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Open-wheel racing returns to Pocono

<p>After seeking feedback from drivers, engineers and teams during previous testing at Pocono, IndyCar officials made slight changes to the aerodynamic specifications for the cars in this race.</p>

After seeking feedback from drivers, engineers and teams during previous testing at Pocono, IndyCar officials made slight changes to the aerodynamic specifications for the cars in this race.

Officials also implemented three-wide starts for the Pocono event. Three-wide starts have been utilized annually for the Indianapolis 500 since 1921. It was used for CART and USAC races at Pocono during the 1970s and '80s as well.

"After having the opportunity to test at Pocono and a successful event at Auto Club Speedway last season, we were able to analyze track data and compare to our current start procedure for the Indianapolis 500," IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield said. "Given the speeds of our starts, the location of accelerations zones, the spacing between rows and the length of the frontstraights at each track, we have decided to move forward with a three- wide lineup for the initial starts."

Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti, who hails from nearby Nazareth, Pa., was among the quickest in Thursday's testing at Pocono. Andretti posted a lap at 219.282 mph.

"I have to give credit to IndyCar; they did a great job with the aero (package) and also Firestone with the tire choice," Andretti said. "First and foremost, that's the positive from coming from the (June 25) test. I think it will produce good racing, because it's going to put guys on the opposite ends of the downforce level, which is the risk you run."

Andretti's teammates, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, have won the past two IndyCar races. Hunter-Reay, the defending series champion, scored the victory at The Milwaukee Mile for the second year in a row on June 15. One week later, Hinchcliffe picked up his third win of the season by taking the checkered flag at Iowa Speedway. Andretti's last victory came in June 2011 at Iowa.

"I'm so frustrated and want to win," he said. "We've been almost dominant the last two races but had something go wrong. If we execute and everything goes right, we can win."

No driver entered in Sunday's race has competed in a previous open-wheel event at Pocono, but Dario Franchitti did compete in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race there in 2008. The track qualifying record for a Sprint Cup event at Pocono is 179.598 mph, set by Joey Logano in June 2012. It came a year after the track was repaved.

"These (Indy) cars are bloody quick around here," Franchitti said. "The performance level is unbelievable. The tricky part will be getting the balance between turns 1 and 3."

Pocono is the second of three races in this year's "Triple Crown" bonus program for IndyCar. Any driver who wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (May 26), Pocono (July 7) and the season-finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (Oct. 19) will collect a $1 million bonus. Tony Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500. If Kanaan scores the victory at Pocono, he will be awarded $250,000.

"I have never raced at Pocono Raceway, but we know we had a good car at Indy and had a good test at Pocono a few days ago," Kanaan said.

Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Sunday, July 7. Race: Pocono INDYCAR 400. Site: Pocono Raceway. Track: 2.5-mile triangular. Start Time: noon ET. Laps: 160. Miles: 400. Television: ABC. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.

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