Mid-Ohio: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing race report

McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON LED 11 LAPS BUT FINISHED 11TH IN THE HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL FINISHED 16TH - McDonald's driver Justin Wilson led 11 laps but the timing of a caution flag and contact later in...

McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON LED 11 LAPS BUT FINISHED 11TH IN THE HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL FINISHED 16TH

- McDonald's driver Justin Wilson led 11 laps but the timing of a caution flag and contact later in the race limited his finish to 11th place in the 85-lap Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio after he started fourth. At one point he had built a 4.4-second lead over the field before his second pit stop but on the lap prior to his planned entrance to pit lane, Milka Duno brought out a caution and he lost the hard-earned advantage which was pivotal to the outcome of his race. Late morning thunderstorms drenched the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course and another round of showers came as the field prepared for driver introductions but ended shortly thereafter. The race started under humid, drying conditions and the field took the green flag on grooved rain tires. Wilson started in fourth place and took third on the opening lap when he passed Marco Andretti. On the following lap he passed second place and eventual winner Ryan Briscoe and held the position for three laps before he took the lead from Helio Castroneves on Lap 5 although he was not scored as having held the point due to pitting in a pit box that was before the Start/Finish line on pit road. Many others had begun pitting as early as the opening lap to replace their rain tires with racing slicks but Wilson held off until Lap 6 since he could continue to move forward due to his ability to run fast in wet conditions. Once he exited the pits, he encountered a spot on the drying track in Turn 1 that was still wet and spun his inside tire which led to an off track excursion. He returned to the track after losing a few spots and was running in 14th once more drivers continued to make their first stops.

He gained a couple of spots during the first of five cautions for a total of 19 laps on Lap 9 when Enrique Bernoldi and Ryan Hunter-Reay made contact. He passed Dan Wheldon on Lap 17 for 13th and Buddy Rice on Lap 21 for 12th before the next caution came out for Mario Dominguez who spun. The majority of the front runners pit on Lap 27 but the McDonald's team elected to keep Wilson on track and he moved into the lead. He led Laps 28-38 and once the race was restarted, he steadily built a lead of 4.4-seconds over second place. The team began the countdown of laps before his next pit stop and when he was to enter the pits on the following lap, Milka Duno spun and stopped in Turn 4 to bring out the caution flag. This destroyed all of Wilson's hard work and the field was bunched up therefore eliminating the cushion he had for his next stop. When the pits opened, he was one of four drivers to come in on Lap 39 and returned to the track at the rear of the field in 16th place behind the lapped car of Dominguez. In order to have an opportunity to stay with those in front of him, the team communicated with Dominguez's PCM Racing Team and Dominguez said he would move over on the restart to allow Wilson to pass. Unfortunately when the race resumed Dominguez, who later said he had a snap of understeer in the middle of the corner, made contact with Wilson and spun him around. This caused a multi-car accident as others behind them were collected. Once Wilson was finally restarted, he dropped one lap down to 20th place. He came in on Lap 43 to check for damage and returned to the track to start picking off the slower cars. After the frontrunners completed their next pit cycle he was able to get back on the lead lap by Lap 59 and was running 16th. By the time he made his final pit stop on Lap 64 he was in 15th place.

He passed Ed Carpenter and Jaime Camara on Lap 69 and took over 13th before closing on Danica Patrick. Second place runner Bruno Junqueira, who was out of pit sequence, made his final stop for a splash of fuel and Wilson moved into 12th. After clearly being able to run faster, he was finally able to pass Patrick for 11th place with three laps to go. He earned 19 points for his finish and moved from 19th into an 18th place rank in the IndyCar Series point standings with a total of 202.

Following are Wilson's post race comments: "The McDonald's car was quick from the start so we were passing people and working our way up to first," said Wilson. "I got into the lead and then it was time to pit to change from rain tires to slicks. After I left the pits, I was in a damp part of the track and spun off one of the rear wheels and then it grabbed and turned me hard right so the slide off the track lost us three or four places. At that point I was just trying to get the tires up to temperature. Some guys had gambled and pitted earlier and got ahead so we were just trying to play catch up from that point on. We stayed out on a yellow and regained the lead and opened up a nice gap and thought we were in good shape. The team started the countdown of laps until I pit and the lap before we were due in the yellow came out and just squashed the nice gap that we had. The timing couldn't have been worse. We thought we would come out much higher in the field than what we were. That meant that we were right at the back of the pack and trying to pass cars. We had one backmarker that said he was going to let me by on the restart so when it went green I thought he was going to let me by at the last corner and just punted me around. That lost us a lap and bent the car so it was a hard battle from then on to get back on the lead lap. It's really frustrating because I feel that we were doing a beautiful job and should have been up there in the top four or five."

- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Graham Rahal ran as high as eighth place after starting 14th in the 85-lap Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, his home race, but finished 16th after an off-track excursion on Lap 53. Late morning thunderstorms drenched the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course and another round of showers came as the field prepared for driver introductions but the rain ended shortly thereafter. The race started under humid, drying conditions and the field took the green flag on grooved rain tires. Rahal lost two positions on the start and immediately reported that it was difficult to turn his car so the team elected to have him pit on Lap 2 for racing slicks. He returned to the track in 24th place but was up to eighth by Lap 7 as the rest of the field pitted to do the same. He held the position until the next stop on Lap 27 during a caution to remove the car of Mario Dominguez, who spun. He returned to the track in 16th but was up to 11th by Lap 40. He moved into 10th by Lap 48 after Ed Carpenter made a stop and had closed on ninth place Tony Kanaan by Lap 53 when he lost control of the race car and drove into the grass in Turn 11. Once he was finally pushed back to the racing surface and restarted he continued but was a lap down in 19th place. He gained a spot when E.J. Viso had trouble leaving the pits and another one when Mario Moraes drove off course. He moved into 16th when Dan Wheldon pit on Lap 73 and held the position until the checkered flag after 85 laps. Rahal earned 14 points and maintained his 16th place rank in the point standings with 215 after Round 13 of 18. Following are his post race comments:

"The race started off all right,' said Rahal. "Overall the car was really good. Obviously we had good strategy there at the beginning. Then I was running around behind Tony and saving a ton of fuel because that's the best way to pass here obviously -- to go a little but further on fuel than everybody else. So that's what we did. I was a little bit quicker than Tony I think and I got right up behind him and got so much understeer that I just couldn't turn the car and the car just went straight in Turn 11. The thing just went straight so I got on top of the curb, straddling it. When I came off the other side I just tried to straighten the wheel to go straight but it just went around. It's really frustrating because we had a good run going. I think we made up some ground in terms of gaining knowledge. We didn't come here as good as we expected but I think we found some things that are going to help us on road courses."

- Graham's Tribute to Paul...Rahal and helmet designer/painter Troy Lee created a helmet that features many posters from a selection of the movies team co-owner Paul Newman starred in. Rahal wore the helmet during the race and will autograph it prior to auctioning on Ebay or another venue (to be determined). The proceeds will be given to The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps and specifically Flying Horse Farms, a provisional member camp located 30 minutes from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Graham's mother Debi has been active in fund raising efforts for the camp. The movies depicted include: "Winning," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Sting," "The Hustler," "The Long Hot Summer," and Graham's personal favorite "Slap Shot."

-credit: nhlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Milka Duno , Enrique Bernoldi , Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , Bruno Junqueira , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Mario Dominguez , Paul Newman , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Jaime Camara , Mario Moraes , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter