Andretti Autosport had come into this weekend's penultimate race of the season with little optimism of a strong result, so a second win of the year for Ryan Hunter-Reay should have been cause for jubilant celebrations for the team at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.

"We came through the field several times and the team gave me what we needed," said Hunter-Reay after repeatedly powering his way back to the front during a race that saw 12 different leaders and 33 changes in the lead during a race which saw 12 cautions for accidents, debris - and a fox.

However the victory celebrations were put on indefinite hold, as the team waited for news of Hunter-Reay's team mate Justin Wilson who had been involved in a serious crash just 22 laps from the finish that saw the medical crews scrambling to attend to the British driver and dispatch him as quickly as possible to the nearest hospital via the medical helicopter.

CLICK: Full race results for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway

Three and a half hours earlier, it had been perfect conditions for a motor race in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. With grandstands boasting one of the best crowds of the season, the Verizon IndyCar Series contenders fired up their engines and streamed off pit road and onto the unique 2.5-mile 'Tricky Triangle' for the final oval event of the 2015 season.

The front row had been claimed in qualifying by Penske team mates Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, with Will Power right behind them in third alongside CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden. Meanwhile Graham Rahal was starting the ABC Supply 500 from fifth place in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan #15 with everything to play for in championship terms, sitting just nine points behind current leader Juan Pablo Montoya. Despite being the winner here at Pocono Raceway one year ago, this time around Montoya had only been able to manage 19th place on the grid - which put him deep in dangerous territory when it came to the risk of getting caught up in someone else's accident early in the race.

The green flag was finally shown to the leaders after two initial attempts to get underway had been waved off for Castroneves going too early. It was soon clear why the Brazilian had been so eager, because once the race did get started he was immediately swamped by the cars around him. Newgarden launched into an intermediate big lead followed by Pagenaud, leaving Castroneves down in third alongside Andretti Autosport's Justin Wilson. Rahal meanwhile dropped back to seventh place after losing out in a nail-biting lap-long wheel-to-wheel battle with Wilson's team mate Carlos Munoz, while further back Montoya seemed content simply to stay out of trouble and remained in 17th through the opening laps.

Newgarden and a clutch of other cars had just made their first round of pit stops on lap 30 when the first caution of the day came out for a tyre detaching from Jack Hawksworth's AJ Foyt Racing car in turn 1 as he came back out on track. Fortunately no one hit the errant wheel as it skittered across the asphalt, and everyone else was now able to pit under the caution although that did put them back out behind the early stoppers. Newgarden picked up the lead for the restart followed by Wilson and Munoz with the two Ganassi cars of Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan also benefiting.

The restart on lap 37 lasted only a few seconds before Sebastien Bourdais spun out in turn 1 just after complaining of a sticking throttle on the KVSH Racing machine. With his team mate Stefano Coletti already out of the race with mechanical issues (a wheel bearing sensor showing abnormally high temperatures) it proved to be an early end to the day for KV as a whole.

A long clean-up had teams talking fuel conservation before the restart on lap 43. With Rahal struggling for pace on the straights, Montoya decided it was time to move into action and pulled off a four-wide move down the inside to move himself up to eighth place and cannily position himself immediately astern of his closest rival for the title, from where he could better maintain a watching brief. Also now moving forward was Ryan Hunter-Reay who soon joined his Andretti colleagues in the top five at the expense of Dixon who was struggling for downforce after his latest set-up adjustments on pit lane, causing him to lose momentum and drop back multiple positions even as his team mate Kanaan went to the lead for the first time on lap 55.

Ten laps later, Kanaan and Newgarden were the first cars to make their second stops. Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud had the best stops and leapt to the front ahead of Kanaan and Montoya, while Rahal had a dismal time with the RLL refueller suffering a costly time-consuming problem in fitting the fuel nozzle onto the car which lost him almost half a minute. He was now in desperate need of a caution to close the field up again and put him back on an even footing with the others.

A suddenly-energised Castroneves needed no such breaks as he shot past multiple cars and took over the lead on lap 79 with Pagenaud and Kanaan taking up the chase and both of them leaving Hunter-Reay and Montoya, but on lap 86 the yellow flags were out for contact between Hawksworth and Charlie Kimball in turn 1. Hawksworth was left turned at right angles across the nose of the Ganassi as the two drivers gesticulated at each other from their respective cockpits.

Everyone pitted under the caution, with the loser this time turning out to be Will Power who spun and stalled while trying to manoeuvre around Dixon in the pit stall ahead of him, putting him to the back of the lead lap. Castroneves, Pagenaud and Kanaan remained at the top followed by Sage Karam, the Ganassi rookie having proven fearless in working his way forward during the first half of the race to put himself ahead of Montoya and Hunter-Reay for the restart.

The caution had benefited Graham Rahal in getting him back up to the pack but he was still in 17th position as the green flag came out once more on lap 93. That quickly became academic, however: as Rahal battled side-by-side with Justin Wilson, Tristan Vautier stuck the nose of the Dale Coyne Racing car down the inside to make it a three-wide battle. There wasn't enough space, and while Wilson escaped and disappeared off into the distance there was contact which spun both Rahal and Vautier into hard hits with the outside wall. Both cars were wrecked but neither driver was hurt, Rahal jumping out of the #15 and storming over to remonstrate with Vautier over the accident that could just have lost him his tilt at the championship.

"Vautier just decided he wanted to join the party there at the last minute, and unforuntately punted into us," Rahal said afterwards when he'd calmed down a little, although he couldn't resist adding: "He's not known as the sharpest tool around here.

"We're down but not out. We're going to go to Sonoma and attack," he added, acknowledging that the team hadn't been having the best of days even before the accident, which he admitted had been partly down to his running at the back where such incidents are common place. "When you are back with the squirrels you're bound to get your nuts cracked," was his wry parting shot.

Rahal's exit was music to Montoya's ears, although there were still plenty of credible threats to his championship campaign still out on track and looking strong. Montoya was in sixth place for the restart on lap 104 which saw first Pagenaud and then Karam pass Kanaan and go to the front. While the rookie checked out the front, Kanaan dropped further positions to Castroneves and Hunter-Reay. However Karam's spell at the front didn't last long before he dived onto pit road, Castroneves taking over just before a the sixth caution of the day came out for debris in turn 3 after Ed Carpenter's rear wheel guard was clipped and broken off by contact from behind from James Jakes' Schmidt Peterson Motorsport as the pair jockeyed for position, earning Jakes a penalty for avoidable contact.

Bryan Herta Autosport's Gabby Chaves stayed off pit road along with Wilson and Power to lead at the restart, with Karam in fourth and Pagenaud narrowly beating Castroneves in the race off pit road. There had been a near-miss on pit road between Montoya and Kanaan as both pulled out of their respective stalls at the same time, but no harm was done with Montoya winning the position to take the restart in seventh.

Power took advantage of his new-found favourable track position to slingshot past Chaves into the lead at the restart on lap 115, but his surge was short-lived and soon it was Castroneves, Karam and Hunter-Reay back at the front with Chaves. Behind the leaders, the restart had not been kind to either Montoya or Kanaan who had been caught up in some wild four-wide racing that hustled them out of the top ten while they caught their breath before commencing their fight back through the order.

Chaves had finally made his deferred pit stop on lap 132, and second later Kanaan's recover ended up in the back end of the Ganassi coming around, leaving the #10 performing two complete pirouettes before finally clattering into the inside wall to wreck his front left suspension and put him out of the race. The rest of the field used the ensuing caution for a round of pit stops, with Power losing time again as the #1 car went into anti-stall mode as he pulled out of his pit box. Chaves' fortunate timing with his pit stop saw him pick up the lead ahead of Pagenaud, Karam, Munoz and Castroneves with Power rejoining in sixth ahead of Newgarden, Dixon, Montoya and Hunter-Reay and everyone now on a more-or-less equal footing in terms of fuel strategy and fresh tyres.

Pagenaud and Karam had barely managed to pass Chaves when the rear suspension on Marco Andretti's car appeared to fail and the #27 spun around and slammed into the turn 2 wall on lap 139. Clearly in some discomfort, Andretti had to be supported by a marshall as he limped to the waiting safety vehicle with a bruising to his right knee but a quick check in the in-field care centre saw him quickly cleared and released.

The race resumed on lap 149 and with Pagenaud preoccupied with saving fuel to make it to the finish on one more stop it took Hunter-Reay just four laps to scythe his way to the front. The teams were just turning their attention to the timing of that last round of pit stops when the decision was taken out of their hands by a caution for one of the least likely reasons of the entire season - a fox breaking cover and trotting across the track to get back to the surrounding woodland. Not for nothing is Tricky the Fox the mascot of Pocono Raceway.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsport's Ryan Briscoe stayed out along with Wilson at the front while Hunter-Reay, Karam and Pagenaud won the race off pit road. When the race went green on lap 167 there was a sudden fanning out down the front straight so that for a brief moment there was seven-wide racing - a completely unsustainable prospect. As the drivers frantically tried to get back into some sort of realistic formation going into turn 1, Castroneves spun out and went into the wall to send the race back under caution. This time Briscoe and Wilson opted to make their pit stops along with several others who had only just come in, returning for a fuel top-up to make sure they could make it to the finish. Among those who didn't, Hunter-Reay assumed the lead once more ahead of AJ Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato, with Newgarden in third ahead of Karam and Chaves. None of them were safe to make it all the way to the finish and so were less than keen about the high fuel burn involved in leading the race, but eventually Karam accepted the mantle and went to the front.

Unfortunately he would not have to worry about fuel consumption for much longer: on lap 179, the #8 suddenly snapped around on him and planted him into the wall in turn 1. Clearly shaken and bruised from the savage impact, Karam had to sit on the side of his shattered monocoque as he waited the arrival of the ambulance. However a more serious incident was unfolding a few hundred yards further down the track: Justin Wilson had been stuck by debris flying off Karam's shattered car, and the Briton was being attended to by multiple medical crews clearly concerned about the veteran racer's condition. The medical helicopter was immediately scrambled to fly him to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedarcrest Hospital in Allentown, Pa. for evaluation and treatment for an undisclosed head injury.

By the time the track was cleaned up, there were just seven laps remaining but the joy had been drained out of the event by the shock of Wilson's accident. Now it was just a case of getting the race over and done with, the result seeming rather inconsequential compared with the condition of one of its longest serving contenders. Initially Chaves and Sato vied for the lead but they were soon dispatched by Hunter-Reay once again carving his way through the field to go to the front. He had been followed through by Newgarden and Montoya., when Chaves suddenly pulled off the racing line with a blown engine with four laps to go.

"Obviously, after having a shot to win the race our engine blew so it is disappointing," said Chaves. "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."

Chaves' mechanical problems triggered a new caution, and with no time to get the race restarted it meant that the event finished under caution and Hunter-Reay picked up his second win of the season. Newgarden and Montoya joined him on the podium, with Power, Munoz, Sato, Pagenaud, Briscoe, Dixon and Jakes rounding out the top ten. Chaves and Kimball were listed in 11th and 12th despite late retirements, with Pippa Mann the last car still running at the chequered flag albeit 15 laps down after suffering gearshift issues in the Dale Coyne Racing #18 at the beginning of the race.

Given Wilson's unknown status it was an understandably subdued scene in victory circle entirely lacking the usual post-race celebrations. Hunter-Reay was more interested in getting updates about his team mate's condition before turning to congratulating the Andretti Autosport team on achieving a most unexpected win at Pocono.

In the championship standings, Montoya's podium means that he rebuilds his lead to 34 points over the unlucky Graham Rahal heading into next weekend's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway in California.

"We took our time and were smart," said Montoya of his weekend's work. "I think we had a car that could win the race, but it wasn't worth risking it. We did what we needed to do today."

With the season finale offering double points, a total of six drivers remain mathematically in the running heading into the final race. Aside from Montoya and Rahal, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Josef Newgarden are also all still in the running.

See full race results for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway



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