Brandon Igdalsky, CEO of Pocono Raceway, has stepped away from his post as head of the 2.5-mile triangular oval to move into a new role as Managing Director of Event Marketing and Promotion with NASCAR.
Igdalsky will report to Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell and lead efforts with track partners on event-related initiatives. Further, he will lead the NASCAR-Track Council and be based out of NASCAR’s Daytona Beach, Florida offices.
While he is eager to pursue a new opportunity, Igdalsky expressed gratitude toward the staff at Pocono Raceway and acknowledged their impact on him, both personally and professionally. “Pocono Raceway is in my blood and so are the Pocono Mountains,” said Brandon. “I may not have grown up here in NEPA, but I have grown to love the people and the area. The staff of Pocono is the best in the business and I wish them all the best, but the time and opportunity has come for me to move on. “(My grandfather Dr. Joseph Mattioli) gave me the chance to learn, grow, lead and become the person and leader that I am today. If not for those hard lessons he showed me, I would not be where I am today and I am eternally grateful to him and my family for the chance to do what I do.”
Brandon’s brother, Nick Igdalsky, previously the track’s COO and Senior Vice President, assumes the role of CEO while Ben May, Pocono’s Chief Marketing Officer since 2014, takes on the role of President.
“I am very grateful and excited,” Nick said of the opportunity. “I have observed every aspect of the operation here at Pocono Raceway, starting as a 13 year old, and look forward to working with our incredible team. Our goals remain the same: to create exciting and lifelong experiences at a beautiful and sustainable facility and that will remain our focus.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500 on August 19-20
IndyCar racing has a lot of similarities with horse racing. They are both built on speed and elapsed time.
And let’s not forget the most obvious: horsepower.
So, it’s not too much of a stretch to look at the plight of current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud.
Like a jockey or a cowboy, Pagenaud was thrown from his mount this past Monday when he was involved in a solo wreck during the weather-delayed ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
The wreck was Pagenaud’s first DNF of the season, a season that has had him in the points lead since the second race (Phoenix) and also compiled four wins and seven podium finishes in the first 13 races.
At the same time, Penske Racing teammate Will Power significantly closed what had been a 58-point lead by Pagenaud coming into Pocono to just a 20-point edge over Power, who not only won the race, but has won four of the last six (and finished runner-up in the other two).
But, once again like a jockey or cowboy who has been thrown from his horse, Pagenaud has picked himself up, dusted himself off and is prepared to do battle with his teammate and roughly a handful of others who are still mathematically eligible to win the 2016 IndyCar championship.
Pagenaud has built his career on looking forward and forgetting what’s in the past. And that’s exactly his philosophy about leaving Pocono and preparing for Saturday night’s resumed Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Pocono didn’t go very well, but that happens,” Pagenaud says. “I wish it hadn’t, but we have to move on and put it behind us.
“The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy will (re)start 15th, but that’s not indicative of the car we had or will have.”
As for the tightened margin between himself and Power, Pagenaud has been in this kind of horserace plenty of times in his career.
He knows what to expect in the next three races. He saw how Juan Pablo Montoya topped the standings last season for 15 straight races, only to lose it in the season finale to Scott Dixon.
Pagenaud hasn’t come this far to let the lead slip through his reins. Whether it’s himself, Power or perhaps one of the others still in striking distance, Pagenaud is well aware that it’s anyone’s championship still to win.
Obviously, he hopes it will ultimately be his.
“There’s a lot of racing left,” Pagenaud said. “It’s going to be an exciting race. We don’t lose sight of the big picture, but that’s not the strategy.
“We got to where we are by attacking and being on the offensive. That’s not going to change. We’ll focus on winning races.”
Despite the relative lack of on-track activity besides the Verizon IndyCar Series at Pocono Raceway – there were some vintage IndyCars and kids in quarter midgets – there still seemed to be enough going on from the ABC Supply 500 weekend.
A few thoughts from the weekend, below:
Poor weather, but positive Pocono staff spirits: This was my first time to Pocono in my career and it’s always good to check another track off the box. I found the staff to be particularly pleasant, cheery and optimistic – not that other tracks don’t have staff quite like that, but I would have understood them being grumpy given the rain on Sunday and the logistical mess that followed. Track president Brandon Igdalsky deserves a round of applause for both his and his staff’s positivity in the face of a third challenging weekend in as many major events as they had this year.
Dodging a bullet. Helio Castroneves was gracious and candid in the wake of nearly getting hit by Alexander Rossi’s car on top of him, when Rossi’s car catapulted onto the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet in pit lane. “All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don’t realize the Verizon IndyCar series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that. Very glad that nobody got hurt,” said the popular Brazilian driver. Rossi was thankful no one was hurt. Charlie Kimball was frustrated as he was trying to enter his pit and got hit by Rossi’s car. The accident very nearly produced a disastrous outcome, but ended up in a good way.
Four big names started towards the back. Three of them made it to the top 10. In the “What to Watch For” post I noted that Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay would be starting 14th, 15th, 19th and 22nd, and their progress would be important to monitor on race day. Montoya, Dixon and RHR ended eighth, sixth and third, all of whom tweaked on their cars to be dynamic on race day. Pagenaud? He picked a bad day to have a bad day. The otherwise faultless Frenchman made his first major mistake of the year when losing it in Turn 1. He can only hope this is a mere bump in the road as he pursues his first title and not the beginning of the end of it slipping away.
On Ryan Hunter-Reay’s drive that was simply amazeballs. Rare is the day you get a car as hooked up as Ryan Hunter-Reay’s was on Monday. Rarer still is the day you get that out of a backup car because your 2014 Indianapolis 500-winning primary car got tubbed in your practice accident on Saturday. Hunter-Reay’s aggression this year has been nothing short of mesmerizing to watch, and the American was at it again Monday from his start on the opening lap, to his methodical picking off of the rest of the field as the day went on. And then, there was that charge back in the final 25 laps after getting back on the lead lap to unleash the beast – nearly getting back to the front but instead settling for a hard-luck third. It’s going to be one of those drives, if you’re an IndyCar fan at all, where you’ll think back to where you were when it happened and think “Damn, what a performance.” Hunter-Reay’s stats are misleading because even though he ranks 11th in points this year, he’s been one of the top two or three drivers in the field.
Power’s good “Case of the Mondays.” “I must say every time we race on Monday, I win, seems to be. If you go back and look at the last six years, I’ll bet you I’ve won every Monday race. I can think of today, Brazil, St. Pete, all run on Mondays and I won them. So I don’t mind Mondays,” said Will Power, who added Pocono to that list of rain-delayed victories in his career. A funky fact, but an interesting one. He’s come on so strongly but he’s also grown into a much more complete, methodical driver rather than the old “win from the front, drive away” Power in his earlier years at Team Penske.
Aleshin and Schmidt Peterson on a roll. Fifth in Iowa, sixth in Toronto, a would-be first win at Mid-Ohio and now pole and second in Pocono – Mikhail Aleshin and the SMP Racing team with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are clicking. Consider too that teammate James Hinchcliffe has reeled off a ninth, third, fifth and 10th in the same time frame and you’ve got the results of the best performing Honda team in the field.
Honda’s dominated the two big ovals, but misses an important win. The interesting stat of the day: Hondas in the two 500-mile races have led 251 of 400 laps, for 62.75 percent. In the remaining 11 races completed thus far, they’ve been out front just 108 of 1277 laps, or 8.45 percent. With Honda missing its best win opportunity since the Indianapolis 500, there’s a concerning and realistic possibility they could win Indy, and go 0-for-the-rest-of-the-season otherwise.
Other nuggets/thoughts. Glad to see both Dale Coyne Racing drivers Conor Daly and Pippa Mann bring their cars (neither one particularly quick or well-handling) home to the finish in 16th and 17th, more than could be said for others. Mann joins Carlos Munoz and Scott Dixon in finishing the last three 500-miler races (tweet via Trackside Online), and Mann has finished her last six overall dating to 2014. … Josef Newgarden’s fourth place finish after starting second follows finishes of third (Indianapolis 500) and winning (Iowa) after also starting second. … Graham Rahal can’t seem to catch a break and started/finished 11th owing a lack of top-end speed. … Like at the Indianapolis 500, Max Chilton and Jack Hawksworth posted needed clean finishes in 13th and 14th (15th and 16th at Indy) and on the lead lap.
In Major League Baseball, the 4-5-6 batters are typically the meat of the batting order. It’s those three players that play one of the biggest parts in determining which team becomes the ultimate champion each season.
Now, 4-5-6 in the standings of the Verizon IndyCar Series is a bit of a different matter.
Sure, fourth-ranked Scott Dixon is a four-time IndyCar champ and Indianapolis 500 winner, fifth-ranked Helio Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner, and sixth-ranked Tony Kanaan is both a series champion and Indy 500 winner.
That sounds like an IndyCar equivalent of baseball’s Murderer’s Row, right?
But following Monday’s weather-rescheduled ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, the 4-5-6 drivers in the IndyCar Series rankings have three races left to hit nothing but home runs if they hope to throw a curveball into Simon Pagenaud’s and Will Power’s championship plans.
Six points separate the trio: Dixon has 386 points, 111 points short of Pagenaud (497 points, with Power a close second at 477 points). Castroneves has 384 (-113) and Kanaan has 380 (-117).
And let’s not forget about Josef Newgarden, sitting third at 397 points, exactly 100 markers behind Pagenaud and 80 points in arrears to Power. But Newgarden will almost certainly drop out of realistic contention with a last-place finish looming at Texas Motor Speedway after he crashed out in June, and won’t be able to restart.
The respective finishes of Dixon (sixth), Kanaan (ninth) and Castroneves (19th) at Pocono also didn’t help their championship chances, because Power won. Pagenaud failed to finish but still looms far ahead.
Right now, a maximum of 211 points is up for grabs in the remaining three races. That breaks down to 50 points each to the winner at Texas and Watkins Glen, and double points (100) to the winner of the season finale at Sonoma.
There’s also one point for the pole winner in each of the final three races, although Carlos Munoz will get that point at Texas since he got the pole there back in June.
In addition, each of the three remaining races – as all others – awards one point if a driver leads at least one lap and two points to the driver who leads the most laps.
Dixon climbed one position, from fifth to fourth, with his Pocono finish. But he knows time is running to defend last year’s championship – particularly with this being the last year for him with Target sponsorship.
Here’s what Dixon had to say after Pocono:
“We started in the rear of the field and that didn’t help our cause with the Target team. We got held up in the second to last restart and some lapped cars didn’t go when they should have and that really cost us in terms of track position for sure. We clawed our way back into the mix but with so many good cars out there it was hard to get all the way to the front to contend.”
Kanaan slipped slightly in the standings from fifth to sixth after his Pocono finish.
Here’s what Kanaan had to say afterwards:
“We just couldn’t catch a break during the race. Every time we’d make a run toward the front, something would go wrong. We had a mechanical issue that was affecting the fuel system and that caused a lot of problems for us. Then we lost a piece of our rear bumper pod that caused that last yellow. It just wasn’t our day.”
Lastly, Castroneves had a performance Monday that he’d rather forget. While he started strong (fourth), he was involved in a scary pit road crash not of his doing when Alexander Rossi and Charlie Kimball made contact.
Rossi, this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, bounced off Kimball’s car and ran over the top of Castroneves’ car as he was trying to leave his pit stall.
The tires on Rossi’s car made visible marks on the top of the cockpit of Castroneves’ car and then the car continued until it had climbed over and landed back on the pavement on all four wheels. Castroneves suffered a slight bruise to his right hand but was otherwise uninjured in the scary mishap.
But his hand isn’t the thing that really hurt. Castroneves’ resulting 19th place finish saw him drop from third to fifth in the standings. Given that he’s 117 points behind Pagenaud and 97 behind Power, his Team Penske teammate, Castroneves’ hopes for his elusive first career IndyCar championship are slim, indeed – unless perhaps he wins each of the next three races.
And that still may not be enough to win it all if Pagenaud and/or Power have strong finishes in at least two of those last three.
One thing’s for certain: neither Castroneves nor Dixon or Kanaan are giving up.
Here’s what Castroneves had to say about Monday’s race, the pit road incident, as well as moving on to Texas:
“Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don’t realize the Verizon IndyCar Series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that.
“Very glad that nobody got hurt. It’s just a shame. The Hitachi Chevy was really having a good day and we just had another good pit stop when I was coming out of the pits.
“All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. The Team Penske guys worked really hard to try and fix the car but there was a lot of damage.
“It’s certainly unfortunate because this will hurt us in the championship battle but our team will never give up. We’ll move on to Texas where, fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success.”
Just when he was hoping for a dramatic improvement, Ed Carpenter’s season of discontent behind the wheel continues.
The owner of Ed Carpenter Racing had high hopes for a strong finish in Monday’s weather-rescheduled ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
Running his usual schedule of ovals only, Carpenter qualified a respectable 10th at Pocono and had a car that in practice looked like it could be a top-10 finisher in the actual race itself.
But for the third time in his four oval races this season (Phoenix, Indianapolis, Iowa and Pocono), Carpenter and his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet came up short due to an unspecified mechanical issue that knocked him out of the race just 57 laps into the 200-lap event.
At Phoenix, Carpenter had his best qualifying effort of the season (fifth) and managed to complete 195 of 200 laps before crashing and finishing 21st.
In the Indianapolis 500, he started 20th and finished 31st in the 33-car field when an oxygen sensor went bad just two laps from the midpoint of the 200-lap race.
Carpenter had his best outing of the year at Iowa, finishing 18th. However, he finished just 284 of the race’s 300 laps with another mechanical issue occurring on a pit stop and a bunch of time lost. The gear cluster needed to be changed.
And then came Pocono on Monday, another outcome that left Carpenter disappointed.
“Ed Carpenter Racing has performed so awesome this year and the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car can’t catch a break,” Carpenter said after Monday’s race. “I haven’t finished a full race this season.
“I made one mistake at Phoenix, but other than that we’ve just had things happen. Some of it shouldn’t have happened and could have been avoided, so there’s just a lot of frustration.”
Carpenter has one more oval race left on his schedule: this Saturday’s resumption of the rain-delayed race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“This is one of my last two races this year and I felt really good coming into (Monday),” Carpenter said of Pocono. “I’m not going to comment on what happened specifically, it won’t do any good to talk about it out in the open. It’s just frustrating.”