NTT INDYCAR Series
Five Drivers to Watch for the ABC Supply 500
With the Verizon IndyCar Series heading into the final weeks of the 2018 season, reaching victory lane is ever-important to end off the year with momentum and possibly secure a championship. While Scott Dixon currently is at the top, it’s still wide-open with drivers mathematically eligible.
Based on a variety of factors, here are five drivers to watch in this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway
The Team Penske driver scored the victory last season at Pocono Raceway, and has the best average finish of active drivers with a fourth after two wins at the oval. He will enter the weekend with momentum following a third-place finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, ranked fourth in the series standings.
“I’m definitely ready to race this weekend at Pocono. It was awesome to spend time with my family this past weekend, but I’m ready to get back on track. We learned a few things at the Indianapolis tire test (on Aug. 6) and I’m really excited to apply those to the race at Pocono in the No. 12 Verizon Chevy. The last two times we’ve raced there, we’ve had a really strong performance, but with three very different turns, it’s always a challenge to race there. Everyone is hungry for wins at this point in the season. Being in the championship hunt, we need a really strong run there to keep running toward the championship and we’re ready to do just that.”
Fresh off signing a multi-year contract extension, the New Zealander enters this weekend at the top of the standings, 46 points ahead of Alexander Rossi following a fifth-place finish at Mid-Ohio. He knows how to get the job done at Pocono, having picked up a win in the inaugural event in 2013. Since then, he has placed inside the top-nine in each of race, with a track-best of fifth.
“Pocono is a great track and one I think everyone looks forward to on the INDYCAR schedule each year. It’s definitely the ‘Tricky Triangle’ with the level of difficulty. It takes a lot of compromise to get through Turns 1 and 3 the right way. I expect it to be pretty close to the style of racing we had last year. I was a big fan of the racing there and the really good cars stayed at the front and could work through traffic. A few years ago, I think it was too close to pack racing and almost anyone could win, but they really have the package nailed down right now, which should make for an exciting race. Hopefully, the PNC Bank car will be there at the end when it counts.”
Rossi may be sitting second in the standings, but he enters this weekend with the most momentum after picking up the win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in dominating fashion. While he crashed out in his first trip to Pocono in 2016, he returned last season to score a third-place finish.
“We are coming off of a strong weekend at Mid-Ohio and feel that we’ve got a bit of our momentum back. With that being said, every race is a critical situation for us in terms of needing big results. We welcome the challenge in Pocono this weekend – one of my absolute favorite tracks. I cannot wait to get back at it.”
Boasting the second best average finish of active drivers at Pocono Raceway, Josef Newgarden has yet to score a victory there but has placed second in two of the past three races. He also has momentum on his side following a fourth-place finish at Mid-Ohio as he enters the event currently ranked third in the season standings.
“Having a few weeks off before we really get going back into the championship hunt was great. I was able to visit the Hole in the Wall Camp with SeriousFun (Children’s Network) and had a lot of fun with some really great kids. I also spent time with family and friends as well, which was refreshing. But now, it’s time to shift gears back to focus on defending the championship for the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet. Pocono is a difficult track and, with a lot of really strong competition, it’s not an easy place to win. Team Penske tends to perform strong there and I know we have all the right people in place to give us the best car possible to make a run for the win. Every lap really counts between now and the end of the season. We need to be consistent and not make mistakes.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay enters the weekend with the least to lose, the most to gain as he sits fifth in the standings, 95 points behind Dixon. While that may seem like a taxing task to win the championship, it is mathematically possible if things work out in his favor over the next couple of weeks. Kicking off the stretch at Pocono could be to his advantage as he won there in 2015, and followed it up with a third and eighth since.
“We’re all really looking forward to getting back to Pocono. The DHL team has consistently had a strong car here – running at the front and winning in 2015 – so as a team we’re quite optimistic. Hopefully, we can get this (No.) 28 Honda in victory lane for the second time this year.”
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