What to watch for: IndyCar at Pocono (Noon ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

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BIG DAY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

After last weekend’s doubleheader in Houston, Will Power came out the same way he came in: Leading the Verizon IndyCar Series championship by 39 points over teammate Helio Castroneves. However, Ryan Hunter-Reay (-41 points) and Simon Pagenaud (-59 points), the guys in third and fourth respectively in the standings, made gains on the Australian. And with today’s 500-miler worth double championship points – which means a 100-point bounty for the winner – the race for the 2014 IndyCar crown could get even tighter should Power fail to convert his front-row start into a strong result.

BETTER LUCK FOR ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT?

Last year’s Pocono race was a disaster for Andretti Autosport. James Hinchcliffe crashed just moments after the green flag and Ryan Hunter-Reay was drilled by Takuma Sato on pit road. But perhaps no one was more disappointed in the Andretti camp than Pennsylvania boy Marco Andretti, who sat on pole and led the most laps but didn’t have the fuel mileage to get the win. Today, all four Andretti drivers are starting within the first three rows with rookie Carlos Munoz on the front row. Will the team have its revenge?

PERFORMANCE IN THE PITS

This year, Pocono has stretched its race distance by an additional 100 miles, which could impact the race. We’ll have to watch for fuel mileage emerging as a factor in the outcome, but the drivers’ pit crews will have several additional stops to perform as well. It was a bit tough to pass on track in last year’s race, and if that proves to be the case again today, gaining positions in the pits will be essential to success. These crews are going to earn their money.

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

Today’s race will feature a three-wide rolling start (a la the Indianapolis 500) before the drivers go off to navigate Pocono’s 2.5-mile triangular oval. All three turns at Pocono have different banking and all three straightaways that connect the turns have different lengths, which creates an all-around challenge for both car and driver.

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.”