FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 2014 Pocono IndyCar 500

First Impressions, IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on July 6, 2014 4:08 pm
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Below, you’ll find the first impressions of the crew at More Front Wing on today’s Pocono IndyCar 500. Let us know what you think, and please feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

In case there was anyone looking to get away from Pocono Raceway in a hurry (why they would, I have no idea), the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series did their very best to acquiesce, running 500 miles at the triangular oval in under 2.5 hours for the first time in history. ​At the end of the day, Juan Pablo Montoya claimed his first IndyCar victory since Gateway in 2000 as he and his team played the fuel strategy just perfectly.

While the race was certainly fast, the jury is still out as to whether the race was actually exciting. From my vantage point, which was above the apex of Turn 2 for the first 125 laps, I thought the race was plenty exciting and really gave drivers a chance to show how good their cars were. Those that were fast went to the front without having to force dangerous passes or spend lap after lap behind slower cars. I wasn’t expecting Turn 2 to offer much in the way of excitement, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of passing there — especially by the Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin, who seemed to use it as his personal passing playground for the first 50 laps of the race.

In a move that will be dissected and discussed in the coming days, Will Power drew yet another drive-through penalty, this time for throwing a vicious block on his teammate Helio Castroneves late in the race. Power was furious on the radio immediately afterwards, but given that Power made two or three distinct moves and nearly took Castroneves all the way to the inside wall (which is a long​ way down there), the call seemed obvious and straightforward. I think this is five drive-through penalties on Power now, and they will no doubt become a huge factor late in the year when points are at a premium.

I’ll have many more thoughts later this week when I have had a chance to review the race from the comfort of my couch. Until then, thanks for joining me this weekend!

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STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

This was one of those races that didn’t seem all that great while it was happening but when looked at in retrospect was actually monumental.

For example, it’s nigh on impossible to make the fastest 500 miles in history look exciting on television. As the broadcast was ongoing, the desperate cries for a yellow began to ring out as the caution-free race approached the 3/4-distance mark. But when the checkered flag flew, viewers had just finished witnessing a landmark in human history. In retrospect, that’s a genuinely amazing thing.

And for Juan Pablo Montoya to claim the first win since his return after a 13-year absence from IndyCar — from pole, no less, making him the first driver this year to do so — well, that’s nothing short of stunning. This series needed a shake-up among the names consistently at the front, and to see him hit his stride and return to competitiveness so quickly has been a sight to behold. It can already be said that he’s truly among the greats — and yet what more might his career have in store? It’ll be a treat to find out.

Perhaps the only thing missing in this race was a great deal of controversy. Despite Will Power’s opinion the blocking penalty against him was pretty well cut and dried, and there wasn’t much else to get worked up about. The weather worked out, and the crowd that turned up looked decent. The only true disappointment was the absence of Jack Hawksworth, who was diagnosed this morning with a bruise on his heart after his practice crash yesterday. We certainly all wish him a speedy recovery.

This may not have been the most breathtaking race of all time, but after the insanity that was Houston I quite enjoyed the breather and the influx of positive stories. But conflict haters, worry not: the series is off to Iowa to race again in just six days, so we’re bound to be back to normal in no time.

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BASH’S IMPRESSIONS:

Through most of this race, I just kept wondering when something interesting would happen. I think the most heart-stopping thing was Simon Pagenaud getting upset at Charlie Kimball for not moving over, even when Simon wasn’t very close to him on the track. It was a typical big oval snoozer with the cars strung out, saving fuel, not much passing and a green flag all the way to lap 159 when Graham Rahal looped and caught the wall. I spent the entire race folding laundry (Mt. Laundry was comparable to Mt. Everest today), making me even more desperate for something to cause restarts and mix things up a bit. You could say it was boring.

Things livened up quite a bit on the restart, with passing at the front and JP Montoya losing a bit of his front wing as he took the lead. Power and Castroneves were dicing very hard, with Power clearly blocking his teammate at the end of the front stretch and serving a penalty. Will isn’t making any friends this season, and the Penske team debriefing ought to be very interesting after this race!

But then we went back to the strung-out circling to the end. Well, they can’t all be thrillers.

Nice to see Juan Montoya prove all the pundits right and win so soon on his return to IndyCar, even if he did it with “Less Front Wing.”

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