Will Power and the No. 12 Team Penske finally secured their first track win at Mid-Ohio Saturday afternoon, in the first race of the doubleheader weekend.
The Australian started on the pole and dominated the entire race, leading 66 laps and fending off his teammate Josef Newgarden for his first career win of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series. A limited number of 6,000 fans were in attendance due to COVID restrictions.
“It’s great. It’s been a pretty trying year,” Power said. “Obviously, for everyone it has. I mean, the circumstances are very tough with COVID-19 and all the social distancing that we have to do. But the fact that we’re out here racing and we have some fans is fantastic. We love to do it; we love to entertain, and we love to drive.
“I’m so happy to have the Verizon No. 12 car in Victory Lane. And this is probably the first race, I reckon, in about 10 years that I have just gone hard. Every other race we save fuel and play a strategy game. Today I just said, ‘hey let’s just go hard, man. Screw this. We don’t want to get caught by a yellow. Let’s just run hard and use my raw pace and see what happens.’ And we won the race, so it was a great strategy.”
In what seemed unlikely to happen, the Mid-Ohio 75 lap doubleheader was recently added to the 2020 schedule just a few days ago, when the Ohio state government cleared IndyCar to have two races on site.
Leading up to the Honda Indy 200, Team Penske’s Will Power has not won a race through the first nine races aside from his two teammates Newgarden and Pagenaud.
After setting a blistering lap of 1:06.334 in qualifying, Power set the pace early by leading Newgarden over two seconds. With Power and Newgarden battling for the lead, there was some action in mid-pack with Pagenaud and rookie Rinus VeeKay when Pagenaud spun after making slight contact with VeeKay. Then on Lap 8, four-time winner in 2020, Scott Dixon, made a thrilling move by splitting VeeKay and Andretti to take ninth in the running order. The New Zealander started 17th and was already in the top 10 by Lap 10. Meanwhile, on the same lap, Power had the lead by 2.3 seconds on Newgarden.
Pit stops began as early as Lap 14 when Andretti was the first to pit. Newgarden pitted from second on Lap 20 with Power one lap later. Hoping to keep the lead during the cycle of stops, Power was able to come out in front of Newgarden exiting the pit lane. However, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi used a different strategy by staying out longer and not pitting until Lap 26.
Despite utilizing a different pit strategy, Power cycled into the lead and continued to lead his teammate Newgarden. Proving to have the best car on the racetrack, the Australian would stretch his lead over the next several laps without looking back. In fact, Power had the lead stretched to 6.2 seconds before making his final stop of the event. During those final stops, there was close action in the pits with Andretti Autosport teammates Rossi and Herta, as they nearly made contact with each other on pit road. The pit stop looked liked it could have been an unsafe release when Rossi exited the pit lane and Herta coming in shortly after. But no action was taken by IndyCar officials.
As the race neared its end, and Power enjoying his lead of eight seconds, dark rain clouds started to loom in the background and posed a threat with rain four miles from the track.
Nevertheless, the rain didn’t show up until after the checkered flag, which was perfect timing for Power who took the checkered flag for the first time at Mid-Ohio after 12 tries, with teammate Newgarden following in the second position.
“It was a pretty straightforward day,” Newgarden said. “We kind of finished where we started, I was lucky to get by Ryan Hunter-Reay at the start. We missed the chaos. It would have been amazing if this rain would have come 10 minutes sooner. I don’t think I wanted this necessarily made a difference for us today, but it would have been fun to watch. Congrats to Will. He is still Will Power. He’s been knocked down a little bit and has had some tough times. So really happy for him.”
Power led three times for 66 laps en route to his 36th career NTT IndyCar Series victory.
There were no yellows thrown throughout the 75 lap event and four leaders among three different lead changes.
Following the race, Simon Pagenaud was penalized twice. Once for avoidable contact with VeeKay on Lap 1, and the second penalty for a pit safety infraction which will be a post-race fine.
Despite finishing 10th in Race No. 1, Dixon continues to lead the championship points standings by 76 points over second place Josef Newgarden.
Official Results following Race No. 1 of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course:
- Will Power, led 66 laps
- Josef Newgarden
- Alexander Rossi, led five laps
- Graham Rahal
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Felix Roseqnvist
- Jack Harvey
- Rinus VeeKay
- Colton Herta, led four laps
- Scott Dixon
- Pato O’Ward
- Alex Palou
- Conor Daly
- Santino Ferrucci
- Marcus Ericsson
- Max Chilton
- Takuma Sato
- Simon Pagenaud
- Oliver Askew
- Zach Veach, 1 lap down
- Charlie Kimball, 1 lap down
- Dalton Kellett, 1 lap down
- Marco Andretti, 1 lap down
Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series will complete their doubleheader weekend at Mid-Ohio with another 75 lap event on Sunday afternoon, scheduled for 1 p.m./ET live on regular NBC.