Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed victory in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday evening, but the focus after the race lay with Justin Wilson after the Briton had to be airlifted to a local hospital following an accident.
Wilson was hit by debris after Sage Karam crashed on lap 179 of the race, prompting a lengthy caution period. INDYCAR has confirmed that Wilson had been airlifted to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital following the incident with a head injury.
Following two aborted starts, the race eventually went green at the third attempt with Josef Newgarden making a lightning start to jump from fourth to first on the first lap. The CFH Racing driver was closely followed by Simon Pagenaud in the opening stint as pole-sitter Helio Castroneves dropped back to third.
Newgarden managed to retain the lead until his first pit stop on lap 28, sparking the first round of stops. The Penske drivers at the front opted to stick it out and go longer before pitting, which proved to be a costly error.
A caution called for Jack Hawksworth’s errant wheel resulted in Pagenaud, Castroneves and Will Power dropping right down the field, whilst those who had already pitted vaulted up the order.
A second caution followed when Sebastien Bourdais crashed into the wall on the first lap back under green, but the race eventually got back underway on lap 43 with Newgarden duelling for the lead with Wilson and Munoz. The CFH Racing driver managed to keep his cool at the front, though, and retain his advantage.
Towards the end of the second stint, Tony Kanaan managed to pick his way through the front-runners to move into the lead of the race ahead of Newgarden. However, it was Simon Pagenaud who managed to emerge from the pit cycle at the head of the field despite going slightly longer than his rivals, leading from Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan after 75 laps.
After going wheel-to-wheel on track, the three primary championship contenders were spread through the field once again. A problem attaching the fuel nozzle to Graham Rahal’s car caused him to fall to the back of the field, whilst by following Pagenaud’s lead and going longer before stopping, Montoya was able to rise up to fourth. With Dixon P11, things were looking good for the Colombian as the race approached half distance.
To make matters even better for Penske, Helio Castroneves managed to find his feet soon after making his second stop, charging into the lead of the race ahead of Pagenaud to set up a Penske one-two with Kanaan further back in third.
The third pit cycle was sparked by a clash between Charlie Kimball and Jack Hawksworth that resulted in the Briton’s retirement. Both drivers were frustrated with the incident, but Kimball was able to continue after pitting for repairs.
The entire pack dived into the pit lane in reaction to this clash once in single file, but Castroneves managed to keep his cool and retain his lead. The same could not be said of Penske teammate Will Power, though, who dropped down the order after spinning when pulling away from his pit box.
Once again, the caution period was followed by another – but this was the most notable so far. Going three-wide through the first corner, Tristan Vautier clipped Graham Rahal, sending both drivers into the wall and only narrowly missing Justin Wilson on the outside.
Rahal was unsurprisingly fuming with the incident, knowing that his hopes of winning the championship had been seriously dented by this clash. With Montoya and Dixon both now inside the top ten, they had a golden opportunity to pull away at the top of the drivers’ standings.
In the brief green flag running under the caution, Tony Kanaan managed to move into the lead of the race, but the Brazilian dropped back upon the restart. Instead, it was Ganassi teammate Sage Karam who seized the opportunity to lead his home race, albeit only for two laps before he dived into the pit lane.
Two laps later, a sixth caution of the race was called when Ed Carpenter lost his rear tailpod on the main straight, sending the majority of the runners into the pit lane. Gabby Chaves opted to stay out alongside Will Power and Justin Wilson, vaulting all three to the front as a result.
Chaves did not back down when the race resumed, though, dicing with Power and Helio Castroneves for the lead of the race. The Colombian driver eventually dropped back upon pitting, allowing Ryan Hunter-Reay to move into the lead for the first time on Sunday.
The former series champion dropped back in the following round of pit stops, though, sparked by a crash for Tony Kanaan. The Brazilian driver lost the back end of his Ganassi car, spearing into the wall and out of the race, ending his hopes of a first win in 2015.
Chaves regained the lead of the race through the following pit cycle, but fell to third before an eighth caution of the day quickly followed when Marco Andretti lost his car on the low line before slamming into the wall up high.
The race resumed with 51 laps remaining with Hunter-Reay quickly ascending into the lead ahead of Pagenaud and Karam, whilst Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya came back into the fray for big points after dropping outside of the top ten in the middle stages of the race.
On lap 163, another full course caution was called, but not due to an incident involving any of the cars on track. Instead, it was due to a fox running across the track, sparking another round of stops. Hunter-Reay led the way off pit road, but it was Briscoe who led for the restart.
Inevitably, another full course caution followed on the restart lap when Helio Castroneves spun into the wall after running as many as nine wide for the green. This gave a handful of drivers the chance to pit for a fuel top up, ensuring they could push to the end.
Upon the restart, Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Sage Karam exchanged blows at the front, with Karam emerging as the leader with 25 laps to go. However, all eyes were on Montoya after the Colombian rose to fourth place past Hunter-Reay thanks to his fresher tires and fuel to make the finish.
Karam’s dreams of a home victory were dashed with 21 laps to go when he spun out from the lead, hitting the wall hard. Debris from the Ganassi car hit Justin Wilson around the cockpit area as the Andretti driver came through the corner, causing him to crash out.
Medical crews were quick to attend both drivers. Although Karam was quickly extracted from his car and walked away with a small limp, Wilson required more immediate medical attention. The Andretti driver was taken by ambulance to the helipad at Pocono, from where he was airlifted to a local hospital.
After the prolonged caution period, the race resumed with seven laps to go. Hunter-Reay managed to move into the lead of the race as Newgarden and Montoya both scythed through the field.
The American would ultimately claim his second win of the season under yellow flags after Gabby Chaves suffered an issue with three laps to go, prompting one final caution. He was followed across the line by Newgarden and Montoya, with Will Power in fourth.
Carlos Munoz finished fifth ahead of Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud, whilst Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and James Jakes rounded out the top ten.
However, in the immediate aftermath of the race, attention solely lies with Wilson. We will bring you updates on his condition once we receive them.
LONG POND, Pa.- Results Sunday of the ABC Supply 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
2. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (19) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (6) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
6. (9) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
7. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
8. (18) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 200, Running
9. (11) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (15) James Jakes, Honda, 200, Running
11. (16) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 197, Mechanical
12. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 193, Mechanical
13. (17) Pippa Mann, Honda, 185, Running
14. (20) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 179, Contact
15. (7) Justin Wilson, Honda, 179, Contact
16. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 166, Contact
17. (21) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 156, Mechanical
18. (22) Marco Andretti, Honda, 138, Contact
19. (12) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 131, Contact
20. (5) Graham Rahal, Honda, 92, Contact
21. (13) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 92, Contact
22. (14) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 82, Contact
23. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 36, Contact
24. (24) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 19, Mechanical
Winners average speed: 146.245
Time of Race: 03:25:08.1095
Margin of victory: Under Caution
Cautions: 12 for 74 laps
Lead changes: 33 among 12 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Montoya 500, Rahal 466, Dixon 453, Power 439, Castroneves 423, Newgarden 413, Andretti 390, Bourdais 386, Kanaan 366, Pagenaud 356.