The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 11, 2013

Motorsports: IndyCars back on track at Pocono


Daily Item

---- — By Shawn Wood

For The Daily Item

LONG POND -- The sound that residents around Long Pond heard on Tuesday was not the usual drone of a NASCAR engine.

It was the turbo-charged sound of an Indy car as the IZOD IndyCar Series was on hand at the Pocono Raceway for a Firestone tire test.

After 24 years, the series returns to the track on July 7.

Four drivers, Marco Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud participated in the tire test.

"It was fun to see cars going 230-plus on the straightaway," speedway president Brandon Igdalsky said. "The anticipation as to what these guys are going to do as far as racing -- it's not going to be like a Talladega or Daytona -- but there'll definitely be a lot of drafting and the field will stay pretty close together."

Igdalsky spent 45 minutes with the fans watching practice from the stands where several hundred fans turned out. He noted they were quite pumped for the race.

"I was sitting with a gentleman who was here in 1971 for the Indy car race and they haven't been back since 1989. They bought their tickets for the race and they are ready to go."

Danny Sullivan won the last Indy car race held at the track in 1989 with an average speed of 170.720 mph.

Tuesday's speeds, while not official, were estimated to be on an average of 215 mph.

The one-lap track lap record is 211.715 mph set by Emerson Fittipaldi in qualifying in 1989. In the morning session, the record was topped by almost three miles an hour.

Franchitti, a four-time series champion, is the only driver to have raced a stock car at the track. He had a very interesting description of his first laps around the Tricky Triangle.

"My first thought was 'holy (expletive), that's fast,'" he said.

The defending Indy 500 champion, Franchitti is off to a rough start to the season with back-to-back 25th-place finishes.

"But turn three, I mean, you're going through there wide open right now, which defies logic really when you consider we have Indianapolis spec wings on the car," he added.

Marco Andretti -- whose father Michael sat on the pole in 1998, the lone Indy car race his grandfather won at the track -- described a lap at Pocono as "Nazareth on steroids."

"For me, it was kind of like a higher speed short oval because you have to work, especially in turn one," he said. "It was about finding the limit kind of in turn three, getting a feel for the back end with no banking there. It's going to be interesting trying to find the balance between turns one and three. It will be fun, though."

Andretti heads into the third race of the Indy car season at Long Beach (April 21), fourth in the point standings.

Andretti Autosport has won the first two races of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar season with James Hinchcliffe taking the opener in St. Petersburg while defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay won on the road course this past Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.

Teams are scheduled to be at Pocono on June 25 for a manufacturer test and an open test is scheduled for July 4.

Indy cars first came to Pocono in 1971 when the late Mark Donohue sat on the pole and won the race.