LONG POND — Alexander Rossi capped off his near-perfect day at Pocono Raceway by winning Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 in dominating fashion.
Rossi snatched the lead from Will Power on lap 7 of the IndyCar race after a vicious crash involving rookie Robert Wickens in Turn 2, which destroyed part of the catch fence and put the race on hold for over two hours.
Once the race resumed, Rossi briefly lost the lead over Power a few times during sequences of green-flag pit stops and got it back for good with 28 circuits to go to lead a series track-record 180 laps in the 500-mile event.
“I think the fact that we were able to do that is just a testament to the car I had from Andretti Autosport, really the work that my teammate Zach Veach put in at the test year last week,” Rossi said. “We were able to roll off instantly competitive and strong. Couldn’t have done that without him.
“It was a big team win from that standpoint, and a great day for the NAPA Auto Parts Andretti crew, great on pit stops, strategy, gave us the tools we needed to get it done today. We’ll enjoy this one, but a dark cloud metaphorically and literally with what happened at the start. Look forward to talking to Rob and James (Hinchcliffe), giving them my best wishes and hope to see them very, very soon.”
The frightening wreck came when Wickens made contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Tunnel Turn, sending Wickens on a wild ride along the catch fence while three other cars had nowhere to go through the carnage.
According to IndyCar, Wickens was awake and alert when he got into the ambulance before being airlifted to Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest hospital for further evaluation on what was described as “orthopedic injuries.”
Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports teammate James Hinchcliffe also got in the crash and was evaluated and released from the infield-care center after initially getting out of the car gingerly. Pietro Fittipaldi and Takuma Sato were also collected in the wreck.
It was three years ago at Pocono that Justin Wilson died after a crash caused a piece of debris to strike him in the helmet.
The race started back up after an over two-hour stoppage to repair the catchfence and went green the final 189 laps.
Rossi lapped all the up to fourth-place Sebastien Bourdais when the 2016 Indy 500 winner came within the few car lengths of Bourdais and points leader Scott Dixon in the final laps.
“We’re trying. We’re doing everything we can,” Rossi added about the championship battle. “We had a stretch that if the pace was there, we just weren’t executing on the Sundays. Been able to do that two weekends in a row now, kind of get back to the place we were at the beginning of the year.”
Two-time defending race winner Power was the only driver to keep pace with Rossi’s No. 27 Honda on the afternoon, but Rossi got around Power every time he trailed the No. 12 Penske machine.
“We got him in that one exchange,” Power said. “Just got a couple of bad runs out of one, to be honest and that was that. Then in the last pit stop, we had a great shot at getting him again. I caught Max Chilton at the worst possible spot in three, washed right up into the marbles, almost got into the wall.”
The afternoon got off to a rocky start when Graham Rahal collided with Spencer Pigot at the start, sending Pigot’s No. 21 Chevrolet around while Rahal suffered front-wing damage from the wreck.
But it wasn’t nearly on the scale of Wickens’ accident, which came just six laps later.
Rossi’s win Sunday cut into Scott Dixon’s points lead, now just 29 markers behind with three races to go in the 2018 season.