Josef Newgarden Wins at Mid-Ohio

Two weeks ago, Josef Newgarden put on quite a performance on his way to victory on the streets of Toronto. Today, he outdid himself. Newgarden dominated today’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio, leading 73 of the 90 laps en route to his third win of the season. The 5.1556 second margin of victory felt more like five minutes. With the win, Newgarden takes over the top spot in the championship standings with just four races remaining.

Will Power earned himself another runner-up finish at Mid-Ohio, which is his fourth. Three of those 2nd place finishes, including today, have come when he started the race from pole position. Power is still searching for his first win on the 2.258-mile road course. Graham Rahal joined the Team Penske drivers on the podium. It has been a good race for the hometown driver. His last four finishes here are 5th, 1st, 4th, and 3rd place today.

Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Box Score

Defending series champion Simon Pagenaud, and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato rounded out the top five on Sunday. It was an impressive weekend from start to finish for Sato, and Pagenaud is still the only driver to have completed every lap of competition this season. The only person to achieve that feat is Tony Kanaan in 2004.

Speaking of impressive runs, Alexander Rossi had yet another one. He finished in 6th place, but seemed to have a car capable of fighting for a spot on the podium. Helio Castroneves was the last of the Penske cars in 7th, and Ryan Hunter-Reay had an eventful day that resulted with an 8th place finish. He made contact with Rossi early in the race, and ended up spinning. He fought his way back to the front though, and didn’t appear to have any ill will towards his teammate.

Scott Dixon and Conor Daly rounded out the top ten. It was a disappointing weekend for Dixon, who has won this race five times. He entered today with the lead in the championship, but now finds himself in 3rd with just four races to go. Daly was thrilled with his finish, as he should be. The struggles AJ Foyt Racing have had this year are well documented, and understandable given all of the changes they have gone through since last year.

After running in the top five for most of the afternoon, James Hinchcliffe had to settle for an 11th place finish, which felt like a punch in the gut to he and the SPM team. Marco Andretti had a fast car all weekend, but an issue with fuel on his second to last pit stop ruined his afternoon. It was a dreadful weekend for Ed Carpenter Racing. JR Hildebrand was never up front, and Spencer Pigot’s hard crash in today’s warmup session forced the team to ready the backup car.

Newgarden leads Castroneves by 7 points, and Dixon by 8 points, with Pagenaud and Power rounding out the top five in the championship. Four races remain, with double points being awarded in the season finale at Sonoma.

Teams and drivers now get a much deserved break, as the next stop on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is three weeks away. That event is the ABC Supply 500 on August 20 at Pocono Raceway. NBCSN will have coverage of the event, which begins at 2 PM ET on Sunday. It is the first of the final four races of the season.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “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 alright. We’re right there and it will come down to Sonoma. Congratulations to Josef (Newgarden). They’re really on a roll right now.”

Josef Newgarden: “I’ve got an amazing crew. When they give me a car like this, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s easier at least. I think we’ve been hitting on all cylinders, no pun intended. But these guys were awesome this weekend, had good stops. It was a really fast car. Reds (Firestone alternate tires), blacks (Firestone primary tires), it didn’t matter, the car was fast, so just tried to do my job. I think everyone’s going to want to drive this PPG car. I’m pretty sure it was lucky for (Simon) Pagenaud last year, think it’s lucky for us, so we’re probably going to be fighting over this car paint.” (About taking championship lead): “That’s great. We’ve just got to keep it up. No mistakes. If we don’t have any mistakes, we’ve got plenty enough to win this championship, so we’re going to keep giving what we got for the last four races.”

Helio Castroneves: “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.”

Conor Daly: “You know obviously it’s great to come away in the top 10, a huge step for us, and just to be able to fight with those guys all day and be catching (Scott) Dixon. Really, challenging the No. 9 car any time is good, so it’s fun to be able to fight with those guys. Especially (James Hinchcliffe) Hinch too, because Hinch has had a really good year and he’s been really fast, so I think we made great steps forward. My guys gave me solid pit stops and we came through with a solid race today. No issues, didn’t get hit, didn’t get knocked off or anything, nothing broke, so that’s nice.”

James Hinchcliffe: 
“Really disappointing day for us. We didn’t have the quickest car in traffic, so we put ourselves on a strategy to run in clean air and it was working. We got ourselves to seventh place after that last round of stops after being back in 12th after the first stint. Credit to the Arrow Electronics boys in the pits and the car – in clean air it was strong. But then we found ourselves, with that yellow, on the wrong tires, and I burned a lot of push-to-pass to get ourselves up there, so we were really just a sitting duck on that restart with wrong tires and no push-to-pass. It’s unfortunate that yellow (flag) fell, it really screwed our race. We were strong in certain conditions, we played our hand the best we could to put ourselves in a good spot and unfortunately the yellow just screwed us. We chalk it up to experience and move on to the next one.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “I think today was a good race for the Lucas Oil car. We had a good strategy and good pace, it’s just very difficult to overtake at this track. I think we had really good pace in the race, and that’s really what is so important. Next time we need to qualify a bit better, and we know what we need to do for that. The guys had really great pit stops and worked so well to put together what ended up being a good finish.”

Max Chilton:
 “I’m actually really happy with the No. 8 car performance and myself. Best fuel saving I’ve ever done. Race went really well apart from the start. We just got in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t know where I was in the race. I thought I was eighth or ninth and then they told me I was 15th. Not a great representative of our performance in the race, but at the end of the day, our car wasn’t quick enough at the moment in qualifying and that’s what hurt us.”

Scott Dixon: “It obviously wasn’t the way we wanted the race to go today for the NTT Data car. I really wasn’t 100 percent happy after we tested here last week and in qualifying. I don’t think we ever had the balance right where we wanted it. It felt like something broke on the car and we made some major front wing adjustments in the race. We had a problem on the left rear on pit lane and that took some time as well. Overall, just not our weekend. We held in there and fought, but need to regroup and get ready for Pocono in a few weeks. Points are really at a premium now with four to go.”

Tony Kanaan: “I’m really disappointed with our race today. We had a huge challenge in front of us with starting so far back, but we were able to jump a few spots in the first half of the race. We made a call on strategy to come in under yellow to top off on fuel that just didn’t work in our favor in the long run. It’s been a pretty difficult weekend for us, so I’m glad we can move on and start thinking about Pocono.”

Will Power: “(The car) was OK. We just had too much push on reds (Firestone alternate tires). I think we were pretty good on blacks (Firestone primary tires), but even at the end there, red tires, the front would just not work. But solid day. Solid day for points. Obviously it’s still very mixed up there, but we’ve just got to keep making hay.”

Carlos Munoz: “Another long race. We went aggressive on strategy to get up front. We needed several yellows in the race to help us, but when we take a chance it didn’t work. This year it seems taking a chance doesn’t work for us in any of the races.”

Graham Rahal: “It was a good run and the Steak ‘n Shake boys did a good job in the pits. The strategy was fine. Our car had great pace today. We just could never quite get in clear air, but I’m really proud of everyone on the Steak ‘n Shake team. Obviously to be the only team in the top five other than a Penske speaks volumes to the quality of people we have in this organization. We’re going to keep our heads down, keep working hard. It was another good day for our United Rentals Turns for Troops program. We raised a lot of money to help the veterans today. We’ll be back strong in Pocono.”

Esteban Gutierrez: 
“It was a bit eventful, but I think we can be happy about the progress we made in terms of pace. The first pit stop impacted the outcome of our race. It was not good timing, there was a bit of miscommunication on my part, but we were able to continue the race and that was the important thing. We were showing very strong pace overall. I think that’s the positive we can take out of this race. We lost the chance to finish in the top 10, which I was aiming for. It was still quite fun, especially on the restart at the front. Now we have to look forward to the next two races, two ovals. Hopefully we’ll be making some progress again.”

Ed Jones: “Overall, it was a difficult weekend. The race didn’t go our way, the car was a little hard to drive, then we had an issue on a pit stop which sent me to the back of the field, and then I had the spin that sent me two laps down. It was a bit of a weekend to forget, to be honest.”

Spencer Pigot: 
“First of all, it was great to even make the start of the race. All of guys did an amazing job building up a spare car for me in just a few hours, so a huge thanks to them. As far as the race, we had some damage to the rear of the car at the start that really didn’t make it easy. Either way, I don’t think it was going to be our day. I’m frustrated with how it all went, but hopefully the No. 20 car guys can rebound in Pocono with Ed (Carpenter) and I’ll jump back in at Watkins Glen.”

JR Hildebrand: “I’m just super frustrated and bummed for my Fuzzy’s Vodka guys. We started on blacks (Firestone primary tires) and were able to run long, then when we got on our first set of reds (Firestone alternate tires) we were still running long and able to save fuel. I felt like I could have saved even more than I needed to. Everything was looking pretty good, then we sort of got hosed by our own success in a way. We had been saving fuel and were going longer than the cars around us; we basically got caught out by staying out too long. A yellow came out and we had to stop under a closed pit. Even just not making it in before that yellow would have put us all the way to the back of the lead lap anyway, but then, to add insult to injury, we had some sort of mechanical malfunction with the fuel probe and didn’t get all of the fuel in. We had to pit again under green and just cruised around on our own until the end. We can feel good about putting ourselves in a good spot and bouncing back from what was a pretty tough weekend all around. We’ve got a little bit of a break now, then we’ll see what we have in Pocono.”

Takuma Sato: “I think starting third and finishing fifth isn’t the perfect scenario, but we had an issue in the pits, and then we lost a couple of places when we went back out on track. At the least, it was actually fun. We overtook a couple cars and then regained and recovered the position. I think the four Andretti Autosport cars had a solid day under difficult circumstances and I think that we performed really well. Let’s just say, the rest of the season we just need to have a solid performance to bring back the championship points.”

Marco Andretti: 
“We didn’t qualify as high as we wanted, so we knew we’d have a little bit of work starting from 14th. We were running well and had made up ground, then on the second to last stop, we had a short fill and didn’t get all the fuel into the car, which put us in fuel-saving mode. From there, we had to make huge fuel numbers to make it to the end. I’m not sure if we had the car to win, but I do know it’s hard to contend when you’re saving fuel, so that was our day made. We’ll get back at it in Pocono.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had a good race going today and the DHL team was going to be top five no doubt, until we made contact with (Alexander) Rossi. That set us back. We stayed at it and the boys did a great job in the pits all day. We were able to salvage a race that was going to be absolutely terrible and managed to keep it inside the top eight.”

Charlie Kimball: “We just really struggled with the balance all day. The car was on a knife edge, and I wasn’t confident enough in the car to really make the most out of it when we had clear track. We fought traffic a lot, but that’s what happens when you qualify mid-pack. Really a frustrating day. The bright spot was definitely the guys in pit lane. They work so hard day in and day out. I’m glad they’ll be getting a couple of weekends off now moving forward. I hope they can relax and get some time with their families, because when we come back to Pocono we’re going to be hungrier than ever.”

Alexander Rossi: “We chose a pretty aggressive strategy starting on blacks (Firestone primary tires) and I think it was working pretty well for us, but unfortunately the stint on used (Firestone alternate) reds was a lot more challenging than we originally thought it would be. We lost about 12 seconds on the reds and that was the difference for us between challenging for a podium and finishing sixth.”

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