Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course gave the Fourth of July weekend its first dose of fireworks.
With good, 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 dropouts, with the biggest hit being NTT P1 Award winner Pato O’Ward. The combination of situations kept the drama high at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R.
Twenty-seven cars, six cautions, three avoidable contact penalties and a record number of total passes and passes per position was a lot to put into an 80-lap race. So let’s get on with today’s Fifth Gear report.
Congratulations to McLaughlin, Palou and Power
Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet) made his family proud, watching him win a race in this series for the first time, and becoming the second driver with multiple wins this season. The other driver is his teammate Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet), who has three wins.
McLaughlin gained two places in qualifying to seventh and moved within reasonable contact with series leader Marcus Ericsson. The separation is 69 points. With eight races remaining, there is still time for the New Zealander to enter the championship race.
Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) continued to do what one of the most consistent drivers in the sport does: he delivered another strong performance. Second place was his fourth in the top three in nine races, and last year he reached the podium in half (eight of 16). The difference: last year he had three wins; he is still looking for his first of 2022.
What about Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Chevrolet Penske)? Quite simply, he tried to waste this weekend in every possible way: penalty in qualifying, starting 21st, spinning on the first lap to drop to last place among the 27 drivers, before recovering with one of the best units it’s from the season. He finished third and earned points from Ericsson, who finished sixth.
These three drivers, plus Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, who finished fourth in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing team with BitNile, and David Malukas, the rookie who finished best of ninth in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing HMD Honda with HMD, he deserves gold stars for the weekend.
Give a shout out to ECR’s Conor Daly, who gained nine positions to finish 13th in the No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet.
Congratulations, too, to the excitement of the event. The 183 total passes were 13 more than the event record. The 149 passes per position was 15 more than the previous high.
Difficult afternoon for Andretti Autosport
There were no celebrations with Michael Andretti’s organization after Sunday’s race. In fact, there was a meeting with the boss that Romain Grosjean (No. 28 ForeverLawn/DHL Honda) told the media was “not nice, but it’s good that he did it.” No further details were provided.
There were many hot spots to discuss. Grosjean and Alexander Rossi (#27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/SiriusXM Honda) went off course together in Turn 2 after contact. Grosjean blamed Rossi; Rossi called it a racing incident. Grosjean also swerved Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) in that same corner, for which the Frenchman said he would apologize because he misjudged Herta’s braking level.
Rossi also made contact with rookie teammate Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29 PowerTap Honda), who like Grosjean in the Herta incident, received an avoidable contact penalty from Race Control. Rossi and Grosjean each had to serve drive-through penalties, ironically not because of contact between them.
If that wasn’t enough, the Herta team failed to get it to pit road just before an expected caution period, leaving it on track as the only car that hadn’t pitted. That effectively ended his chance at a podium finish, and the driver responded by angrily slapping his hands on the steering wheel.
Team count: Herta finished 15th, DeFrancesco finished 17th, Rossi 19th and Grosjean 21st.
The other teams keen to move on are Arrow McLaren SP and AJ Foyt Racing. Arrow McLaren SP finished 24th with O’Ward (#5 Chevrolet Arrow McLaren SP SP) and 27th with No. 4 starter Felix Rosenqvist (#7 Chevrolet Vuse Arrow McLaren SP), eliminated early due to technical issues.
AJ Foyt’s team entered three cars and saw all three involved with cautions. Rookie Kyle Kirkwood (No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) went off course, Dalton Kellett (No. 4 K-Line/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) was shunted by Jack Harvey (No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and rookie Tatiana Calderón’s car (No. 11 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) stopped on its own. Each finished 22 or fewer in the 27-car field.
Next: Exhibition place
As hard as it is to believe, it’s been a full three years since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES raced in Toronto. Do you need that in perspective? Simon Pagenaud, who won the 2019 race, was still more than two years away from leaving Team Penske for Meyer Shank Racing.
As a history lesson, Pagenaud won that race from pole position; he also won the NTT P1 award as the fastest qualifier in 2017. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon has won three races at the track, including both ends of the 2013 doubleheader. He also won in 2018.
Power and fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden have also been strong on the 1,786-mile, 11-turn street circuit. Power has won three races (2007, 2010 and 2016) and two pole positions, with Newgarden winning the race in 2015 and 2017.