LONG POND, Pa. -- Juan Pablo Montoya's march to the Verizon IndyCar Series championship received an unexpected lift from attrition in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
There were 12 different lap leaders -- half of the field -- in the 200-lap race and 13 cars retired because of contact or mechanical issues.
There also were 12 cautions -- the 11th yellow flag displayed on Lap 180 for the single-car crash of race leader Sage Karam in Turn 1. Debris from the incident struck the trailing Justin Wilson's No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda. After receiving quick attention by the Holmatro Safety Team on the racetrack, Wilson was transported by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pa., with an undisclosed head injury. INDYCAR will update his condition as details become available. Karam was transported by ground to the hospital for examination.
Wilson's Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, won under caution on the 2.5-mile triangular oval to lead a 1-2 American sweep as Josef Newgarden finished second in the No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet. Montoya finished third after starting a season-low 19th in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“We took our time and were smart. I think we had a car that could win the race, but it wasn’t worth risking it (with title contenders running behind him). We did what we needed to do today,” Montoya said.
There are six contenders with one race left in the season, and with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30 carrying double base points the title remains up for grabs. Montoya, who has stood atop the standings since winning the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March, entered the third 500-mile race of the season with a nine-point lead over the surging Graham Rahal.
Montoya heads to the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course with a 34-point advantage over the third-year Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, whose car was involved in contact on a Lap 93 restart. Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Newgarden also remain eligible.
Rahal's No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda and the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda driven by Tristan Vautier made wheel contact entering Turn 1 on the Lap 93 restart and both spun into the SAFER Barrier. Rahal, who tied his season high by qualifying fifth, was running 19th after a fueling issue on a Lap 66 pit stop (51.2042 total seconds on pit lane) hurt. It was first DNF since Belle Isle 1 on May 30.
"Obviously, I'm frustrated. We’re down but we’re not out. We’ll go to Sonoma in attack mode." said Rahal, who had recorded four consecutive top-five finishes, including two victories, in the past four races.
Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 DHL Honda, won for the second time this season and 16th time in his Indy car career. Power, the reigning series champion, finished fourth and Carlos Munoz was fifth in the No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda for Andretti Autosport.
"We came through the field several times and the team gave me what we needed," said Hunter-Reay, who overtook rookie Gabby Chaves on Lap 196 in Turn 1. “This team has given my great race cars over the years and this was one of them. I hope the fans enjoyed the show because it was fun in the race car."
On the next lap, Chaves' No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda for BHA with Curb-Agajanian was trailing smoke, which caused the final caution. Chaves, who qualified 16th, led 31 laps.
"Obviously, after having a shot to win the race our engine blew so it is disappointing," said Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion. "Racing has its ups and downs and today we had both. We led a lot of laps. We showed what we can do when we are in the front, and we just didn’t get to finish it out with a result."