IndyCar returns to Pocono with Firestone test Wednesday

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After 24 years, the Pocono Mountains had the reverberations of the sound of IndyCar engines echoing once again. The full race at Pocono Raceway will be on July 7, but today marked an appetizer.

Firestone held a tire test session on Wednesday, open to the public, but halted early due to incoming thunderstorms. The Indianapolis 500 tire specification was used as a baseline.

Still, for those testing – Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Dario Franchitti – lap times were near flat and estimated in the high 41-second range around the 2.5-mile triangle oval (more than 214 mph average).

Andretti – fittingly – drove the first laps on track. The last IndyCar race there, held in August 1989, featured his grandfather Mario, father Michael and uncle John in the race.

“For me, it was kind of like a higher-speed short oval really because you have to work, especially in Turn 1,” said the youngest Andretti. “But for me it was about finding the limit kind of in Turn 3, getting a feel for the back end with no banking there.”

The last IndyCar oval race in Pennsylvania was at the now-defunct Nazareth Speedway, the Andretti family hometown, in a 2004 race won by the late Dan Wheldon. That triangle was a fraction under one mile in length and a unique challenge.

Andretti had the quote of the day to describe Pocono by comparison.

“From what I know about it, this looks like Nazareth on steroids,” he said.

Pagenaud, the least experienced on ovals of the quartet, praised the track surface and complex as a whole. The Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports sophomore’s five starts on ovals last year were the first of his career.

“It’s actually good fun,” he said. “It’s very different to any of the ovals we go to.  Certainly with my little experience on ovals, it was quite surprising on the first few laps because it’s really fast out there.

“The track is really smooth.  The surface is awesome for the IndyCars.  Yeah, I’m actually really excited to be here. It was great to be one of the first to turn some laps around here. The speeds are quite impressive already. That’s a good sign.”

Power and Franchitti cracked jokes in the media availability time, but also expanded on the thoughts outlined above. The full transcript from the test can be found here on the Pocono Raceway website.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”