Alexander Rossi has taken his second victory of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The Andretti Autosport driver put in a dominant display, where a superior strategy enabled him to come home with a thirteen second lead at the end of the race having started from pole position. The victory has also put him firmly back into championship contention.
With ninety laps of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on the cards for the Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers, it looked very likely that there would be a three-stop pit strategy for the 2018 running of the Honda Indy 200. However, Rossi and his #27 Andretti Autosport crew came to the party with something else in mind.
Rossi’s pit-crew put the Californian on a two-stop strategy after their pace and fuel numbers in the first stint of the race showed that the bold strategy was possible. The remaining twenty-three drivers in the field, however, remained on a three-stop strategy.
There was a brief moment of panic later on in the race for Rossi, as he came over the radio worried that lapped traffic could throw a spanner in the work for his strategy, which would require him to open up a big lead on the cars behind that would be faster at the end of the race. However, after a superb middle stint, Rossi would wind up with a near-twenty-four-second lead after the field made their final stops with just under thirty laps to go.
From there, it was pretty simple for Alexander to coast home to the chequered flag. He only had lapped cars to negotiate and a lead to maintain. As expected, the gap came down, as Robert Wickens tried everything he could to catch back up on newer tyres. Sadly for Wickens, Rossi’s lead was far too great and the laps remaining were far too few.
Alexander would eventually wind up taking his second win of the season by a margin of 12.828-seconds. The victory is Rossi’s fourth of his career and his second on a traditional road course. Rossi had admitted after taking a superb pole position on Saturday that it meant a lot to him to be performing well at Mid-Ohio, as he had struggled greatly with road course races when he entered the sport back in 2016.
It was a dominant performance by Rossi and Andretti Autosport, with both parties playing their roles to near-perfection to get the victory. In fact, only two mistakes were made by the #27 Honda during the day. The first came when Alexander dipped his left-rear wheel onto the grass during the final stint. The second came when he beached his car off of the track whilst attempting to perform a celebratory burnout after the chequered flag.
Robert Wickens put in yet another scintillating drive to take second place; his sixth top-five finish of the year and his fourth in succession. His hopes for a maiden victory in his rookie season continue to elude him, but the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver can be very happy with his performance, finishing as the best driver on the three-stop pit strategy.
It was a hard-fought battle for the final spots on the podium. Behind Wickens would be Team Penske‘s Will Power in third place, with the Australian spending much of the race in a spirited battle with fourth-placed team-mate Josef Newgarden; who led briefly before the first pit-stops. Finishing right on the coat-tails of Newgarden would be Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon. The New Zealander was unable to take his sixth victory at Mid-Ohio, coming from ninth on the grid to take fifth place.
However, Sebastien Bourdais was the driver who – by far – made up the most positions during the race. The Frenchman crashed early in qualifying on Saturday and was forced to start last. A string of fantastic overtakes – including bold moves on Takuma Sato and Zach Veach early on – coupled with consistently great race pace enabled the Dale Coyne Racing driver to come through to finish in a superb sixth place. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished just behind in seventh place, with Simon Pagenaud also putting in a great drive to take eighth place after starting seventeenth.
Graham Rahal and Zach Veach completed the top ten in the race, with Zach putting on an impressive performance at his home race. His team-mate, Marco Andretti, finished just outside of the top ten in eleventh place; with the two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets of Jordan King and Spencer Pigot in hot pursuit in twelfth and thirteenth respectively.
James Hinchcliffe and Ed Jones were the last two drivers who finished on the lead lap, with Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball the first car one lap down in sixteenth place. Carlin had started the day with high hopes for Kimball’s team-mate Max Chilton after the British driver qualified in a fantastic sixth place the day before.
However, Chilton’s potential decent finish was wiped away fairly early on after he received a penalty for spinning Takuma Sato. A lengthy pit-stop shortly afterward pushed Max to an eventual last-place finish in twenty-fourth; two laps down on the leaders. Only Harding Racing‘s Conor Daly and Dale Coyne’s Pietro Fittipaldi joined him in being multiple laps behind.
Alexander Rossi’s victory means that he is now the closest challenger to Scott Dixon in the championship standings. Just four races remain until the champion is crowned, with a decreased margin of forty-six points separating the pair heading into the next race in three weeks time.
The Verizon IndyCar Series will be back in action on Sunday, August 19 with the 2018 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Race results:
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