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InfyCar returns to fast track at Pocono

The SportsXchange

LONG POND, Pa. -- Pocono Raceway has been known in recent years for NASCAR racing, but this weekend the track called "the Tricky Triangle" will play host to the IndyCar Series.

Many remember that the track was built with Indy cars in mind. The three corners have characteristics of tracks that Indy cars made famous.

Turn 1, which is banked at 14 degrees, looks like the old Trenton International Speedway in New Jersey.

Turn 2 has similarities to the four corners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Turn 3 is a lot like the wide, sweeping, flat corners at the Milwaukee Mile.

The drivers expect Sunday's race to resemble the Indianapolis 500 action in May, and tha is a good thing. The 500 saw 68 passes for the lead among 14 drivers, both records for the historic event.

"It's going to be very fast," three-time race winner James Hinchcliffe said of the 400-mile Pocono race set for noon on ABC. "It should be a similar kind of show to Indianapolis."

Tony Kanaan won at Indy and he is at the center of this weekend's action because of it. A sponsor (Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, a company owned by golfer Fuzzy Zoeller) is funding a program that will pay Kanaan and his KV Racing Technology team a $1 million bonus if it can add a win this weekend and another Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The grouping of the three races is known as the Triple Crown, and it was part of Indy-car racing from 1971 to 1989. Although the tracks have changed, the difficulty hasn't. Kanaan has a field of talented drivers to beat not only this weekend but in California in the fall.

"It's hard enough to win one of these races, let alone three," Kanaan said.

Kanaan certainly is capable of continuing the trek. He has 16 career wins and is one of the sport's best on oval tracks. He had the second-fastest lap in Thursday's open test.

In all the years of the Triple Crown, only Al Unser, in 1978, won all three in the same season. If a driver wins two of the three Triple Crown races, he'll receive a $250,000 bonus.

Marco Andretti is another driver to watch this weekend. His family not only made its mark in nearby Nazareth, Pa., where the third-generation driver lives, but they own lake property in the Poconos.

Marco, who drives for his father's race team, was quickest in Thursday's test, the only driver to reach 220 mph. His best lap was 220.963 mph.

Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter and Will Power will be other interesting watches. Same for four-time series champion Dario Franchitti, although he was 18th in Thursday's test.

Pocono is back on IndyCar's schedule for the first time since 1989 when Emerson Fittipaldi set the track record at 211.715 mph and Danny Sullivan won his second race. A.J. Foyt is the all-time Pocono race winner with four; Rick Mears won three times.

Foyt owns a current team that fields Japan's Takuma Sato, the race winner in April at Long Beach, Calif., a street race, but the Indy legend will not attend Sunday's race after hip replacement surgery earlier in the week. Mears serves as a consultant for Team Penske, which has drivers Castroneves and Power.

Sunday's race, along with the one in California in October, will have a three-wide start like Indianapolis. That's not just a tradition for the 500; Triple Crown races in the past had such alignment, and Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky insisted on having them for this race.

It is new meets old, Pocono style, only with Indy cars again.
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