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.
Will Power led the only IndyCar Road America practice of the weekend Saturday, shooting to the top of the chart on his 22nd and final lap of the session at 1 minute, 46.0021 seconds in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet.
Dixon knocked Jack Harvey’s No. 60 Dallara-Honda from the top spot (which would have marked the first time that a Meyer-Shank Racing car led practice).
Josef Newgarden, Power’s Team Penske teammate, was third, followed by Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay (who went off course late in the session but sustained no damage).
Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, defending race winner Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward rounded out the top 10 in the practice that preceded a Saturday-Sunday race weekend doubleheader for IndyCar at Road America.
PRACTICE RESULTS: Click here to see who was fastest in the session
RACE INFORMATION: What you need to know for today’s REV Group Grand Prix
RATED ROOKIE: Rinus VeeKay rebounding well from a tough debut
IndyCar tested some new cooling devices with cars from Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. Several drivers have said the cockpit heat caused by the new aeroscreen was stifling during last week’s GMR Grand Prix, and IndyCar repositioned drink bottles this weekend to keep liquids cool. The pieces tried by IndyCar during the Road America practice won’t be available during the races Saturday and Sunday at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course.
Scott Dixon, who is seeking to open the season with his third consecutive IndyCar victory, was 15th fastest in the 75-minute session. Other notables in Road America practice: Marco Andretti (12th), Simon Pagenaud (19th).
Power is aiming for his second consecutive pole position after qualifying first last week on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Qualifying for the REV Group Grand Prix Race #1 will take place at 2:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold).
The broadcast of the IndyCar race at Road America will begin at 5 p.m. on NBCSN.