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Pruett's Preview: ABC Supply 500

Ryan Hunter-Reay didn’t want to celebrate his win at Pocono last year. And he wasn’t alone. Points and trophies were duly awarded after the checkered flag flew at the 2-mile superspeedway, but in light of the accident that would claim the life of his teammate Justin Wilson the following day, Pocono 2015 is more a reminder of what IndyCar lost than anything its finishers gained.

And with the one-year anniversary of Wilson’s death hanging over this year’s return to the “Tricky Triangle,” the events of 2015 could overshadow Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but if you knew the beloved Briton, he’d give us a hilariously polite thrashing for failing to get on with our lives. 

Wilson would, without question, want us to celebrate his life in the best way possible by putting on a whale of a race this weekend, and based on the feedback from the most recent Verizon IndyCar Series test at Pocono, it’s more than possible.

Drivers reported running in close proximity and passing was less of an issue than last year’s race, and with the push-to-pass button there to add spice, predicting who will win is harder than it has been at many of the other tracks the series has visited this year.

“I am optimistic right now,” Hunter-Reay said of his chances to capture back to back victories. “We had a really solid test there, but you just never know what the competition is going to roll out.”

RHR’s Andretti Autosport team won the Indy 500 with Alexander Rossi which, surprisingly, stands as Honda’s lone win in 2016. Honda’s competitiveness on superspeedways has RHR feeling more confident about doubling the brand’s win tally this weekend and more could be on the way when IndyCar returns to complete the race at Texas on Aug. 27.

“After our strong form at Indy, a promising beginning for the race at Texas, followed by a very encouraging test a few weeks ago at Pocono, I see this as one of the few opportunities to stick my foot in the door and get a win before the season is over,” he said. “One thing is for sure, I’m going to be fighting like hell to make that happen because I know those opportunities aren’t coming along as often as I would like at the moment.”

Although he holds a mathematical chance of winning his second IndyCar championship, RHR is more focused on having solid individual performances to close the season than worrying about titles.

“I’d love to tell you we’re in the middle of a push for the championship, but that isn’t the way our year has played out,” he said. “We just had a lot of missed opportunities this year as well.  Our season is completely different than we expected, and a few things have gone against us. 

“We finished third at St. Pete, we finished third at Detroit, we should have won the Indy 500 in my opinion, but we’ve also had a lot of things go wrong—odd things—that have put us outside the top 10 in the standings. It’s unusual for us, but we know that as a team, we can end our year on a high note. Getting wins and podiums, at this point, is where we’re at.”

Just as honoring Wilson with a great race would ease the pain many continue to feel after the 2015 event, there’s another way to pay tribute to the married father of two, and that’s to make a donation through WilsonChildrensFund.com to provide security for his daughters Jane and Jess.

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