighty-seven points separating him from the championship leader Scott Dixon. Will was in a similarly poor position, championship-wise, at the start of the season, before he made an impressive comeback to briefly take the lead after winning both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Now, the Australian is in need of another stunning comeback if he wants to be in contention for the title at the season finale at Sonoma in just over a month’s time. A third consecutive Pocono victory could well be the start of that comeback, should he manage to get to victory circle this Sunday.

The championship leader Scott Dixon and his nearest championship rival Alexander Rossi will also be another two drivers to keep an eye on this weekend. Dixon is a former winner at Pocono Raceway and will be looking to take another victory to further increase his forty-six point lead in the standings, whilst Rossi will be hoping that he can build off his podium a year-ago to potentially challenge for the win himself. Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden, who is third in the standings, will be hoping to go one better than his second place finish in 2017 to put himself back into the driving seat in the title fight.

Last but not least, watch out for the rookie Robert Wickens this weekend. The Canadian has proven so far in 2018 that new challenges do not seem to phase him. He has shown speed at every possible style of race track, be it road courses, street circuits or ovals.

May’s Indy 500 was the only other time this season where the cars have raced on a “Superspeedway” oval. At that race, Wickens showed decent pace, once again, before falling back toward the end of the race to an eventual ninth-place finish. If Robert can apply that experience to “the tricky triangle” on Sunday, he could be in with a chance of taking his maiden IndyCar victory. What’s more, his team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, have shown that they can lead at Pocono, having led the most laps of the 2016 race en-route to second place with former driver Mikhail Aleshin.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Saturday 18 August

10:30 ET / 15:30 GMT – Practice one
13:30 ET / 18:30 GMT – Qualifying
16:45 ET / 22:45 GMT – Practice two

Sunday 19 August

14:00 ET / 19:00 GMT  – Race

Where can I watch the ABC Supply 500?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Pocono Raceway website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the races only. Race day coverage will start at 18:30 on BT Sport 2.

In the United States, television coverage for the race at Pocono will be provided by NBCSN.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided for all via IndyCar’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

If you cannot make it to Pocono for this weekend’s race, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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