St. Pete IndyCar: McLaughlin holds off Palou for first win
Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Scott McLaughlin drove from pole position to victory after holding off Alex Palou’s charging Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda but only after tension-packed closing laps.
Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Scott McLaughlin made a clean start from his first ever pole position, but teammate Power, the only driver in the Top 10 to start the race on the harder Firestone primaries, appeared to spin up the tires out of the final turn and so had lost places to both Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet by the time they reached Turn 1.
Romain Grosjean had to be deterred from also sneaking through on the inside and his loss of momentum allowed Marcus Ericsson’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda to go around him on the outside of Turn 1 and claim the inside at Turn 2.
Behind them, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou had moved into seventh and eighth ahead of sixth-place starter Simon Pagenaud, and the Meyer Shank Racing-Honda had also lost ninth to Pato O’Ward, up from 16th on the grid in his Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy.
Josef Newgarden pitted from 11th on Lap 10, the top driver to go off strategy, and switch from Firestone’s softer alternates and switch to primaries. A couple of laps later Dixon did the same and emerged ahead of Newgarden, and fellow off-strategy driver O’Ward emerged the two former champions.
Meanwhile Power had hung on well in fourth, within five seconds of leader McLaughlin and pressuring VeeKay. On Lap 15 he was through, and VeeKay now had to watch his mirrors for Ericsson and Grosjean. Ericsson got the job done into Turn 10 on Lap 18, and then Grosjean, Graham Rahal, and Alex Palou also demoted the ECR.
Power had swiftly closed in on Herta whose reds were fading, and took second into Turn 1 on Lap 20. He was over six seconds behind McLaughlin who had looked after his alternates very well up front. However, Power was closing at up to 1sec per lap.
Out came the caution flag on Lap 25, as David Malukas on his IndyCar debut pounded the wall at the exit of Turn 3, his broken car coming to a halt in the center of the track.
When the pits opened, McLaughlin, Power, Herta, Ericsson, Grosjean and Rahal were the top runners who pitted, Ericsson being released as Rahal was alongside him, the RLLR driver also having Grosjean on his outside. Thankfully the Andretti driver backed down to avoid chaos.
New strategist Brian Barnhart had elected to leave Alex Rossi out front, the only drive to have not pitted, ahead of Dixon, O’Ward, Newgarden, Pagenaud, debutant Kyle Kirkwood of AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy, Felix Rosenqvist in the second Arrow McLaren SP. McLaughlin, Power, Palou and Herta were filling positions 13th through 16th.
Before the Lap 35 restart, Ericsson was ordered to the back of the field for the unsafe release in the pits.
When the green flag waved, Rahal passed Herta, and just ahead of them further around the lap Palou got around Power. The #12 Penske then had his mirrors full of Herta, who re-passed Rahal.
Rossi made his pitstop on Lap 37 leaving the Dixon, O’Ward and Newgarden in the top three spots.
On Lap 38, Herta passed Power without contest into Turn 10 to claim 13th, as the 2014 champion was being very careful with his reds and his fuel, and the stack up behind him allowed rookie Christian Lundgaard to pass Grosjean around the outside at Turn 1 to claim 16th right behind his teammate Rahal.
Newgarden was first of the three-stoppers to pit for a second time on Lap 42 and Pagenaud and Rosenqvist would do the same a lap later. O’Ward went to Lap 48 before his second stop, Dixon a lap later, leaving VeeKay leading Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott by 1.3sec. Right behind them were the two-stoppers, however, namely McLaughlin, Palou, Herta, Power, Rahal and Lundgaard.
Ilott pitted at the end of Lap 57 and tumbled all the way to 21st. VeeKay stopped on Lap 62, and would therefore need a long yellow to make it 38 laps to the finish without another stop.
Surprisingly, Herta also made his second stop next time by and to avoid being put in the danger zone were a yellow to fly, McLaughlin then pitted next time by, and then Palou and Rahal pitted too. McLaughlin remained ahead of Palou. Power went a lap longer, and rejoined ahead of Herta who had been stuck behind Pagenaud until the Frenchman made his final stop on Lap 69.
Dixon and O’Ward, 13.5sec apart, moved back into first and second but would need to stop again. The race looked like a six-way shootout between McLaughlin, Palou, VeeKay, Power, Herta and Rahal.
A spin for Kellett prompted Arrow McLaren SP to pit O’Ward for the final time but the track remained green as the Foyt driver was able to rejoin before retiring, and he fell to 12th.
Power passed VeeKay for fourth on Lap 78, as the Dutch youngster was saving fuel, and Power had stopped last out of the two-stoppers.
Dixon made his third and final stop and ceded the lead to the two-stoppers, with McLaughlin leading Palou by 2.3sec, with Power a further 4.5sec back. That gap was then reduced, however, as Power was given a bit more leash fuel-wise, and by Lap 85, with 15 to go, he had that gap to just under three seconds.
VeeKay had fallen to six seconds back as he tried to eke out his fuel, but stayed ahead of Herta who was having to be similarly feather-footed and just hanging on ahead of Rahal. Behind the RLL car was Grosjean, desperately trying to keep ahead of Dixon and Lundgaard.
With 13 to go, McLaughlin got held up by Jimmie Johnson, allowing Johnson’s teammate Palou to close to within 0.7sec of the leader. The Penske sophomore kept his cool, however and by lap 94 his lead was back out over one second. His cause was aided by Palou being warned he couldn’t go full-rich to the end.
A lap later however, it was McLaughlin who lost time, and Palou was only half a second behind him. Fifteen seconds back, Herta got around VeeKay to grab fourth with three to go, and a lap later Grosjean did the same having got past Rahal.
With two to go, McLaughlin and Palou were stuck behind rookie Devlin DeFrancesco, but the three-time Supercars champ held on to become an IndyCar race-winner, holding on by half a second. Power was a further 1.9sec down.
|1||Scott McLaughlin||Team Penske||100||1:51'27.346||2|
|2||Alex Palou||Chip Ganassi Racing||100||1:51'27.856||0.509||2|
|3||Will Power||Team Penske||100||1:51'29.813||2.467||2|
|4||Colton Herta||Andretti Autosport||100||1:51'43.190||15.844||2|
|5||Romain Grosjean||Andretti Autosport||100||1:51'45.799||18.452||2|
|6||Rinus van Kalmthout||Ed Carpenter Racing||100||1:51'47.998||20.651||2|
|7||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||100||1:51'48.764||21.418||2|
|8||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||100||1:51'49.374||22.027||3|
|9||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing||100||1:51'49.714||22.367||2|
|10||Takuma Sato||Dale Coyne Racing||100||1:51'50.620||23.274||2|
|11||Christian Lundgaard||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||100||1:51'51.771||24.424||2|
|12||Patricio O'Ward||Arrow McLaren SP||100||1:51'53.621||26.275||3|
|13||Jack Harvey||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||100||1:51'59.015||31.668||3|
|14||Helio Castroneves||Meyer Shank Racing||100||1:52'00.945||33.598||3|
|15||Simon Pagenaud||Meyer Shank Racing||100||1:52'01.561||34.214||3|
|16||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||100||1:52'03.606||36.260||3|
|17||Felix Rosenqvist||Arrow McLaren SP||100||1:52'06.382||39.036||3|
|18||Kyle Kirkwood||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||100||1:52'25.470||58.124||3|
|19||Callum Ilott||Juncos Hollinger Racing||100||1:52'26.068||58.722||3|
|20||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||100||1:52'26.510||59.163||2|
|21||Conor Daly||Ed Carpenter Racing||100||1:52'27.482||1'00.135||3|
|22||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Autosport||100||1:52'30.207||1'02.861||3|
|23||Jimmie Johnson||Chip Ganassi Racing||99||1:51'41.008||1 Lap||2|
|24||Tatiana Calderon||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||97||1:51'33.368||3 Laps||4|
|25||Dalton Kellett||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||62||1:27'32.766||38 Laps||4||Mechanical|
|26||David Malukas||Dale Coyne Racing with HMD||23||25'12.177||77 Laps||1||Accident|
|View full results|
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