Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal and a heroic Ryan Hunter-Reay were among seven Honda drivers to contend for victory Sunday at Pocono Raceway, the second and final 500-mile race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series. But a third-place result for Rossi was the highlight for Honda, as an off-sequence pit strategy paid huge dividends for Penske Racing, with Will Power and Josef Newgarden finishing 1-2 at the end of 200 hard-fought laps.
Seven Honda drivers combined to lead 160 laps of Sunday’s race on the 2.5-mile Pocono tri-oval, and dominated the first half of the contest, with Kanaan and Rossi establishing themselves at the front of the field through the first round of pit stops. Dixon moved to the front of the field during the second stint, and led a race-high 51 laps in search of his second victory of the season.
Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay worked his way to the front after a massive crash in qualifying left him bruised and battered, and starting at the rear of the 22-car starting grid. But at the 100-lap mark, it was Hunter-Reay leading Rossi, Dixon and Rahal at the front of the field. Kanaan came to the fore on Lap 122, and would lead 32 laps in an entertaining battle with Rahal – who would lead nine laps – before a broken front wing mount slowed Kanaan in the closing laps, and dropped him to a fifth-place finish.
A caution flag for a crash involving James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand slowed the field on Lap 124, and set into motion the strategy calls that eventually determined the outcome of the race. The Penske duo of Power and Newgarden, as well as the Andretti Autosport Honda of Marco Andretti, all pitted out-of-sequence during this caution, enabling them to run a series of fast, solo laps and make up ground on the rest of the field.
After leading nine laps, Andretti needed to make a fuel-only stop on Lap 190, taking him out of contention for the win and moving Power to the front. Newgarden made his way past Kanaan and Rossi for second, with Dixon rounding out the top six finishers for Honda, two places behind defending series champion Simon Pagenaud.
Video recaps from this weekend’s Honda IndyCar Series action at Pocono Raceway are available on the “Honda Racing/HPD” YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
The Verizon IndyCar Series now heads west for next weekend’s final oval race of 2017, the August 26 Bommarito 500. The event marks the return of the unique, 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park to the IndyCar Series schedule, and the final Saturday night race of the season.
Tony Kanaan (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 4th, finished 5th, led 32 laps: “We needed a little bit there at the end that we just didn’t have. Regardless, we fought hard all day long and it was a really exciting race. That battle with Graham [Rahal] was the highlight of my race – exchanging positions back and forth for the lead. We found out after the race that we had a broken front wing. We were so strong at the beginning of the race, I couldn’t understand why we were falling back [at the end], but now we know why. Regardless it was a great battle. The No. 10 NTT DATA Honda was awesome. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of things that happen. Everyone is just so competitive. Sometimes you have a car to win, but you have a little bit of a hiccup and finish fifth.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport Honda) started 21st, finished 8th, led 12 laps: “I’ve been through 500 miles plenty of times, but I’m just beat after this one. It was a great run, though. We began the race with a lot of downforce, since we started at the back of the field. It took a while to get the balance of the car right, but we started really slicing our way [forward] and I thought ‘Hey, we really have something here,’ … we were leading at halfway. I thought it was going to be a good end to the race, but we just didn’t trim enough downforce out [during the pit stops]. I was getting big runs on guys, but just couldn’t complete [a pass]. But I’m really happy to just get back in the car today and put the effort forward. We put on a good showing for DHL and for the fans out here, and that’s important. It was a test today; it was a mental test, no doubt, and a physical one, as well. I was really glad to roll back into pit lane after the race and see the crew here with smiles on their faces.”
Marc Sours (Chief Engineer and Senior Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “I’m pleased with how well the Honda teams and drivers performed this weekend. Honda was dominant throughout the weekend, taking seven of the top 10 positions in qualifying and leading 160 of 200 laps in the race. HPD has been working very hard this past year on improving our super speedway performance, and the competitiveness we demonstrated this weekend is proof. We are, of course, disappointed not to come away with the win. But we will take this as a challenge, and remain committed to close out the season fighting for both the INDYCAR manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships.
ABC Supply Co., Inc. Pocono 500
Circuit: Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile oval) Long Pond, PA
2016 Winner: Will Power (Team Penske Honda) 180.198 mph average
Weather: Mostly sunny, mild, 76 degrees F
Top-10 Race Results:
|1.||5.||Will Power||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200||183.737 mph average speed|
|2.||14.||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200||+0.5268 seconds|
|3||6.||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200|
|4.||2.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200|
|5.||4.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||200|
|6.||9.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||200|
|7.||20.||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200|
|8.||21.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200|
|9.||7.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Honda||200|
|10.||14.||Carlos Munoz||A.J. Foyt Racing||Chevrolet||200|
|Other Honda Results|
|11.||16.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200||Running|
|13.||1.||Takuma Sato||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200||Running|
|16||3.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||200||Running|
|17.||11.||Ed Jones-R||Dale Coyne Racing||Honda||200||Running|
|18.||10.||Max Chilton||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||129||Did not finish – mechanical|
|20.||12.||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Peterson Mtspts||Honda||124||Did not finish – crash|
|21.||15.||Sebastian Saavedra||Schmidt Peterson Mtspts||Honda||114||Did not finish – crash|
|22.||13.||Esteban Gutierrez-R||Dale Coyne Racing||Honda||23||Did not finish – contact|