Newgarden breaks Penske jinx with Mid-Ohio win

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Newgarden breaks Penske jinx with Mid-Ohio win

IndyCar

Newgarden breaks Penske jinx with Mid-Ohio win

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Josef Newgarden saw off a late charge by Marcus Ericsson to put Team Penske on the top step of the NTT IndyCar Series podium for the first time this season at Mid-Ohio on Sunday.

On a weekend marking the 50th anniversary of Penske’s first win with Mark Donohue at Pocono in 1971, Newgarden led the entire race outside of the pit stop cycles, and at times stretched his advantage over the rest of the field to more than 8s.

That stage of the race must have seemed like a distant memory as Ericsson’s No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda loomed ever larger in Newgarden’s mirrors on the run to the finish. Both were on the primary tires for the last stint, but the different in pace between the two was all too apparent. As an added curveball, Newgarden found himself closing in on a train of cars queuing behind Jimmie Johnson in the final two laps.

But while Newgarden had dominated the past two races only for disaster to strike, fortune was kinder this time around, and he crossed the line just 0.8s of the pursuing Swede.

“We’ve been in the game at every race and had great performance, so it’s great to finally get a win here,” he said. “We’re going to need two or three more of these to get back into the championship, but I’m thrilled. Let’s keep it up. We’ve got six races to go. We can make it happen.”

For Ericsson, whose second place was the spear tip of a 2-3-4 finish for Ganassi, the only regret was that the race wasn’t a couple of laps longer.

“We had a great day,” he said. “The whole team, to get the 2-3-4 was a great result. We were pushing very hard at the end to catch Josef, and (if we had) a couple of more laps we could have challenged him), but P3 is a very good result today.”

Alex Palou completed the podium and added some additional padding to his championship lead over Pato O’Ward.

“It was a good day,” said the Spaniard. “We were really fast. We did a good strategy, the guys in the pits were amazing and I think we had the fastest pit stop, so that’s what gave us the podium today.”

Fourth place was essentially a salvage job for Scott Dixon, who spent the entire afternoon trying to tame his car’s rear. Outside of his handling problems, Dixon’s most consequential moment in the race came very early on when he was trying to take advantage of his grippier alternate tires to get around the primary-shod Will Power for fourth after the first restart. The pair swapped places twice, but when Power challenged again, Dixon’s efforts to slam the door shut resulted in contact that spun Power into the path of Ed Jones, eliminating both cars.

“Super-disappointed to be out that early,” said Power, nursing a bandaged — but not broken — wrist. “I don’t know why Scott squeezed me down so much. I had nowhere to go and I slowed down a lot to make sure I wouldn’t hit him, but he squeezed me so tight it was impossible.

“I knew he’d be aggressive; I was on blacks and he was on reds, so I knew he wanted to get by. That’s what you get when you choose blacks; people are going to attack you pretty hard.”

Dixon had a similar take.

“We just had to get past Will,” he said. “At no point did I want to take anybody out — we were pushing hard. I didn’t do anything on purpose, and I’m sorry for his day not turning out.”

Elsewhere, Colton Herta loomed as an early threat to Newgarden’s aspirations, but two bad pit stops — the first due to a faulty fuel probe; the second the result of Herta stalling after his car was released — banished him to the outer fringes of the top 10. He was ultimately classified 13th after making an unscheduled stop at the end of the race.

There was better fortune for Pato O’Ward, who turned a potentially disastrous starting position of 20th into a reasonably satisfying eighth place, helped by a fast car and some equally fast pit stops.

The race was interrupted twice by cautions, both of which came in the opening six laps. The first was triggered on Lap 1when Ryan-Hunter-Reay appeared to check up and was hit by teammate James Hinchcliffe, knocking the No. 28 Andretti Autosport car into a spin that collected Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist, who in turn was pounded by Romain Grosjean.

Remarkably, all of the cars involved were able to continue, albeit two laps down in Hunter-Reay and Rosenqvist’s case.

The restart was followed immediately by another yellow for the Dixon/Power incident, meaning that seven laps passed before the field was finally able to complete a full trip around the Mid-Ohio layout under green.

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