Rossi Keeps Pressure on in Championship with Dominant Victory at Pocono
The race was delayed nearly two hours by a red-flag stoppage for track fencing repairs following a five-car incident on Lap 7. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens sustained orthopedic injuries in the crash and was transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was being evaluated Sunday night. INDYCAR will provide additional medical updates as they are made available.
(Medical update from INDYCAR at 10:40 p.m. ET Sunday: Wickens was being treated for injuries to his lower extremities, right arm and spine. He also sustained a pulmonary contusion and was to undergo an MRI with surgery probable.)
Rossi, driving the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, led 180 of the 200 laps on the 2.5-mile triangular oval. He took the checkered flag 4.4982 seconds ahead of Team Penske's Will Power to collect his third win this season and second in as many races, on the heels of a July 29 triumph in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The victory allowed Rossi to close within 29 points of championship leader Scott Dixon, who finished third in the race, with three races remaining on the schedule.
"The fact that we were able to (win the race) is just a testament to the car I had from Andretti Autosport, really the work that my teammate Zach Veach put in at the test here last week," Rossi said. "We were able to roll off instantly (to start the weekend) competitive and strong.
"It was a big team win from that standpoint and a great day for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti crew. Great on pit stops, strategy, gave us the tools we needed to get it done today."
Starting from the pole for the 53rd time in his career, Power led the 22-car field to the green flag in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The caution flag waved almost immediately when Graham Rahal ran into the back of Spencer Pigot as they reached the front straight. Pigot's No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka careened into the inside wall between pit lane and the track to bring out the yellow flag.
The race restarted on Lap 6, with Rossi getting the jump on Power to take the lead into Turn 1. As the field reached Turn 2, Wickens' No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda made light contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda. As they slid toward the SAFER Barrier on the outside wall, Wickens' car launched over the front of Hunter-Reay's car and into the catch fencing, where it spun violently before landing on the track.
"He had a run out of Turn 1," Hunter-Reay said of Wickens, "came up along the side of me, but I was in the draft of Power in front of me, so I started pulling ahead. Once we got to (Turn) 2, he was at my (left rear) corner at best.
"I even gave room. I left a lane; left a half of a lane, if not more. I was pretty shocked I got hit in the back. That is neither here nor there right now. We're just thinking about Robert. It's all very, very unfortunate."
Wickens was awake and alert when attended to by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team and INDYCAR Medical staff. Hunter-Reay was uninjured. James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Pietro Fittipaldi, whose cars were also collected in the incident, were likewise uninjured and eliminated from the race. The remaining cars running were ordered to pit lane and the race halted for 1 hour, 56 minutes to allow for repair of the catch fencing.
Following the restart on Lap 12, the race ran under green-flag conditions to the finish. The only time Rossi surrendered the lead was through pit stop cycles, as he drove on to his fifth career win and first on an oval since his breakthrough victory as a rookie in the 2016 Indianapolis 500. It also gave Andretti Autosport a second win at Pocono, the home track for team owner and Pennsylvania native Michael Andretti.
"It means a lot to win any race for Andretti Autosport," Rossi said. "They have such a legacy in the sport, to be able to add to that in a very small way is a huge honor of mine. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to do that a couple more times this year and we'll be able to close it out with a championship."
Dixon, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, gained the most positions from start to finish (10) and notched his seventh podium finish of the season. The 38-year-old New Zealander is seeking his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
"Somewhat of a frustrating day," Dixon said. "Nice to get some points out of it. Obviously, we took a bit of a hit there with Rossi (winning). Congrats to him.
"The race was really difficult. (I) had lots of understeer, (so) we added tons of front wing to the car. Just about every stop, I think we added front wing, made multiple changes to try to get the thing to turn."
After 14 races, Dixon has accumulated 530 points to 501 for Rossi. Team Penske's Josef Newgarden, the reigning series champion who finished the race in fifth place, has 464 points. Power is fourth at 449 and Hunter-Reay fifth with 411.
The top 10 drivers remain mathematically alive for the championship heading to the next race, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday, Aug. 25. The race airs live at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
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