News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 4, 2013

IndyCar finds its way back to Pocono after 24-year hiatu

Tom Reck
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — IZOD IndyCar Series action shifts to Pennsylvania this weekend.

The Pocono IndyCar 400 fueled by Sonoco is set for noon and will be the first open-wheel event to be run at Pocono Raceway since 1989.

It's the second event of the Triple Crown and Tony Kanaan can claim a $250,000 bonus and remain eligible for $1 million by winning after winning in Indianapolis. The third event is at Auto Club Speedway in California in October.

Al Unser is the only driver to win the Triple Crown which was contested at various tracks until it was stopped in the late 1980s. Unser thinks Kanaan has a chance to pull off the feat.

“Tony has shown he is capable of winning [but] 10 other guys will be chasing him. I'd be happy to have Tony join me as a Triple Crown winner,” says Unser.

“I have never raced at Pocono Raceway but we know we had a good car at Indy and had a good test at Pocono last week. Since I am the only one who has a chance to win the Triple Crown, the pressure is on,” says Kanaan.

Helio Castroneves has a nine-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the series point totals going into the race and is 55 points up on Marco Andretti, in third place.

He is competing for Team Penske which has had winners at Pocono seven times.

Hunter-Reay has finished on the podium in five of the last six races while Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe has won three times including at Iowa last month.

Seven different driver have been the winners in the first 10 events in the series. Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud all posted first career victories.

Pocono Raceway has been dubbed the Tricky Triangle. “I can see why they call it [that]. I really had no appreciation for what this place was like, even after watching it on television,” says Hinchcliffe.

“The track is so different and it makes it very difficult to set up a car there. But from the testing, I can assure you that we are going to have another great race,” Hinchcliffe says.

In addition to Iowa, Hinchcliffe has won in Brazil and in Florida.

Danny Sullivan was the last open-wheel driver to win at Pocono in 1989. Other winners at the track have been Mark Donohue, A. J. Foyt, Tom Sneva, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti and Bobby Rahal.

Foyt will miss being at Sunday's race. He is recovering from hip replacement surgery.

Qualifying is set for Saturday afternoon at Pocono and the race will be shown live on ABC-TV.

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* Racing in area — Weather permitting, racing is slated in the area starting tonight with U.S. Auto Club sprint car action at Lincoln Park Speedway.

Veteran driver Dave Darland has assumed first place in the USAC sprint point totals with 756 points. Bryan Clauson is second with 725.

Sullivan native Chase Stockon is tied with Kevin Thomas Jr. for fourth place in the totals after being the early leader in the division.

Racing also is scheduled at Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday followed by fireworks.

The Bernie Mann Memorial is the feature on the card at Crossroads Dragway on Saturday.

Weather wiped out NASCAR Night racing at The Action Track on Tuesday and the Hut Hundred for USAC midgets on Wednesday at Tri-City Speedway in Illinois.

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* Jones retires — Levi Jones likely would have been in the USAC programs at Lincoln Park and Tri-City but the driver from Illinois has retired.

The 31-year-old driver from Olney, Ill., says he will focus on his family and the family business — the family owns Rural King franchises in Illinois.

Jones is a seven-time USAC national champion and won six of those titles with Tony Stewart Racing. He won sprint car titles in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and took back-to-back Silver Crown titles in 2010 and 2011.

He began racing at the age of 16 and often competed in Terre Haute.

“My decision … was not an easy one but I am in a place personally that allows me to do so without being bitter or wondering what might have been,” Jones said in a press release.