Scott Dixon has scored his sixth victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the NTT IndyCar Series after holding off his Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate Felix Rosenqvist in an intense late-race battle. Dixon utilized a two-stop strategy to get himself to the lead of the race for the final stages of the race, but a hard-charging Rosenqvist on a three-stop strategy closed in to literally push him all the way to the chequered flag.
Elsewhere, championship-leader Josef Newgarden spun after contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap of the race to fall from fourth place to fourteenth. As a result, his championship lead has now been reduced to just seventeen points over Alexander Rossi with just four races remaining in the season.
As was the case twelve months ago, strategy played a defining role in the outcome of the race at Mid-Ohio. Just like last year, the teams and drivers had a choice as to whether to comfortably make the race distance on a three-stop pit-strategy or to try and stretch their fuel and tyres to make it on just two-stops.
Most of the field made their strategic intentions known fairly early on. After the initial pit window for the three-stoppers came and went shortly after the first ten laps, it looked as though only Dixon, Rossi, pole-sitter Will Power, Rosenqvist and Spencer Pigot would be attempting to make it to the end on two-stops, with the rest of the field having committed to a three-stop strategy due to their early stops.
As the two-stoppers came to their first pit-stops of the race, the lead would change hands as Rosenqvist passed Power at the end of the backstretch. Rosenqvist, Power and Dixon would soon make their pit-stops, with Rossi and Pigot pitting just before after falling back with aging tyres.
During the mid-stages of the race, Rosenqvist made a somewhat surprising pit-stop to seemingly switch from a two-stop strategy to a three-stop strategy. However, Ganassi would state soon after that this had been the plan for Felix all along. His pace in his second stint saw him come out well ahead of the other three-stopping drivers; with Felix hoping that his two-stopping rivals would encounter issues at the end of the race so that he could try and fight for his maiden IndyCar victory.
Once all of the pit-stops had been completed, approximately twenty-five laps remained until the chequered flag would fly. Scott Dixon was the runaway leader of the race on the two-stop strategy, with his team-mate Rosenqvist nine-seconds behind him in second place as the first driver on the three-stop strategy. It was now down to Rosenqvist to see if he could use his fresher rubber to close in on his team-mate.
As the race end drew nearer, Dixon’s tyres started to fall away. Ganassi put Dixon on slightly used alternate tyres for the final stint, which put the reigning series champion in a sticky situation as the laps clicked away. As the race entered it’s final ten laps, Dixon’s lead had been trimmed to just five and a half seconds. After another five laps, the lead was down to just two seconds.
Dixon’s saving grace in the closing laps appeared to come from the quartet of lapped cars between himself and his team-mate. However, Dixon’s tyres were in such a poor condition that those lapped cars then began to try and un-lap themselves. Rosenqvist tried as hard as he can to pass the lapped cars when he could, finally clearing the fourth and final lapped driver with just over a lap remaining in the race.
Rosenqvist closed in to be right on the gearbox of Dixon as the pair started their final lap of the race. Rosenqvist, determined to secure what would have been his first win in IndyCar, had a look up the inside of Dixon at the hairpin of turn two. The pair made slight contact but, crucially, were able to keep going. From there, Rosenqvist wouldn’t quite be close enough to have another attempt at overtaking his team-mate.
At the end of the lap, Dixon would cross the line to take the race victory, with Rosenqvist finishing less than a car-length behind to finish in second place, just 0.093 of a second between them. For Dixon, the win was a crucial one as he continues to try and edge his way back into serious championship contention with the three drivers ahead of him in the standings. It would also be the New Zealander’s sixth win at the Mid-Ohio circuit.
For Rosenqvist, second-place would be somewhat disappointing bearing in mind just how close he came to taking his maiden victory. However, the Swedish driver will be happy to have taken his first podium finish in IndyCar and will be looking ahead to the final four races to try and claim the rookie of the year honours and, potentially, his first win.
Whilst the eyes of the fans and the cameras of the television crews were focused on the fight for victory, the fight for the final spot on the podium was just as spicy on the final lap of the race. Andretti Autosport‘s Ryan Hunter-Reay had been closing in all the time on the two leaders but instead had to focus his attention on defending his podium finish from championship-leader Josef Newgarden.
Newgarden, with a podium within his grasp that would give him some extra championship points. Newgarden was right on the back of Hunter-Reay as the pair rounded the keyhole hairpin of turn two for the final time. Hunter-Reay defended the inside, with Newgarden going wide on the entry of the corner to attempt to cut back to the inside of Ryan on the exit of the corner. However, there wasn’t quite enough space on the inside of Hunter-Reay for Newgarden. The pair would make contact, with Newgarden being sent spinning into the gravel on the outside of the corner.
Hunter-Reay would continue after the contact and would go on to claim his second podium finish of the season. Newgarden, on the other hand, would be unable to get his car back going again. He would have to agonisingly watch as the field streamed by, including his closest championship rival Alexander Rossi who would go on to finish the race and claw back some vital championship points. Josef would admit post-race that the incident with Hunter-Reay was his own doing and that he was frustrated to have given up crucial points to Rossi.
Pole-sitter Will Power was unable to pull off the two-stop pit-strategy to great effect. He would finish in fourth place, a strong points haul, with Alexander Rossi taking a crucial fifth place just behind him. For Rossi, his two-stop strategy would not get him the race win as it did twelve months ago, but he will have been delighted to have seen Newgarden in the gravel on the final lap. As a result, the Californian has now trimmed Newgarden’s points advantage down from twenty-nine points to seventeen points with four races remaining until the champion is crowned.
Penske’s Simon Pagenaud would take the finish in sixth place to gain points on his team-mate Newgarden but to simultaneously lose ground to Rossi in the standings. He will be hoping for a great result in a few weeks time at Pocono Raceway to firmly place himself back in the title fight.
A great late-race tussle saw Spencer Pigot just beat Colton Herta to take seventh place. Graham Rahal would finish just behind in ninth place, with Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey driving a solid race on his return to the championship to take the final spot inside the top ten. Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais finished just outside of the top ten after having lost ground early on after a collision with Herta at turn two and a penalty for speeding in the pit-lane.
Further back, Josef Newgarden would be classified one lap down in fourteenth place after his last-lap incident with Hunter-Reay. After his victory a week ago at Iowa Speedway, the Penske driver will be hoping to bounce back by taking another oval victory in a few weeks time at Pocono.
Only one driver would fail to finish the race. After a superb effort in qualifying on Saturday, Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s Marcus Ericsson would have his race ended on lap one after an incident at the first corner with team-mate James Hinchcliffe and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato. Sato appeared to go late on the brakes into the first corner of the race and would subsequently make contact with Ericsson. The hit from Sato would send Ericsson into the side of Hinchcliffe, with all three cars having to pit at the end of the lap for repairs.
Sato would be able to continue on the lead lap of the race and would eventually come home one-lap down in nineteenth place after a late issue with the side pod of his #30 Honda would bring him in for a late pit-stop. Things weren’t so great for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson drivers, however, as Hinchcliffe would spend the remainder of the race two-laps down after a lengthy pit-stop, with Ericsson even worse off after being forced to retire on lap one as a result of his damage.
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will now take a break before reconvening for the fourteenth race of the season, the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 18. Alexander Rossi will enter the race as the defending race winner at “the tricky triangle” and will be hoping that history repeats itself as he continues to try and close in on the championship-leader, Josef Newgarden.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Race results:
[table id=4014 /]