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What to watch for: IndyCar at Pocono (Noon ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

Jul 6, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

BIG DAY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

After last weekend’s doubleheader in Houston, Will Power came out the same way he came in: Leading the Verizon IndyCar Series championship by 39 points over teammate Helio Castroneves. However, Ryan Hunter-Reay (-41 points) and Simon Pagenaud (-59 points), the guys in third and fourth respectively in the standings, made gains on the Australian. And with today’s 500-miler worth double championship points – which means a 100-point bounty for the winner – the race for the 2014 IndyCar crown could get even tighter should Power fail to convert his front-row start into a strong result.

BETTER LUCK FOR ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT?

Last year’s Pocono race was a disaster for Andretti Autosport. James Hinchcliffe crashed just moments after the green flag and Ryan Hunter-Reay was drilled by Takuma Sato on pit road. But perhaps no one was more disappointed in the Andretti camp than Pennsylvania boy Marco Andretti, who sat on pole and led the most laps but didn’t have the fuel mileage to get the win. Today, all four Andretti drivers are starting within the first three rows with rookie Carlos Munoz on the front row. Will the team have its revenge?

PERFORMANCE IN THE PITS

This year, Pocono has stretched its race distance by an additional 100 miles, which could impact the race. We’ll have to watch for fuel mileage emerging as a factor in the outcome, but the drivers’ pit crews will have several additional stops to perform as well. It was a bit tough to pass on track in last year’s race, and if that proves to be the case again today, gaining positions in the pits will be essential to success. These crews are going to earn their money.

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

Today’s race will feature a three-wide rolling start (a la the Indianapolis 500) before the drivers go off to navigate Pocono’s 2.5-mile triangular oval. All three turns at Pocono have different banking and all three straightaways that connect the turns have different lengths, which creates an all-around challenge for both car and driver.

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