PREVIEW: ABC Supply 500

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Following a small “summer break” in which they took two weeks off, the Verizon IndyCar Series begins its stretch run to the championship this weekend, with four races spanning a five week period, including three in a row, beginning at this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Since returning to the IndyCar schedule in 2013, Pocono has seen four different pole sitters and winners. In 2013, Marco Andretti sat on the pole while Scott Dixon took the win. In 2014, Juan Pablo Montoya scored both the pole and the victory. In 2015, it was Helio Castroneves leading the field to the green flag, with Ryan Hunter-Reay ending up in Victory Lane. And last year, Mikhail Aleshin took his first career IndyCar pole, while Will Power captured the race win.

In short, no one driver or team has emerged as the predominant force at the three-turn 2.5-mile oval, meaning its recent history since returning to the schedule has been equally as unpredictable as the 2017 season.

Previous speedway races have indicated that Honda should have an advantage, but Honda and Chevrolet have actually split the wins at the big ovals this year. Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato won for Honda at the Indianapolis 500, while Team Penske’s Will Power won for Chevrolet at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. And the rubber match on the big ovals is expected to be somewhat of a wildcard as IndyCar begins its stretch run to the championship.

2017 ABC Supply 500 – Talking Points

500-mile endurance test

The two other big ovals were more about survival than outright pace. Three Honda engines failed during the 101st Indianapolis 500, capping a month of worry that saw no fewer than ten engine failures during the month of May.

And both the Indy 500 and Rainguard Water Sealers 600 were mired by crashes. The two races combined for ten cautions due to accidents, highlight by Scott Dixon’s airborne incident at Indianapolis and a pileup at Texas that collected eight cars.

Outside of the 2015 race, which saw 12 cautions, Pocono has a tendency for long stretches of green-flag running with the other three races combining for only seven cautions between them (the 2016 race saw four cautions, the 2014 race saw one, and the 2013 race saw two). Still, while Sunday’s race is unlikely to be a crashfest, it will be a big test of engine reliability.

Points leader Josef Newgarden discussed such a topic in a media teleconference, revealing that he believes Chevrolet has the upper hand in this area. “I think the advantage to being with team Chevy is you feel comfortable in the reliability that we’ve had throughout many years at IndyCar, specifically the last couple years. I think we feel very comfortable with what Chevrolet brings from a reliability standpoint. We never have issues,” he asserted.

Josef Newgarden, on the back of three wins, leads the IndyCar championship entering Pocono. Photo: IndyCar

Still, this does not mean he is discounting the Honda, who reportedly found the issue that caused their slew of engine failures early in the year.

“There’s a lot of things that give us confidence, but at the same time, we can’t discount Honda,” Newgarden added. “You can’t turn an eye to them. You have to make sure you’re watching them at all points and respecting what they can bring to the table because they’re a very strong manufacturer and they’ve won races and they’ve won Indy 500s, and they’re very capable of taking it from you if you don’t watch that closely. They’re a challenge for us with Pocono being their biggest strength, but I feel confident with Chevy that we have a chance to win the championship.”

Honda’s big oval dominance? 

Speaking of Honda, the assumption is that Honda has a pace advantage over Chevrolet at the big ovals. And while that was true at Indianapolis, Texas was quite different, especially in that race-winner Will Power led 180 laps on his way to victory.

While the aerodynamic package at Texas may have played a factor in that, it nonetheless serves notice that Honda’s advantage on the big ovals is not as big as originally thought.

Last year at Pocono, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay somewhat dominated the race, but it was Power who went to Victory Lane for Team Penske and Chevrolet.

Like Texas, outside circumstances certainly played a role (Hunter-Reay had an odd electronics failure that saw his car lose power late in the race, though he ultimately rebounded to finish third), and the speed of Aleshin and Hunter-Reay that day indicated that Honda had an outright speed advantage.

Scott Dixon is a previous winner at Pocono. Photo: Getty Images

However, Pocono’s unique layout means that pure speed is not enough; the three different turns require a perfect setup balance that features a lot of compromise. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, the 2013 Pocono victor, discussed this aspect, highlighting that Pocono is a track not to be taken lightly.

“You have to put a lot of hard work into getting everything right on this track. Nothing is a given here,” Dixon said of the challenges of Pocono Raceway. “We’ve slipped to third in the championship with four to go here recently, but are only eight points out. This is the time to really start a string of strong finishes that will hopefully get you across the finish line in front of the other contenders.”

In total, Chevrolet leads Honda 7-6 in the win column in 2017, with Josef Newgarden’s victory at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio giving the edge to the Chevrolet camp leading into Pocono.

David vs. Multiple Goliaths

The championship picture sees six drivers separated by 58 points with four races to go. Four of them (Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power) are from the mighty Team Penske, and one (Scott Dixon) is from the equally mighty Chip Ganassi Racing.

The sixth is the famous one-car effort from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the hands of driver Graham Rahal. Since 2015, this combination has been nipping at the heels of all the big teams, even making a championship run in 2015.

Graham Rahal has won twice in 2017. Photo: IndyCar.

In 2017, they’re poised to do it again. Though 58 points behind championship leader Newgarden, there remains time for Rahal to chip away, though he’ll need to finish ahead of his title rivals in each of the final four races if he is to capture this year’s championship.

But, with the experience of 2015 to build on, it’s a task he and the team are ready for.

“The team absolutely has momentum. I think we are the hottest team other than (Team) Penske right now, if you look at it across the board,” Rahal asserted ahead of this weekend’s race.

The younger Rahal’s confidence is very high leading into the weekend, especially because he feels the team’s package is more than enough to contend for a win.

“We’ve got some big races coming up clearly and Pocono is going to be a big one that should suit the Honda really well. Coming out of Indianapolis setup wise, we should have some good knowledge that we didn’t have going into the month that we found very late in the month. We had very fast race cars and ran up front there, so hopefully we can carry that forward and do the same at Pocono this weekend,” Graham added.

Graham and RLL will look to improve upon their best Pocono finish of 11th, which came last year.

Lingering questions

  • Dale Coyne Racing has been a surprisingly mighty force at the big ovals this year. Can they continue that form?
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay is on a winless streak that dates back to this race in 2015. Can you bring that drought to an end?
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Mikhail Aleshin have parted ways, with Sebastian Saavedra piloting the No. 7 SPM Honda entry at the next two races. Saavedra finished an impressive 11th with the team at Toronto; can he repeat that performance on a big oval?
  • Drivers like JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, and Alexander Rossi are running out of chances to win in 2017. Will one of them break through at Pocono?
  • Can Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing spring a third consecutive top-10 in their third start of the year? The young Colombian American and the new team has been one of the year’s pleasant surprises to date.

The final word

From last year’s Pocono winner, Will Power: “”I definitely had a great time off with (son) Beau and my wife, but am ready to get back on track. The No. 12 Verizon Chevy team put together a really awesome car at Mid-Ohio which produced a strong result. Now we’re going back to Pocono where we won last year. Another win there would be huge for us in the point standings, so we’re really going to give it our all. The team worked on the car a lot and we all feel it’s going to be another strong car.”

Here’s the IndyCar Weekend Schedule:

At-track schedule (all times local):

Saturday August 19

9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, Livestreamed on RaceControl.IndyCar.Com
1:00 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single-car format, two laps each), airs LIVE on NBCSN
5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, Livestreamed on RaceControl.IndyCar.Com

Sunday August 20

1:10 p.m. – 1:25 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice
2:00 p.m.. – NBCSN on air
2:40 p.m. – ABC Supply 500 (200 laps/500 miles), NBCSN (Live)

Here’s last year’s top 10

1. Will Power
2. Mikhail Aleshin
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
4. Josef Newgarden
5. Sebastien Bourdais
6. Scott Dixon
7. Carlos Munoz
8. Juan Pablo Montoya
9. Tony Kanaan
10. James Hinchcliffe

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2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage