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.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.