Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course gave the July 4 weekend its first dose of fireworks.
With good and tough racing seemingly around every corner, the action intensified as the Andretti Autosport drivers came together on several occasions. The race also featured a significant amount of attrition, with the most affected being NTT P1 award winner Pato O’Ward. The combination of situations kept the drama high in The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R.
Twenty-seven cars, six warnings, three avoidable contact penalties and a record number of passes and assists for position were a lot to put into an 80-lap race. So, let’s get going with today’s Fifth Gear report.
Congratulations to McLaughlin, Palou and Power
Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet) did his family proud – for the first time they’ve seen him win a race in this series – and he became the second driver with multiple wins this season. The other driver is teammate Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet), who has three wins.
McLaughlin moved up two positions in the standings to seventh and moved reasonably close to series leader Marcus Ericsson. The gap is 69 points. With eight races remaining, there is still time for the New Zealander to get into the championship fight.
Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) continued to do what one of the most consistent riders in the sport does: he put in another solid performance. The second place was his fourth top-three in nine races, and last year he was on the podium in the semis (eight of 16). The difference: last year, he scored three victories; he is still looking for his first of 2022.
What about Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet)? Quite simply, he tried in every way to spoil this weekend – penalty in qualifying, starting 21st, spun on the first lap to fall to last place among the 27 drivers – before recovering with the one of the best albums of the season. He finished third and gained points over Ericsson, who finished sixth.
These three drivers, plus Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, who finished fourth in the #21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile, and David Malukas, the ninth-ranked rookie in the #18 Honda HMD of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD, deserves gold stars for the weekend.
Shout out to ECR’s Conor Daly, who moved up nine positions to finish 13th in the #20 BitNile Chevrolet.
Bravo also for the thrill of the event. The 183 total passes were 13 more than the event record. The 149 assists for the position were 15 more than the previous high.
Difficult afternoon for Andretti Autosport
There were no celebrations with Michael Andretti’s organization after Sunday’s race. Indeed, during a meeting with the boss, Romain Grosjean (ForeverLawn / DHL Honda n°28) told the media that “it was not pleasant, but it was good that he did it”. More details were not provided.
There were many hot spots to discuss. Grosjean and Alexander Rossi (#27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/SiriusXM Honda) crashed together in Turn 2 after contact. Grosjean blamed Rossi; Rossi called it a racing incident. Grosjean also swerved Colton Herta (#26 Honda Gainbridge) into that same corner, for which the Frenchman said he would apologize as he misjudged Herta’s level of braking.
Rossi also made contact with rookie teammate Devlin DeFrancesco (#29 Honda PowerTap), who, like Grosjean in the Herta incident, was given an avoidable contact penalty from race control. Rossi and Grosjean each had to serve passing penalties, ironically not for contact between them.
If that wasn’t enough, the Herta crew failed to bring it to a stop on pit road just before a scheduled caution period, leaving it on the track as the only car not to have come to a stop. stopped at the pits. This effectively ended his chance for a podium finish, and the driver responded by angrily slapping his hands on his steering wheel.
Team record: Herta finished 15th, DeFrancesco finished 17th, Rossi 19th and Grosjean 21st.
Other teams keen to move on are Arrow McLaren SP and AJ Foyt Racing. Arrow McLaren SP finished 24th with O’Ward (#5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) and 27th with #4 starter Felix Rosenqvist (#7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet). Both seemed to have the same unspecified problem.
AJ Foyt’s team entered three cars and saw all three involved with warnings. Rookie Kyle Kirkwood (#14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) derailed, Dalton Kellett (#4 K-Line/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) was knocked down by Jack Harvey (#45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and rookie Tatiana Calderon’s (#11 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) car stopped on their own. Each finished 22nd or lower in the 27-car field.
To be continued: Exhibition site
As difficult as it may seem, it’s been three years since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES raced in Toronto. Need that in perspective? Simon Pagenaud, who won the 2019 race, was still over two years away from leaving Team Penske for Meyer Shank Racing.
As a history lesson, Pagenaud won this race from pole; he also won the NTT P1 Award as the fastest qualifier in 2017. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon won three races at the track, including both ends of the 2013 double. He also won in 2018.
Power and fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden were also strong on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile street course. Power won three races (2007, 2010 and 2016) and two poles, Newgarden won the race in 2015 and 2017.