BY JIM MILLER WEEKLY INDYCAR WRITER
After rain caused the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway to be delayed by a day, Will Power (Chevrolet/Team Penske) won Monday’s 500-mile the race to tighten the season points championship and claim his fourth victory in the last six races.
Mikhail Aleshin (Honda/SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson) started the race from his first career pole position. Behind him the remaining 21 cars immediately jockeyed for position on this 2.5 mile tri-oval until Takuma Sato (Honda/AJ Foyt Racing) spun hard hitting into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3 ending his day. He climbed out of the car under his own power, was checked and released from the infield care center.
A highlight performance of the day came from Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda/Andretti Autosport) who started the race at the back of the pack due to not qualifying after crashing during Saturday’s practice. By Lap 2 he had jumped from 22nd to 14th. While this was happening one of the season’s hottest drivers Josef Newgarden (Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing) temporarily took the lead from Aleshin. Aleshin went on to regain the lead and ended up leading a race-high, and career best, 87 laps.
On Lap 49 Hunter-Reay continued his charge and managed to climb into the lead overtaking Aleshin.
A frightening moment occurred on Lap 64 causing the second caution of the day. Alexander Rossi (Honda/ Andretti-Herta Autosport) was released from his pit into the low lane while Charlie Kimball (Chevrolet/ Chip Ganassi Racing) was coming down from the high lane into his pit as Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet/Team Penske) was exiting his stall just ahead of them. Rossi made contact with Kimball’s car sending the front of Rossi’s car up and over the right sidepod of Castroneves, leaving tire marks adjacent to his helmet. Both Rossi and Castroneves were forced to retire due to damage. Kimball continued one lap down.
“I just saw a car on top of me all of a sudden,” said Castroneves. “It was scary; it hit a little bit of my hand. [But] inside the car I was more protected than what it looked like.”
By Lap 134 Hunter-Reay again regained the lead from Aleshin and stayed up front with the leaders until Lap 156 when Power took the lead after a strong pit stop. On Lap 158 Power’s team mate and season championship leader Simon Pagenaud (Chevrolet/Team Penkse) crashed at the exit of Turn 1 handing him his first DNF of the season and injecting opportunity into Power for the Season Championship.
On Lap 163 Hunter-Reay continually fighting up front had just taken the lead back from Power when his car lost all power. After coasting into the pits and resetting the electronics he rejoined the race but lost a lap.
The fourth yellow flag of day came out on Lap 175 due to debris on the track sending the leaders into the pits and grouping them up for the restart. Power maintained his lead out of the pits and held off a hard-charging Aleshin for the win by 1.1459 seconds. Hunter-Reay came in third, Josef Newgarden claimed fourth followed by Sebastien Bourdais rounding out the top five.
This is Power’s 29th career win, tying him with Castroneves and Rick Mears for 11th on the all-time list. He also closed to within 20 points of Pagenaud in the championship with only three races remaining.
The Verizon IndyCar Series now heads back to Texas Motor Speedway this coming Saturday August 27th for the resumption of the Firestone 600 which was halted after 71 laps in June due to weather. Prior to the restart of the race on Saturday, the field will get a brief practice session before resuming under the lights on the 1.455-mile oval.