We’re onto the home stretch now for the 2018 IndyCar season with just four races remaining, first of which is at the infamous ‘Tricky Triangle’, otherwise known as Pocono. The nickname has two sources of origin: firstly, it’s a very demanding and notoriously difficult track to master and secondly, it only has three corners so is triangle-shaped. Championship leader Scott Dixon has not won at Pocono since 2013 amid Penske domination at the track and has a reduced lead of 46-points in the championship over Alexander Rossi, who is yet to win at Pocono.
Rossi was the one who came out victorious at the last round at Mid-Ohio and will be looking to continue that momentum into this coming race. The #27 Andretti driver trounced the field with a two-stop strategy while everyone else was on three-stops, meaning he came home with a near 20-second advantage and trimmed Dixon’s lead down in the championship while he was at it. Dixon himself didn’t have the best of races, finding himself down in fifth after qualifying ninth, but even on his bad weekends, he’s still up there fighting for the podium places – showing just why he’s the man in the lead of the championship.
Robert Wickens continued his good form with second place while Indy 500 champion Will Power came back into play after a tough run of races with third. Josef Newgarden hung onto his championship aspirations with a fourth, he’s now 60 points back from Dixon – a large but by no means insurmountable gap.
Moving onto Pocono now and it’s a track that has been synonymous with Penske domination over the years. Power’s taken the glory for the last two years with teammate Newgarden following him home last year. The most recent non-Penske winner was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2015 with now ex-Penske man Juan Pablo Montoya winning the year before that. However, this year is perhaps the best chance for the rest of the field to end Penske’s Pocono stranglehold with Chip Ganassi, Andretti and Schmidt Peterson all looking threatening.
The 500-mile race is often a close one with three-wide more than plausible at all points of the track while even the smallest of touches can result in disaster, as James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand found out last year with rather dramatic effect.
Away from the track, IndyCar’s silly season is kicking off again. Dixon’s signed a ‘multi-year’ deal with Chip Ganassi to extend his 17-year tenure at the team while Fernando Alonso’s decision to leave F1 means that the entire 2019 driver market is now on hold until he, and potentially McLaren, decides what to do.
Anyway, back to Pocono…
If you haven’t already guessed, Pocono is an oval course which means that qualifying is done in reserve championship order with two-lap flying runs. The ‘Tricky Triangle’ is the penultimate oval of the season with only Gateway left after this, showing just how little time there is left.
There are only a few driver changes for Pocono; Ed Carpenter is back in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing car, taking over from Jordan King for the second to last time this season while Kyle Kaiser takes the wheel of the solo Juncos entry from Rene Binder. Conor Daly has got the Harding call up again after negotiations with Zachary Claman De Melo to race at Pocono for the team fell through. This, however, is expected to be Daly’s last race of 2018, although that could yet change.
As the last round at Sonoma is double-points, there are still 250 points on offer – excluding bonus points for pole/laps led – which means that anyone down to Ed Jones in 13th is mathematically in with a chance of the championship but, realistically, it’s between the top five of Dixon, Rossi, Newgarden, Power and Hunter-Reay although Wickens still has an outside chance. Any slip up from any of those drivers could spell disaster for their respective championship challenges so the pressure is on for the final four races to get those points in.
There’s no Mazda Road to Indy at Pocono so it’s just the IndyCar lot out on track. Practice is being streamed as usual on IndyCar’s channels but qualifying is unfortunately not. The race is live on BT Sport 2 and there will be race commentary on our Twitter channel.
The schedule for the weekend ahead looks like this…
Practice 1 – 3:30pm
Qualifying – 6:30pm
Final Practice – 9:45pm
Race – 7:00pm
(All times BST)