Pocono Update: Tony Kanaan leads at halfway

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Seeking to give Chip Ganassi Racing its first win of the season – and seeking to earn his first win as a member of the team – Tony Kanaan led at the halfway point of today’s Pocono IndyCar 500 at Pocono Raceway.

At Lap 100, Kanaan led pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya by about one second, while Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and rookie Mikhail Aleshin completed the Top 5.

The race started with Marco Andretti attempting to charge to the front and vaulting from fifth to second in the span of one turn. However, he slipped back afterwards and fell to fifth again by Lap 5.

The leaders then settled into a rhythm and tried to stretch their opening fuel loads as far as they could. But on Lap 25, Takuma Sato was forced to go to the pits and there, the engine cover was taken off the car.

Ryan Hunter-Reay went in around Lap 30, but the American driver suffered a suspension issue and his No. 28 Andretti Autosport team was forced to go to the garage for repairs.

NBCSN reported that the lower A-arm mount on the front left corner of the car was the problem area. After the repairs, cameras spotted Hunter-Reay’s crew wheeling him and his car back toward the track.

During the first wave of stops, Andretti was hit with a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road. Meanwhile, Kanaan powered to the lead at Lap 51 and held it up to his next stop at Lap 59.

Kanaan returned to the lead after this particular cycle, while Montoya settled into second after going five laps farther than the Brazilian on his most recent fuel load.

If Montoya can keep getting better mileage, it might be the key to him scoring what would be his first IndyCar win since his 2000 CART triumph at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis.

Kanaan, Montoya, and Power continued to maintain first, second, and third positions through the stint until Kanaan once again pitted early at Lap 89, which gave the lead to Montoya.

Two laps later, on Lap 91, Carlos Huertas came to a stop on pit road before he and his stricken car were moved away from the lanes. However, the race stayed green and his Dale Coyne Racing team pushed Huertas back to their pit box when the cycle ended.

On Lap 94, Montoya made his stop and actually came out ahead of Kanaan. But down the Long Pond Straightaway, Kanaan pulled to the inside and passed Montoya to reclaim the lead.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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