Mid-Ohio IndyCar: Newgarden wins to end Penske's drought

Dominant driver on the day Josef Newgarden scored the 19th win of his career at Mid-Ohio to score Team Penske-Chevrolet’s first win of the season, after holding off a charging Marcus Ericsson.

At Mid-Ohio, the cars are released for the start on the long back straight down to Turn 4, in order to avoid shunts at the first turn but that didn’t work this time around, as James Hinchcliffe tagged his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay into a spin, and Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda rookie Romain Grosjean knocked Felix Rosenqvist’s Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet into a spin-and-stall. Hinchcliffe rejoined the back of the field on the lead lap, but Rosenqvist and Hunter-Reay had to limp to the pits and rejoined two laps down.

The restart came on Lap 4, and while polesitter Team Penske-Chevrolet’s polesitter Josef Newgarden pulled away from Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Colton Herta with Marcus Ericsson in third, fifth placed Scott Dixon was on red tires like the top three, and wanted to get around Team Penske’s Will Power who had started on primaries. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver took him up the inside at the Keyhole but Power drafted him down the back straight to take the position back at right-handed Turn 4. He ran a little wide, Dixon flicked to the inside so they ran through the turn side by side, which out Power on the inside for left-handed Turn 5. Dixon squeezed him up on the curb, the pair made contact, and Power spun.

He then buried the throttle to avoid stalling but created so much tire smoke that everyone scattered. Ed Jones couldn’t see him, the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan-Honda, hitting the #12 Penske hard. Both were eliminated on the spot.

Following the clean-up, the race restarted on Lap 10, with Newgarden, Herta, Ericsson and Dixon on reds, and Alexander Rossi’s Andretti car now as the top runner on primaries. He was working hard to hold off championship leader Alex Palou (Ganassi) and Rinus VeeKay who had passed Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda).

Grosjean, was not intimidated by the handling changes he felt from the wing damage he’d incurred after tagging Rosenqvist and surged forward, passing fellow rookie Scott McLaughlin (Penske). He then looked set to pass Sebastien Bourdais (primary tires) into Turn 2, but when his compatriot blocked him, he tried around the outside. That didn’t work, and Grosjean lost a place drifting through the Keyhole but IndyCar ordered Bourdais to cede the position to the Coyne driver. Meanwhile, Grosjean had had to hold off challenges from Simon Pagenaud and Pato O’Ward, who took the opportunity to pass the Penske driver and Bourdais and move into the Top 10 – up 10 places from his grid position – behind Grosjean.

Over the opening 20 laps, Newgarden pulled out a 1.7sec lead over Herta who had a 2.5 margin over Ericsson who had a similar margin over Dixon.

Early scheduled stoppers included Jack Harvey of Meyer Shank Racing on Lap 19, and Pagenaud and McLaughlin on Laps 23 and 24 respectively. Grosjean stopped at the end of Lap 26 and emerged ahead of VeeKay and running another set of reds.

Dixon and Rossi pitted on Lap 29, the Ganassi driver taking on primaries, the Andretti driver taking on fresh reds. Next time by, Newgarden and Palou stopped, and the #10 Ganassi crew got Palou out ahead of Rossi who was now on warm reds. The points leader held off Rossi down to Turn 4, but Rossi exploited his extra grip through Turns 5 and 6 to dive past and grab fifth.

That became fourth moments later, as teammate Herta had a disastrous pitstop due to a refueling issue – a faulty fuel probe – meaning he fed back into the field just ahead of seventh placed Rahal, and had to give up the position to the RLL driver into Turn 4. On Lap 33, Grosjean passed O’Ward for eighth, taking advantage of his reds.

At half distance, Newgarden held an 8.5sec lead over Ericsson, who was 5.5sec ahead of Dixon who on primary tires was vulnerable to the closely-following Rossi on reds, while the pair of them were being stalked by Palou. Some 2.5sec further back ran Rahal, still able to hold off Herta, while Grosjean, O’Ward and VeeKay completed the Top 10.

At this point, the very off-strategy Harvey made his second stop.

Dixon had looked ordinary on reds, no threat to Ericsson ahead, and the trend continued in this middle stint on primaries. By Lap 50, he was 10sec from his teammate, and holding up Rossi, Palou, Rahal and Herta.

VeeKay pitted on Lap 53, and the leader responded next time by, switching to the primary Firestones, Rossi and Rahal doing likewise. Then it was the turn of Ericsson, Dixon and Grosjean, and on Lap 56 Palou. The points leader emerged comfortably in front of the Dixon-Rossi-Rahal train, to grab a net third, fourth overall, as Herta went to Lap 58 before stopping. That gained him nothing, as he again had a long stop – this time because he stalled. He’d emerge ninth, having been displaced by O’Ward (the only driver in the top eight on reds) and Grosjean.

With 20 laps to go, Newgarden led Ericsson by 6.5sec, with Palou 13sec down, but 2.5sec ahead of the Dixon-Rossi-Rahal-O’Ward crocodile. Ten laps later, Herta went down the inside of Grosjean for eighth on Lap 70, and immediately joined the tail of this battle.

Up front, Newgarden had started to ease off with a dozen laps to go, but let the lead drop below three seconds as he tackled traffic. Meanwhile, Herta and Grosjean passed O’Ward to take seventh and eighth, indicating the Arrow McLaren’s softer Firestones were giving up.

With two laps to go, Newgarden’s lead over the charging Ericsson was down to 1.4sec, as Newgarden tried to not get caught up in the pack of backmarkers ahead.

Newgarden held steady, eventually crossing the line 0.879sec ahead of the charging Swede, Palou claiming the final podium position 21sec down but 10sec up on six-time Mid-Ohio winner Dixon. Rossi, Rahal, Grosjean, O’Ward, Santino Ferrucci and Takuma Sato. Poor Herta had to pit with a lap to go for a splash of fuel and tumbled to 13th.

Thus Newgarden scored Penske’s first win of the season, 50 years and one day after Team Penske’s first IndyCar victory, scored by Mark Donohue at Pocono in 1971.

Palou is now leading the championship by 39 points.

Cla Driver Team Laps Gap Mph Pits
1 United States Josef Newgarden
United States Team Penske 80 108.405 2
2 Sweden Marcus Ericsson
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 80 0.879 108.389 2
3 Spain Alex Palou
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 80 22.235 108.004 2
4 New Zealand Scott Dixon
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 80 32.377 107.823 2
5 United States Alexander Rossi
United States Andretti Autosport 80 33.141 107.809 2
6 United States Graham Rahal
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 80 34.122 107.792 2
7 France Romain Grosjean
United States Dale Coyne Racing 80 35.163 107.773 2
8 Mexico Patricio O'Ward
United States Arrow McLaren SP 80 35.692 107.763 2
9 United States Santino Ferrucci
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 80 35.993 107.758 2
10 Japan Takuma Sato
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 80 50.331 107.503 2
11 France Sébastien Bourdais
United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 80 52.001 107.473 2
12 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin
United States Team Penske 80 52.425 107.466 2
13 United States Colton Herta
United States Andretti Autosport 80 56.848 107.387 3
14 France Simon Pagenaud
United States Team Penske 80 58.349 107.360 2
15 United States Conor Daly
United States Ed Carpenter Racing 80 58.812 107.352 2
16 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout
United States Ed Carpenter Racing 80 59.639 107.338 2
17 Canada James Hinchcliffe
United States Andretti Autosport 80 1'07.512 107.198 3
18 United Kingdom Max Chilton
United Kingdom Carlin 80 1'08.053 107.189 3
19 United Kingdom Jack Harvey
United States Meyer Shank Racing 80 1'08.479 107.181 3
20 United States Ryan Norman
United States Dale Coyne Racing 79 1 Lap 106.553 3
21 Canada Dalton Kellett
United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 79 1 Lap 106.265 2
22 United States Jimmie Johnson
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 79 1 Lap 105.875 4
23 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist
United States Arrow McLaren SP 78 2 Laps 105.009 5
24 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay
United States Andretti Autosport 78 2 Laps 104.492 4
25 Australia Will Power
United States Team Penske 3 77 Laps 71.483
26 United Arab Emirates Ed Jones
United States Dale Coyne Racing 3 77 Laps 70.754

 

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