It only took one announcement for the NTT IndyCar Series landscape to dramatically shift for the coming years.
McLaren’s upcoming partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, forcing one of the series’ strongest Honda teams to switch to Chevrolet in 2020 and beyond, will have dramatic implications for one of the series’ most visible drivers. James Hinchcliffe has been the face of Honda for years now, and as SPM’s lead driver under contract through next year, will either need to switch manufacturer or team allegiances next year, depending on which relationship is more important.
It’ll be interesting to see how that potential lame duck status impacts the rest of the season, starting with this Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. An event that was set to be significant enough for the team, as the series’ first visit to Pocono after Robert Wickens’ life-altering crash last year, will now be somewhat overshadowed by talk of contracts and the full-blown reignition of silly season talk that had appeared all but settled when Alexander Rossi re-signed with Andretti Autosport.
It’s an interesting diversion from the championship storyline, which has seen quite the back-and-forth battle between defending Pocono winner Rossi and points leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. After winning at Iowa Speedway, Newgarden appeared set to further extend his points lead last time out at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; instead, last-lap contact in the carousel relegated Newgarden to 14th, and Rossi eked out enough fuel to cross the finish line in fifth just before running out.
The gap between them now sits at 16 points, with Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and Mid-Ohio winner Scott Dixon within reasonable striking distance in third and fourth and Will Power completing the top five. A lost season for Power, rife with mistakes both on track and in the pits, threatens to end a winning streak that dates back to the final season of the Champ Car World Series in 2007. The good news: Power won two of the last three Pocono events, and is the defending winner from next weekend’s event at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway to boot.
Qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway airs on Saturday at 12:30PM ET, while the race itself airs on Sunday at 2PM ET, with both broadcasts on NBCSN. Pocono is the first of three consecutive race weekends for IndyCar, with the aforementioned Gateway race and the Labor Day weekend trip to Portland International Raceway completing the stretch.