Five things to watch for during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono

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In six previous NTT IndyCar races at Pocono Raceway there have been five different winners. Will Power is the only driver to post more than one victory and his pair came in the back-to-back seasons of 2016/2017. To win his second, he had to be the last man standing after a record 42 lead changes among 10 drivers.

Scott Dixon won the inaugural race in 2013. Ryan Hunter-Reay (2015) and Alexander Rossi (2018) have a chance to become repeat winners this week along with Power.

Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday:

  1. Rossi and Josef Newgarden had been within two positions of one another in seven races prior to Iowa. Rossi lost five spots to Newgarden on the short oval, which caused us to wonder if he would close the gap again at Mid-Ohio. It turned out there was no reason to worry as Newgarden’s off-course excursion contributed to a 14th-place finish – nine spots behind Rossi.
  2. It turns out that Mid-Ohio was a streak-killer for a few racers. In addition to Newgarden’s culmination of a four-race, top-five streak, James Hinchliffe finished 23rd to snap a three-race, top-10 streak and Sebastien Bourdais failed to score three consecutive top-10s, which would have been the first time he did so in 2019. Bourdais did not miss by much with an 11th-place finish and each time his two-race streaks have ended, they did so with either an 11th- or 12th-place result.
  3. Racing is a zero-sum game. The travails of Newgarden, Hinchcliffe and Bourdais created opportunities for the field, not the least of which was Hunter-Reay who finished third to end a three-race string of results outside the top 10.
  4. One should not worry overly about Newgarden’s ability to bounce back immediately from his Ohio disappointment. Three active drivers have been perfect at Pocono in regard to top-10 finishes. Newgarden has never finished worse than eighth. Dixon’s worst finish is ninth and Power’s worst finish is 10th. Carlos Munoz (four) and Juan Pablo Montoya (three) have also been perfect at Pocono.
  5. The close but no cigar award has gone to Santino Ferrucci in recent races. Finishing either 11th or 12th in his last three attempts, he is looking to improve slightly and earn his first top-10 since he finished fourth at Texas – another high speed oval.

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.