Three-wide starts on tap for upcoming IndyCar races at Pocono, Fontana

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Excitement and anticipation have been building for this weekend’s return of Indy cars to Pocono Raceway after a nearly quarter-century absence.

Wednesday, that excitement level jumped up several more notches as officials of the IZOD IndyCar Series announced that three-wide starts would be implemented in Sunday’s race, as well as the season finale in October in Fontana, Calif.

“After having the opportunity to test at Pocono and a successful event at Auto Club Speedway last season, we were able to analyze track data and compare to our current start procedure for the Indianapolis 500,” IZOD IndyCar Series race director Beaux Barfield said in a story on IndyCar.com. “Given the speeds of our starts, the location of accelerations zones, the spacing between rows and the length of the frontstraights at each track, we have decided to move forward with a three-wide lineup for the initial starts.”

Part of the decision to add three-wide starts is due to the Fuzzy’s “Triple Crown” promotion, where one driver can win a $1 million bonus if he wins the Indianapolis 500, as well as Sunday’s Pocono 400 and the season-ending MavTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on Oct. 19.

Tony Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500 and is among the favorites in Sunday’s race.

The IndyCar series typically only uses three-wide starts at Indianapolis, a long-standing tradition of the Indy 500 that began nearly 100 years ago in 1921.

However, the three-wide premise will only be used at the start of the Pocono and Fontana races. On green flag restarts, cars will be in their traditional single-file formation.

At 73 feet, Pocono’s frontstretch is the widest of the three tracks that will utilize the three-wide starts. Auto Club Speedway’s frontstretch is 53 feet wide, while Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s frontstretch is 50 feet wide, according to IndyCar.com.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.