Track: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Race: Honda Indy 200
Date: July 30, 2017
No. 1 Menards Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 90/90
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (deficit): 4th (-17 pts.)
Recap: Simon Pagenaud’s weekend really hinged on Saturday’s qualifying session for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion came up a little short in qualifying and it carried over to Sunday’s race result, though he produced another solid finish in the No. 2 Menards Chevrolet. Pagenaud missed making the Fast Six round of qualifying Saturday by mere hundredths of a second and was relegated to a seventh-place start for Sunday’s race. The 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio road course is notoriously known as a tough place to pass, which increases the importance of track position from the outset of the race. Pagenaud moved into the top five after the first round of pit stops but really had a difficult time advancing farther than that. The Menards Chevrolet team worked a different tire strategy than their Team Penske teammates, but it wasn’t enough to get Pagenaud to the front of the field. The native of Montmorillon, France did have some memorable battles on track with teammate Helio Castroneves and former Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, but ultimately he wasn’t able to defend his Mid-Ohio win from 2016 . With the fourth-place finish, Pagenaud has recorded top-five results in five of his last six starts and he earned his 11th top 10 of the season in just 13 outings. In a bit of a points anomaly, Pagenaud dropped from third to fourth in the standings Sunday, but he is two points closer to the top spot than he was following the previous event in Toronto as he trails leader and teammate Josef Newgarden by just 17 points.
Quote: “The Menards Chevy was good all weekend. I do wish that we could have qualified a little better just to decrease the number of cars to get around. It was kind of a neutral day in the championship but that’s all right. We’re right there and it will come down to Sonoma. Congratulations to Josef (Newgarden). They’re really on a roll right now.”
No. 2 PPG Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Finish: 1st (6th career INDYCAR victory)
Laps Completed: 90/90
Laps Led: 73
Points Position (lead): 1st (+7)
Recap: Coming on the heels of his win at Toronto two weeks ago, Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 PPG Paints Chevrolet crew made it two in a row Sunday as they earned their third win of the season at the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200. Newgarden started the race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course from the second position after his best qualifying result of the season Saturday, finishing second only to teammate and Verizon P1 Pole Award Will Power. After the green flag flew to start Sunday’s race, the Tennessee-born Newgarden quickly moved to the front of the field after making an impressive pass for the lead to get by Power on Lap 13. Newgarden flexed his muscle after that as he began to pull away from the pack, opening up leads between five to seven seconds on his pursuers for most of the remainder of the race. He only lost the lead as pit stops cycled through as he led a dominant 73 of 90 laps on the day. The No. 2 PPG Paints crew had flawless and well-timed pit stops throughout the afternoon to help key the victory. Shortly after his final stop of the day, Newgarden had one of his few tense moments when the only caution flag of the race flew after Ed Jones spun on track. With competitors behind him on the faster Firestone alternate red tires while Newgarden was on primary black tires, the first-year Team Penske driver held serve and maintained the lead on the Lap 71 race restart and pulled away in the closing laps to beat Power to the finish line by 5.155 seconds. Newgarden’s sixth career Verizon IndyCar Series victory enabled him to capture the series championship lead for the first time in his career and he became the first American to lead the series standings since Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2014 title. Newgarden will carry a seven-point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves heading into the next race of the season on August 20 at Pocono Raceway.
Quote: “I felt like we were a little stronger at the start than Will (Power). He was good, and we had a decent gap to (Takuma) Sato, I think. We were holding fairly steady. I think Will was struggling a little more than me, and I just didn’t want to wait behind him. We were either going to pass him on track in a straight-up pass or pass him on the pit cycle. That was our plan. I didn’t want to wait until the pits. I felt like I had an opportunity, so I just tried to time something and pull a move on him. He gave me a lot of racing room like a great teammate. I think he knew we were a little bit quicker. So he gave me good room, and once we got past him, I thought we were really fast. It was a good day for the PPG Chevrolet. Pretty smooth, for the most part. Still stressful. It’s always stressful, even when the car is fast. It seemed like the car was working on reds and blacks. It didn’t really matter. It just got better throughout the race and as the track gripped up. Only real drama was the restart, it felt like we were on the wrong tire again, kind of like Road America. Fortunately, we had a bit of a buffer with the car in between. It’s great to take over the lead in points, but there’s so much racing to do. I don’t really pay attention to it.”
No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Laps Completed: 90/90
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (deficit): 2nd (-7)
Recap: Following a solid seventh-place run in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, Helio Castroneves remains second in the championship standings with just four races now remaining, but he’s got a bit of a different view. Castroneves is now looking up at a different person, as the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead shifted from Scott Dixon to teammate and Sunday’s race winner Josef Newgarden, but Castroneves remains in the thick of the title chase. The three-time Indy 500 winner has narrowly missed the season title in previous seasons, but he is well positioned as the 2017 season heads into the homestretch. Castroneves started Sunday’s race in the fifth spot and ran among the top five for the majority of the 90-lap race. However, on a Lap 71 restart following a caution period caused by an Ed Jones spin, Castroneves lost a couple of positions when the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet encountered its engine limiter. The result was a seventh-place finish for Castroneves as it marked his fourth consecutive top-10 result dating back to an early-race accident at Texas Motor Speedway. For the season, Castroneves has produced 12 top-10 finishes in 13 races – including a win at Iowa – as the model of consistency in 2017.
Quote: “That was a tough race. These cars are so physical to drive. We only had the one caution that didn’t really affect anyone, I don’t think. On that restart, I had some sort of glitch that took away a bunch of power for a couple of seconds and two cars went around me like I was standing still. That’s unfortunate. But it was a decent day in points for the Hitachi Chevrolet team. A super day for Josef (Newgarden). Congratulations to that group. He leapfrogged us, but we’re still in second. We head to a couple of ovals now which could really mix things up. It’s going to be a battle. That’s for sure.”
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Start: 1st (49th career INDYCAR pole position)
Laps Completed: 90/90
Laps Led: 14
Points Position (deficit): 5th (-52)
Recap: After bad luck struck following early contact at Toronto, No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet driver Will Power bounced back strong in Sunday’sVerizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a second-place finish. Power began the weekend capturing the Verizon P1 Pole Award to give him the prime piece of track real estate that is the top starting spot. As the race began, Power showed off his veteran ability as he held back the field and maintained the early lead. Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden was able to get by Power on for the lead on Lap 13 and after a strong first pit stop of the race, Power continued to run in second place. Power was still second as he came into the pits for primary compound tires, fuel and a one-turn front wing adjustment on Lap 42 after telling his team on the radio that he was suffering from understeer issues. He continued behind Newgarden in the second spot as he visited the pits on Lap 67 for alternate compound tires and fuel. Shortly after, the caution flag waved as the No. 19 car spun on track. As the field restarted on Lap 71, Power tried to put pressure on Newgarden but a lapped car factored into the battle and Power never got the run he was hoping for. Over the closing laps, Power did a good job to hold off the hard-charging Graham Rahal, who was fighting hard for second at his home race. Power brought home a runner-up result, his fourth career second-place finish at Mid-Ohio. The performance showed he is still very much in the championship hunt as he is now just 52 points behind Newgarden, the new series leader, with a total of 401 points.
Quote: “I know we started on the pole and finished second and that could be viewed as coming up short in some way, but it was a very good finish for the Verizon Chevrolet. We really weren’t on the pace all weekend and really got the most out of qualifying. So second, for the pace of my car, that was as good as we could get today. We’ve had too many seconds in this place, though. Josef (Newgarden) was super fast today. He was just flying around today.”
Next Race: The Verizon IndyCar Series takes a short break before heading to Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, for the ABC Supply 500 on Sunday, Aug. 20 with race coverage beginning at 2 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. Tune into the INDYCAR Radio Network or log on to IndyCar.com for additional coverage.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!