The Verizon IndyCar Series made their return to the track at Pocono Raceway on Saturday. After rain pounded the area the last few days, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for IndyCar practice and qualifying.
Kanaan, Power strong
Tony Kanaan and Will Power led both IndyCar practices on Saturday. Kanaan turned the fastest lap in the opening practice with a speed of 221.344 mph.
It appeared that the Chip Ganassi Racing team picked up where they left off last year after finishing 1-2-3 in the 2013 Pocono IndyCar 400. Scott Dixon won last year’s race with Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti finishing second and third respectively.
Penske Racing driver Will Power paced the second practice with a speed of 223.348 mph. Power was one of two drivers to crack the 223-mph barrier in second practice Saturday afternoon with the other being Andretti Autosport driver and IndyCar rookie Carlos Munoz, who won last year’s Indy Lights race at Pocono.
Chaves wins Indy Lights
Gabby Chaves picked up where he left off in practice by dominating the Pocono Indy Lights 100 on Saturday.
“My birthday is Monday, so I guess it’s a good early 21st birthday celebration,” Chaves joked.
The second-year Indy Lights driver made a three-wide pass on pole-sitter Zach Veach and Luis Razia for the lead on lap 7 and never looked back.
The win also marked the first time Chaves has won back-to-back races in his Indy Lights driver. The Colombian driver won last time out at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by edged third-generation driver Matthew Brabham by .005 seconds, the third-closest finish in Indy Lights history.
The Pocono Indy Lights 100 will air after the conclusion of today’s Pocono IndyCar 500 on NBC Sports Network.
Penske powers to front row
Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power grabbed the first two spots in qualifying for Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 500. Both drivers ran a two-lap average of over 223.7 mph.
Their other teammate, Helio Castroneves qualified seventh at 222.517 mph and was the first driver to break the old track qualifying record set by Marco Andretti last year at 221.273 mph.
Surprises in qualifying
Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz was stout in both practices and qualified his No. 34 Honda in the third position. The rookie is running his first full season in IndyCar and won the Indy Lights race at Pocono last year.
“We’ve been pretty strong all day long with the practices and qualifying,” Munoz said. “I think we were really conservative with the car because the (weather) condition was much better in the afternoon than in the morning.
Japanese driver Takuma Sato put up the fourth best time in qualifying with a speed of 222.798 mph. Sato is looking to rebound after being caught up in a pit-road accident with Ryan Hunter-Reay early in last year’s IndyCar race at Pocono.
Huertas struggling at Pocono
After struggling in the Pocono IndyCar test, Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) driver Carlos Huertas’ tough luck at the Tricky Triangle continued Saturday.
The rookie driver lost control of his No. 18 car in turn three, two and a half weeks ago during the Pocono test. Huertas posted the slowest time in both practices and, with the exception of two wrecked cars in qualifying; he was 20th of 22 cars in qualifying with a two-lap average of 216.261 mph.
The DCR driver will look to change his luck in today’s race. His teammate, Justin Wilson, struggled at the beginning of last year’s Pocono IndyCar 400 and rebounded to finish seventh. Huertas can have the same good fortune as Wilson in today’s Pocono IndyCar 500.
Reminder: Race extended
Today’s race will be 500 miles for IndyCar at Pocono Raceway. In their return last year, the race was 400 miles to fit in a three-hour window. With the race being televised on NBC Sports Network, the race distance was increased to 500 miles this season. Live coverage of the Pocono IndyCar 500 will begin at noon ET on NBC Sports Network.