LONG POND, Pa.
What a homecoming for the Andrettis.
Andretti Autosport made it a 1-2-3 start — with local star Marco Andretti leading the way — to create quite a splash as the IndyCar Series returned to Pocono Raceway for the first time since 1989.
IndyCar is using three-wide starts at Pocono, making it an all-Andretti front row on a track not far from where one of racing’s greatest families has lived for decades.
Andretti didn’t just win the pole, he smashed the track record. His two-lap average speed of 221.273 mph was fast enough for the pole Saturday and knocked Emerson Fittipaldi’s speed of 211.715 in 1989 out of the top spot.
Pocono is considered a hometown track for the Andrettis, who hail from nearby Nazareth.
Now, the local kid is going to lead the field to green for the 400-mile race.
Marco’s father, Michael, owns the team. His grandfather, Mario, was one of racing’s greatest drivers and is still a fixture at the track.
It might be time for a big family celebration at Lake Wallenpaupack.
But don’t forget to bring the teammates. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts second and James Hinchcliffe is third to help Andretti Autosport sweep the front row.
“We have been making statement after statement, so it’s a good feeling,” Marco said.
Andretti won his second pole of the season. Michael Andretti won the Pocono pole in 1986 and Mario won the 1987 pole.
Andretti was not yet 3 years old when three Andrettis — Michael, Mario and John — all competed in the last Pocono race. Andretti said he was excited to have the chance to drive in front of friends, family, maybe even most of the town will be packed into the grandstands.
“I’ve taken a huge liking to this place, as soon as I rolled off here in the initial test,” Andretti said. “I really think the IndyCars are built for this track. This became my favorite track. I love Indianapolis. But the way this place races, it’s so challenging.”
Will Power starts fourth and Tony Kanaan fifth on the 21/2-mile tri-oval. Points leader Helio Castroneves starts sixth.
Kanaan, the Indianapolis 500 winner, needs wins at Pocono and Fontana, Calif., to win the Triple Crown and a $1 million payout.