IndyCar at Pocono: Alexander Rossi Wins, Kicks Championship Chase Into High Gear
The tricky tri-oval had its fair share of nail-biting passes, drama, and vicious crashes.
Alexander Rossi put on a masterclass drive at Pocono Raceway where he clinched his third victory of the year and reduced the points gap to championship leader Scott Dixon, whose 46-point lead going into Pocono has been reduced to 29 with just three races remaining in the season.
The tricky tri-oval was plagued with challenges from the moment the IndyCar fraternity showed up on Thursday, with heavy storms and a dozen scattered showers making it difficult for teams to find real performance gains on the track, and even canceling track sessions at times. However, it wasn't until the race got underway that things really turned nasty, with a collision between Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay and Schmidt Peterson's Robert Wickens that sent the Canadian flying through the air and the American into the wall. The shunt created a domino effect that ultimately ended James Hinchcliffe, Pietro Fittipaldi, and Takuma Sato's race before it even got started.
The Lap-7 crash brought out a red flag that allowed emergency workers to load Wickens into an ambulance and transport him to the track's medical helicopter, which quickly airlifted him to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania where he remains under medical evaluation. A press release from the team released on Sunday night simply stated that Wickens had suffered "orthopedic injuries."
"I'm OK. I'm just thinking about Robert [Wickens] right now," said Hunter-Reay. "I haven't had any information yet. They're just waiting for him to come back to the medical center. It's unfortunate in the first half of the race. I just hope Robert is alright. [I'm] just lucky to get out of that one."
Once things got underway again it was a constant battle for the lead, one that not a single driver showed higher chances of winning than the others. Rossi, Power, Dixon, and Newgarden constantly traded places at the front of the pack even as they were forced to take six or seven pit stops throughout the 500-mile race. With just 50 laps to go, Rossi emerged as the leader with a stronger pace and enough fuel and rubber to make it until the end.
Behind the leading pack, it was a variety of Honda and Chevy-powered racers who kept fighting for position as the laps trickled down. One of those racers was Sebastien Bourdais, who started in eighth place and had managed to climb all the way to third, only to settle for fourth once the chequered flag dropped.
At the end of the day, it was Rossi, Power, and Dixon who visited the podium, with Bourdais, Newgarden, Veach, Andretti, Pagenaud, Kimball, and Ed Carpenter rounding up the top 10.
"The No. 27 Honda was better than everyone else, so it was an exceptional day but right now Rob [Wickens] and James [Hinchcliffe] and Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and everyone involved in that incident have our thoughts," said Rossi after the race. "It’s tough to really celebrate after what happened."
"You can’t do any of this without an amazing team, so I am very thankful to be on Andretti Autosport and have this great group of people. It’s a special day today. We’re going to try and win a championship"