Mid-Ohio IndyCar: Newgarden takes commanding win and points lead
After an early pass on polesitting Team Penske-Chevrolet teammate Will Power, Josef Newgarden had everyone handled for the rest of the afternoon in his most convincing performance of the year.
Power made a clean start with Newgarden tucking in behind him, with Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves following in grid order.
Simon Pagenaud made a bold start to pass Scott Dixon into Turn 4, but the best getaway was made by Marco Andretti, straight up from 14th to 10th, behind teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in just three-quarters of a lap
Carlos Munoz pitted on Lap 5 in the AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet, Max Chilton’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda did the same on Lap 7, and Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones followed suit on Lap 9.
By Lap 10, Power and Newgarden had a 3sec lead over Sato who was coming under severe pressure from Rahal, who had rubbed his rear wing with RLLR-Honda’s front wing on the opening lap.
Rossi, the leading runner to start on the harder primary compound tires, pitted on Lap 12, and James Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball pitted on Lap 13.
More significantly was that Newgarden caught Power napping down to Turn 4, diving through to snatch the lead and pulling a 2.7sec gap almost immediately, and Rahal on lap 15 got past Sato to grab third… and less than a second behind Power.
On Lap 16, Sato, Castroneves, and Pagenaud pitted. Hunter-Reay was perfectly placed to then pass Sato and Castroneves on their cold tires, but he quickly spun and fell to 13th.
Rahal took the lead and pitted last, and he emerged between the Penskes of Newgarden and Power, but Power took him round the outside of Turn 4.
So following the flurry of stops, Newgarden held the lead at 4.5sec over Power, with Rahal around a second behind – all three of them on primary tires – closely chased by the red-tired Pagenaud and Rossi. Four seconds further back, Dixon ran sixth on red tires ahead of Castroneves on blacks, Sato, Andretti and Hinchcliffe.
Power couldn’t close down the gap on Newgarden in the second sector of the race, and was also coming under pressure from Rahal who was holding a 1.8sec margin over Pagenaud and 3sec over Rossi.
Dixon, however, was in desperate need of a yellow – or a pitstop – having fallen 10sec away from the top five and holding up a train comprising Castroneves, Sato, Andretti and Hinchcliffe. Andretti was passed by Hinch on Lap 30.
Dixon pulled in for sticker reds on Lap 32 and to have four turns of front wing taken out to cure his oversteer problem… And without Dixon in front, Castroneves was unleashed and immediately pulled a 1.5sec gap over Sato and Hinch.
Power started upping his pace on Lap 37, closing the gap to Newgarden to 3.5sec and pulling away from Rahal to the tune of 2.6sec.
Rossi and Kimball pitted on Lap 38, Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay on Lap 39.
Newgarden pitted on Lap 40, handing the lead back to teammate Power. Who would gain most – the guy on light tanks but worn tires, or the one with heavy tanks but fresh tires?
There wasn’t a lot in it because Power and Pagenaud pitted just a lap later gifting the lead to Rahal once more, although the RLLR driver stopped on Lap 42.
But the big difference was that Newgarden was now on scuffed reds and had stretched the lead over Power – on scuffed blacks – from 4.5 to 6.8sec within three laps. Rahal, Rossi, Pagenaud, Castroneves, Sato, Hinchcliffe, Dixon and Andretti followed, at the halfway point of the race.
Power had shaved his deficit to Newgarden to 6.2sec by lap 51, and thanks to the intervention of the way-off-sequence backmarker Munoz, the gap back to Rahal was a similar margin.
On Lap 55, Pagenaud passed Rossi for fifth, having fallen three seconds behind Rahal who in turn was almost nine seconds behind Power now.
The final rounds of stops began at the end of Lap 62, with Dixon and Andretti stopping – Dixon’s had a very long one, due to problems with a rear wheel – and Rossi stopped on 63. Sato and Hinch pitted from sixth and seventh on Lap 64.
Newgarden was trying to make the most of his reds, and once clear of backmarkers had stretched his margin over Power to almost 12sec. Surely even with fresh reds, Power wouldn’t be able to make up that margin.
Josef stopped on Lap 65 for blacks, Will on Lap 66 for reds.
Then the yellows flew for Ed Jones’ DCR-Honda stalling at Turn 9 after a spin, half on the track. On the restart, Newgarden would be leading Power but with the handy buffer of Esteban Gutierrez between them. The Mexican had struggled to make up ground since opening lap contact had damaged his front wing.
Behind Power were Rahal, Pagenaud, Castroneves, Rossi, Hinchcliffe, Sato, Hunter-Reay and Dixon.
Strangely, the lapped Gutierrez appeared to block Power on the restart and locked his front tires into the braking zone of Turn 4. Further back, Sato and Rossi muscled past Castroneves to grab fifth and sixth respectively.
The bottling effect of Gutierrez gave Rahal a chance to have a stab at passing Power around the outside at Turn 4 on Lap 74 but Power was having none of that. Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, passed Hinchcliffe for eighth.
Finally Gutierrez pitted on lap 76, and Power had a 3.2sec margin to close on Newgarden in 14 laps. In fact, the gap had extended to 3.6sec a couple laps later, where it stabilized as the top four set their fastest laps of the race. But Newgarden kept cranking out the fast times, ending Lap 84 some five seconds ahead of his teammate.
In fact, Power’s main concern in the closing laps was keeping Rahal behind him, as Pagenaud pressured the RLLR car for the final podium spot. However, Power held on to grab second, albeit five seconds behind Newgarden who scored his second consecutive win, his third of the year and the sixth of his career. It’s taken him to the top of the points table ahead of Castroneves and Dixon who could only salvage seventh and ninth respectively.
Defending champion and defending Mid-Ohio racewinner Pagenaud finished just half a second behind his old Formula Atlantic rival, Rahal, and the same margin ahead of Sato.
Rossi was sixth ahead of Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Dixon and the impressive Conor Daly who passed Hinchcliffe for 10th in the closing stages.
IndyCar 2017 Mid-Ohio
|18||14||Carlos Munoz||89||1 lap|
|19||20||Spencer Pigot||89||1 lap|
|20||18||Esteban Gutierrez||89||1 lap|
|21||19||Ed Jones||88||2 laps|
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|Location||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course|