The buzz of the IZOD INDYCAR engines at Pocono Raceway wasn't the only buzz that was being generated at Tuesday's private practice. The session was held in order to get the majority of the INDYCAR drivers some track time before their return on July 7th, at what is revered to be one of the most challenging racetracks in all of racing.
The reason for all the hype may be a little cliche', considering we're talking about auto racing, but still the pure speed of the INDYCARs at Pocono is a remarkable site to see. Add to the mix the exciting racing the Indianapolis 500 produced (Indianapolis setup is similar to Pocono) and the Pocono INDYCAR 400 is setting up to be quite the spectacle.
This is the second time this year the INDYCARs have hit the track at Pocono, with the first time being back on April 10th for a Firestone tire test session. Lap averages back in April were in the high 41 second range, meaning the cars were averaging about 214 miles per hour around Pocono. Speeds this time around were very similar and the same speeds are expected come July 7th. Perhaps, the most fascinating statistic of both test sessions so far has been the 220-230 mile per hour mark that most cars are hitting coming down the frontstretch.
Andretti Autosports driver E.J. Viso believes that the setup from Indianapolis to Pocono isn't too far off and that the track time was key in order to get a feel of what it will be like come race day.
"Pocono relates to Indianapolis in a couple of aspects," said Viso. "The speeds that we run and the tires that we run are similar to Indy as well as the downforce levels. So, in those ways Pocono correlates to Indianapolis. I think it was a good starting point and I think it was good for most of the teams to put the setup from Indianapolis on the car and do little tweaks. It was a good experience today."
"The Tricky Triangle" has always been known as a track that a driver must be superb in all three turns if they have any hope of taking home a victory. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is also part of the Andretti Autosports team expressed the challenge Pocono presents to the drivers and the compromises it takes to setup for the three very different turns.
"It's always a compromise when setting up for these turns here," said Hunter-Reay. "If you make one corner perfect, then you could be loose in the next one, and vice versa. That's just the way this place is. I'm sure with the change in wind direction too when we come back here, it could change the whole track. You got to look at the turns where you're the strongest and then just try to pass cars in the right spots."
Current INDYCAR drivers Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal both have family members in Mario Andretti (Marco's grandfather), Michael Andretti (Marco's father), and Bobby Rahal (Graham's father) that have quite a bit of experience at Pocono. Although, the track has changed since then with the recent repave, Andretti and Rahal are both grateful for any intel they can receive.
"Anytime you can draw off a person like my dad, who has so much experience here or anywhere it's great," said Rahal. "Quite frankly, these guys have driven at so many different circuits that they can pretty much help you at any track, even at a place like Iowa where they've never even run. My dad isn't here today, but he'll be here race weekend and I know he's looking forward to it. This place is a heck of a lot of fun, it keeps your attention, it really is a great layout."
The Pocono INDYCAR 400 is scheduled for Sunday July 7th at 12 p.m. Qualifying will be on Saturday July 6th at 2:45 p.m. The Firestone Indy Light series will also be running at Pocono that weekend with qualifying set for 1 p.m. on Saturday July 6th and the race time is set for 4 p.m.