Pocono Podium Finishers Hope to Return

Will Power with Alexander Rossi before 2019 IndyCar race at Pocono

Avoiding the debate-inducing first-lap crash and any other trouble during Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway put Will Power, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud — among many others — in position to compete in an otherwise-ordinary NTT IndyCar Series race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

This trio that ran up front from the drop of the green flag to the early checkered flag each led a significant number of laps while they focused on the task at hand, undistracted by somewhat-heated conversation taking place on the NBCSN telecast and social media centered around who was to blame for the crash that took out five cars and brought more chilling moments to INDYCAR’s recent history at the Tricky Triangle.

Roughly two hours after the high-speed wreck was sparked when Takuma Sato collided with Alexander Rossi, the podium finishers had removed their helmets and were requested for their opinion about whether North America’s premier open-wheel championship should return.

Just as he did in his post-race interview on NBCSN, Chip Ganassi Racing’s veteran pilot focused on the people behind the venue that may drop off IndyCar’s calendar in 2020.

“Honestly I feel bad for Pocono,” Dixon said. “The group of people here that work — they work extremely hard. I felt the crowd today at the start of the race was fantastic. It was gaining some really good momentum. Hopefully it does continue.

“But down to weather, some mistakes that have happened on track — honestly they could happen anywhere, if you look at Justin (Wilson) or Robbie (Wickens), those can happen anywhere. I feel bad that it gets a bit of a bad taste in that scenario. I think the drivers in a lot of situations can do a better job to help that situation.

“Honestly, I hope we come back. I just want to say a big thank you to everybody here at Pocono, the fans and everybody that come out, because it’s definitely a tough place. Will (Power) can tell you how rewarding it is to win here just because it is so difficult to get it right.”

Simon Pagenaud dives into Pocono turn in Penske Indy car
Simon Pagenaud led more laps than Will Power and Scott Dixon combined, proving his team was successful in preparing the No. 22 Chevrolet for its final superspeedway run of the year. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

Similarly, race winner Power opposed IndyCar leaving Long Pond, Pennsylvania and never returning, highlighting the venue’s uniqueness and its important contribution to the series.

“I agree,” Power said after Dixon’s comments. “It’s a great oval for us. Obviously some unfortunate accidents here, but like Scott said that could happen anywhere. (The track) kind of got a bad rap for that.

“The crowd is up 15% every year we come back. It’s getting better. Like Scott said, the crowd was great today. It’s a good racetrack, man. A good track for racing. I really hope we come back, I do. I think the guys do a great job. A cool track for us. It’s hard for us to find good ovals these days that suit our cars.”

Pagenaud led the most laps during the second superspeedway event since his win in the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 and initially found it difficult to expand on the thoughts of the drivers he’d just celebrated on the podium with. He turned to his motor sports background to offer a driver’s perspective that would excite fans who believe Pocono belongs on IndyCar’s calendar.

“Tough to add to that; I think they said it all,” the 2016 IndyCar champion began.

“It is a fun track to drive on. (The possibility of not returning is) real unfortunate — close to New York, a great market for INDYCAR. It’s an opportunity to bring people from New York to the Indy car races. I really enjoy that.

“I love, personally, superspeedways. I think it’s been the best, like they said. Obviously when you’re traveling at such high speed, you know a crash is going to be a big crash.

“Hopefully we can come back and hopefully we can keep working with people at Pocono because it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been racing here since 2012 in the series. I’ve enjoyed it more and more every year. So we’ll see what happens next. As a driver, I really enjoy coming here.”

The way Pagenaud feels about the third and final superspeedway currently on the IndyCar schedule concluded the post-race press conference and, by extension, the series’ 2019 visit to Pocono. With the 2020 schedule expected next month, clarity is coming soon regarding IndyCar’s future at the track that was part of Indy car racing’s 500-mile triple crown from its start in 1971 and featured again alongside the superspeedways at Indianapolis and Fontana when the concept returned in 2013.

Extended from the 400-mile duration of 2013, Juan Pablo Montoya made the first 500-mile IndyCar race at Pocono since 1989 the fastest race of that distance in history in 2014 at 202.402 mph. Late in the race the following year, Justin Wilson’s fatal accident marked the beginning of a potential end that would leave the track that made cockpit protection a priority out of IndyCar’s first year with the Red Bull Advanced Technologies-designed Aeroscreen.

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