Andretti Hits 220 MPH In Pocono Practice

Marco Andretti topped Thursday’s open practice for Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series Pocono IndyCar 400. (Bret Kelley/IndyCar Photo)

LONG POND, Pa. – Remember how exciting the 97th Indianapolis 500 was on May 27, with a race-record 68 lead changes and 14 different drivers leading the race?

Or how the Dallara DW12 chassis created a racing package where drivers were able to make daring passes down the front straightaway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Well, expect the same at Pocono Raceway in Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco, according to the drivers and team members that tested here on Independence Day.

“We have the same rules package as we did for the Indianapolis 500 and we saw how great that race was,” said Andretti Autosport Director of Racing Operations Kyle Moyer. “I think you will see passing on the front straight like they did at Indy this year and I also expect to see some drivers making some passes in the tunnel turn over in turn two. But the big surprise is I think some drivers are finding a way to even pass out of turn three by diving underneath another driver so this should really be an excited race.”

The “Andretti Armada” was in full force on Thursday’s full day of testing with Pennsylvania’s own Marco Andretti the fastest driver of the day with a fast lap at 220.963 miles per hour in a Dallara/Chevrolet. He ran a total of 122 laps, which may seem like a lot but rookie driver Tristan Vautier ran a whopping 175 laps – the most of any of the 24 drivers that tested on Thursday.

Emerson Fittipaldi has the Pocono Raceway record speed of 211.715 miles per hour in 1989 – the year he won the first of his two Indianapolis 500s.

Andretti, whose grandfather Mario owns a Lake House at nearby Lake Pocono, took an instant liking to the 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped race course.

“I think this just became my favorite race track,” Andretti said. “It’s so much fun. It’s so different every lap. That is what is fun about it – you don’t know what to expect. You have to be on the tools from end-to-end and chase the car. I think it will produce a heck of a race. I was able to make some passes. I’m really pleased with the car. I can put my foot into it and come up with a big time so that helps as well.

“I think we are closer than most right now but we still have a long weekend ahead. We need to execute and if we do we can be victorious.”

Andretti ran two qualification simulations and his fast lap came during that. But he is really pleased with the race setup.

“We went out together because it simulates a race and that is what we will be doing on Sunday,” Andretti said. “We have that luxury with a lot of cars and we don’t do that to intimidate we do it to learn. My teammates will be strong on Sunday, I do know that.

“I made passes going into every corner today. It’s going to be a heck of a race for the fans. It’s going to be an awesome show. Credit to IndyCar with the aero package and Firestone with some great tires for this race. I think you will see a lot of passing. The car was very good today but we could roll off Sunday and it will be a different game. But today, I could pass anybody.”