About the only thing to slow Mikhail Aleshin this weekend at Pocono Raceway is Mother Nature.
Heavy rain Sunday afternoon forced postponement of the ABC Supply 500 at the “Tricky Triangle” until noon ET Monday (NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). The green flag for the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile oval is scheduled to wave at 12:09 p.m. The forecast for Monday calls for sunny skies and a high temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
The delay forces Aleshin, who Saturday became the first Russian driver in Indy car annals to win a pole position, to wait an extra day to lead the 22-car field to the green flag.
“It is a disappointment, definitely,” said Aleshin, driver of the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda. “The thing is, we have what we have in this situation. I feel very sorry for the fans because they came out and now we have rain. It’s something we can’t do anything with. We need to hope that tomorrow has no rain and it will be fine.”
The ABC Supply 500 becomes the second Verizon IndyCar Series race this season delayed by weather. The Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway was scheduled forJune 11 but pushed back to the following afternoon by rain and wet track conditions. Seventy-one laps were completed June 12 before rain returned. The race was suspended at that point and will be completed Aug. 27.
The ABC Supply 500 is scheduled to be the 13th race to be completed on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series calendar. It was scheduled for a 3:10 p.m. ET start today, but light rain moved into the area shortly after noon and became heavier as race time approached. With a stronger front moving through the area later in the afternoon, INDYCAR and track officials announced the decision to postpone the race at 3 p.m.
Aleshin won the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying Saturday with a two-lap speed average of 220.445 mph after clocking the fastest lap in practice (221.932). The 29-year-old from Moscow said he isn’t concerned with changing track conditions from the rain washing tire rubber off the track.
“It will be the same for everyone,” Aleshin said. “I don’t care about (the track possibly changing). We are going to prepare like we always do and just stay focused for one more day.”
Josef Newgarden will start second in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet, missing out on winning the pole Saturday by less than a tenth of a second over the 5-mile qualifying run. Newgarden’s two-lap average speed was 220.195 mph.
Eighteen drivers remain mathematically alive in the hunt for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, led by Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. The driver of the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet has collected 484 points through the first 12 completed races of the season, building a 58-point lead over teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Power will start eighth and Pagenaud 14th when the green flag waves.
Three past Pocono race winners will start farther back in the 22-car field. Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2014 race winner, starts on the inside of Row 8 in the No. 2 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. Scott Dixon, the 2013 race winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, will be on the inside of Row 10 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay, last year’s Pocono winner, starts last in the Andretti Autosport No. 28 DHL Honda after crashing his primary car in practice and not making a qualifying attempt in the backup car.
Indy cars have raced 22 times in the past at Pocono, annually from 1971-89 and again starting in 2013. All of the races have been 500-mile distances except two shortened by rain in 1975 (420 miles) and 1981 (305 miles). Both of the rain-shortened races were won by A.J. Foyt, whose four wins at Pocono are the most in Indy car history.