Pocono IndyCar Update: Andretti out in front at halfway mark

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Marco Andretti has maintained his weekend dominance so far in the first half of the Pocono IndyCar 400, but Triple Crown contender Tony Kanaan has been able to stay toward the front of the field as he seeks to continue his quest for a $1 million prize.

Kanaan is currently half a second behind Andretti at Lap 80 of 160, followed by championship leader Helio Castroneves in third, Simon Pagenaud in fourth, and Scott Dixon in fifth.

IndyCar’s first race at the “Tricky Triangle” since 1989 began inauspiciously when front-row starter James Hinchcliffe wiggled in Turn 1, then spun and slammed hard into the wall. The Canadian fan favorite, who won the series’ most race at Iowa Speedway, limped out of his car but after his release from the infield care center, he told ESPN that he had merely banged his knee inside the cockpit.

“The car just snapped loose on me,” said Hinchcliffe. “We went a bit aggressive on setup because we had an understeering car all week, and we didn’t want that in the race – maybe we overstepped it a bit; I’m not quite sure. We’ll have to go back and take a look.

“It’s really unfortunate. It’s a 400-mile race, so to go out on Lap 1 is just devastating.”

Andretti gave up the lead when he pitted under green at Lap 30, but regained it when the rest of the field cycled through their own stops. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed to leapfrog Kanaan for second when they pitted together on Lap 32, making for an Andretti Autosport 1-2 as the focus turned to disposing of lapped traffic.

But Hunter-Reay’s strong run was ended as he pitted along with Andretti on Lap 61. Takuma Sato, coming in from fourth on the track, locked up his tires while trying to slow down and skidded into the back of Hunter-Reay’s No. 1 car.

“Sato just ran into me,” Hunter-Reay spat over his team radio as the yellow flag came out. “What an idiot.”

To his credit, the former Formula One driver admitted fault for the crash, saying he “misjudged” the entrance to pit road.

“I was trying to kill speed but I was in the middle of the corner and I lost the back end and slid into Ryan,” Sato told ESPN.

Shortly after halfway, Hunter-Reay and his machine were spotted rolling out of the Pocono garage and will likely return to the track in an attempt to salvage championship points. But his incident with Sato will still likely impact his bid for a second straight IZOD IndyCar Series title; he had entered the day just nine points off of Castroneves in the standings.

Hinch boldly “goes” where many drivers have gone before

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One of the most common questions racing drivers face is “What happens if you have to use the bathroom when you’re driving?”

And the most common answer is “You just go.” While admittedly a little disgusting, it is nonetheless a problem that occasionally surfaces, and an innumerable amount of drivers have done so in their careers.

However, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe apparently had never found himself in such a predicament in his career. That is, until Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

While under the first red flag for rain, Hinchcliffe started to receive “nature’s call.” Unable to get out of the car to use a restroom – drivers had not been permitted to get out of their cars – Hinchcliffe was forced to wait and hold it.

But when the cars briefly took to the track again prior to a second red flag, it became too much to handle, and Hinch was forced to “relieve himself” while circulating under caution.

“I always maintained that I knew at some point in my career it would happen,” he quipped to NBCSN’s Kevin Lee.”

He added, “I was sitting there under that first red (flag), just begging to get three minutes. That’s all you need, (steering wheel off to wheel on). And when we got going again, my legs were shaking, I had to go so bad. I’m like ‘I can’t drive a race car like this.’ So under caution, it took me a full lap, it was one of the least comfortable experiences of my entire life, but I can officially say I’ve joined the likes of Will Power, Dario Franchitti, and other greats that have peed themselves in their suit.”

Social media reaction added to the moment’s hilarity, with SPM and teammate Robert Wickens weighing in.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal also chimed in, coming to Hinchcliffe’s defense.

Hinchcliffe, fully refreshed, will restart the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in fifth when racing resumes on Monday.

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