Newgarden dominates Mid-Ohio for first win of the season

Starting from the pole and leading all but eight laps, Josef Newgarden became the winningest American in the NTT IndyCar Series on a special holiday weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as he claimed his first win of the season.

However, the victory wasn’t all that easy as he had to fend off a hard-charging Marcus Ericsson who closed the gap lap by lap inside the last 10 laps. Despite being challenged by the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Newgarden secured the victory on the weekend of Roger Penske’s very first win as a car owner that came 50 years ago Saturday at Pocono.

“Mainly focused on my pace,” Newgarden said about winning the Mid-Ohio race. “We were struggling with 10 laps to go. Super fast at the beginning of the stint. Felt like we could pull a gap on Marcus right off the bat out of a pit stop. Those last 10 laps, I was losing pace. I was just kind of calculating the pace loss, looking at where he was, looking at overtaking, all that. That kept me busy. That’s pretty much what I was focusing on. It’s not the thing you want to be kept busy with. You’d rather be busy looking at the gap growing and taking it easy. That was not the case.

“It was a hard-fought win. I think we definitely had the car to win the race, but it didn’t come easy. These guys made us push for it and work. Yeah, very happy to get the win.”

Ericsson erased a 10-second gap that was held by Newgarden in the remaining laps, only to come 0.8790 seconds short of overtaking Newgarden. The second place finish was Ericsson’s second podium finish since his win at the first Belle Isle race a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, exactly,” Ericsson said about running out of time catching Newgarden. “We were hunting him down there. The Honda felt really good on the black tires especially. We lost a little bit too much time on the first stint on the reds. Gap was sort of too big. Another lap I think we could have really been challenging him. He was really struggling with his tires the last five laps. Just catching him quickly.

“Anyway, I think it was a great day, great day for the team, to have me, Alex and Scott, P2, P3 and P4. It’s a strong result. Shows how strong we are at the moment. Me jumping up to fifth in the championship feels pretty good. Very happy with my day. Like I said, another lap or two would be even better, but I’ll take second today.”

Newgarden’s dominant Mid-Ohio weekend started Saturday afternoon after qualifying on the pole for the 14th time of his career. The Team Penske driver got a good start on the initial start but had to keep patient as two yellow flags flew early in the race.

The first yellow came on Lap 1 when the No. 28 of Ryan Hunter-Reay was turned by James Hinchcliffe and the No. 7 of Felix Rosenqvist was turned by Romain Grosjean causing a major lockup in Turn 4. The second yellow flew on the Lap 3 restart when the No. 12 of Will Power made slight contact with the left-rear of the No. 9 of Scott Dixon. Power appeared he was going to keep his car clean, but with the blinding Turn 5 hill, Power was pounded by the No. 18 of Ed Jones which saw both cars get major damage.

Jones’s front was nearly destroyed as his left-front wheel was loose. Power’s car sat idle and received damage as well. Fortunately for both drivers, they were medically cleared from the incident, but neither returned to the race and finished 25th and 26th, respectively. Power however stated on the NBC broadcast that he had a bruised right wrist which was sore.

The restart came on Lap 8 and once again, Newgarden continued to set the pace leading Colton Herta by 1.0 seconds. Meanwhile, the No. 14 of Sebastien Bourdais was penalized on Lap 12 for blocking the No. 51 of Grosjean. As a result, Bourdais had to give up two positions for the penalty.

The first round of green-flag pit stops came as soon as Lap 22 when the No. 3 of Scott McLaughlin pit. But, the leaders, Dixon, Rossi and O’Ward, and eventually race leader Newgarden, didn’t make their stops until Lap 29 and 30. Herta used a different strategy and pitted one lap later on Lap 31 hoping to gain a sizable gap over Newgarden. Unfortunately for Herta, he did not beat Newgarden as Herta’s team had a fueling issue and had a 25-second stop with the Andretti team.

The long pit stop saw Herta drop to seventh in the running order and 20 seconds back from the lead. The fueling issue was, as later reported by NBC, an issue with the fuel hose and not a human error made by the team.

Halfway on Lap 40, Newgarden held Ericsson by 7.2 seconds, a comfortable lead heading into the final stops with 27 laps to go as Newgarden pit for the final time. Herta grabbed the lead momentarily, hoping to gap Newgarden. But the Andretti driver’s plan didn’t work as they had yet another longer stop.

Eventually, Newgarden cycled out to the lead with 22 laps to go and led second place, Ericsson, by 6.7 seconds. From there, Ericsson closed the gap to where the lead was 4.814 seconds with 10 laps to go and then, cut the gap to 2.6 seconds with five to go.

As Newgarden started to approach lap traffic toward the white flag, Ericsson needed another strong lap or a mistake by Newgarden to allow him to pass the leader to have any chance of winning. Despite Ericsson erasing a six-second difference, Newgarden held on and won for the 19th time of his NTT IndyCar Series career. Ericsson, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five finishers.

Alex Palou increased his championship points lead to 39 points over Pato O’Ward.

“Yeah, we’re going to win this championship just by being here every weekend, getting some more wins,” Palou said on his Mid-Ohio run. “We always look at the championship. It’s good to have three cars now in the top five in the championship. Like Marcus said, that shows how strong we are as a team, how the team is working together. Yeah, super happy. But still, a long way to go. I mean, I would stop the count now, but I don’t think they allow me to do that (smiling). We’ll try to win some more races and be at the podium.”

There were two cautions for six laps and five lead changes among three different leaders.

Official Results following the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course:

  1. Josef Newgarden, led 73 laps
  2. Marcus Ericsson, led two laps
  3. Alex Palou
  4. Scott Dixon
  5. Alexander Rossi
  6. Graham Rahal
  7. Romain Grosjean
  8. Pato O’Ward
  9. Santino Ferrucci
  10. Takuma Sato
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Scott McLaughlin
  13. Colton Herta
  14. Simon Pagenaud
  15. Conor Daly
  16. Rinus VeeKay
  17. James Hinchcliffe
  18. Max Chilton
  19. Jack Harvey
  20. Ryan Norman, 1 lap down
  21. Dalton Kellett, 1 lap down
  22. Jimmie Johnson, 1 lap down
  23. Felix Rosenqvist, 2 laps down
  24. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2 laps down
  25. Will Power, OUT, Contact
  26. Ed Jones, OUT, Contact

Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series will take a month off before resuming their 2021 season Sunday August 8 for the inaugural streets of Nashville live on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m./ET.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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