Josef Newgarden Finally Converts Dominant Race Into Win at Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / IMS Photo 2021 / Courtesy of IndyCar)

After dominating from start to finish for the third straight race, Josef Newgarden finally converted that dominance into victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. On the week of the fiftieth Anniversary of Roger Penske‘s first NTT IndyCar Series win, the 2019 series champion gave “The Captain” and Team Penske their first win of the season after a hard charge by Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Marcus Ericsson.

In the last eight laps, Ericsson brought the leading gap down from just over three seconds to about a half a second at the very end as traffic creeped up, but the 30-year-old American had amazing grace under pressure to pull away just a bit more and hold onto the victory. His victory today makes Newgarden the winningest American driver in the field with nineteen victories.

An all-American front row on Independence Day saw Newgarden lead the field to green alongside Colton Herta, and Newgarden flew out to a lead as cars fanned out three-wide behind the leaders. As the field braked hard into turn four, Ryan Hunter-Reay had to check up and his Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe both spun in turn four to bring out the first caution of the day. The returning Felix Rosenqvist was also involved as well, being spun in the first turn of the race for the second consecutive year, this time by Romain Grosjean.

Now with a single-file restart at the normal finish line, Newgarden led the field to green again on lap four, but the field ran into trouble once again in the complex of turns four and five to force another caution. Will Power and Scott Dixon were having a spectacular battle for fourth place, and going into turn five side by side Power was squeezed to the curb and spun, throwing smoke across the already blind corner. As incoming cars scattered through plume of smoke, Ed Jones of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan had nowhere to go and smashed into Power, ending his day.

Third time was the charm to finally get a full lap of racing in as the restart came on lap nine as Newgarden charged away. Further back, Grosjean continued to storm into the top ten and looked to the outside of fellow countryman Sebastien Bourdais in the keyhole turn two for ninth place, making an incredible save on the very edge of the track. It was determined that Bourdais blocked Grosjean before that move as he tried to move to the inside, and was forced to give the position back. Adding salt to the wound, Bourdais was also asked to give up tenth place as well to the hard-charging Patricio O’Ward, who started twentieth.

Newgarden gained up to a two and a half second lead before coming into the pits for fresh primary black tyres on lap 30. Of the leaders, only Alexander Rossi and O’Ward came in for the faster alternate red tyres, with everyone else choosing the longevity of the blacks. Herta pit on lap 32, but disaster struck as he had issues with a faulty fuel probe that saw him plummet from second to seventh after the stop. Newgarden regained his lead, now hunted by Ericsson.

Newgarden once again cruised through the second stint with a six and a half second lead to Ericsson. This stint was all about the exciting battle for the last step on the podium as Dixon defended third place from Rossi on his reds, Alex Palou and Graham Rahal. As drivers began to pit, Newgarden made his final stop on lap 53 for blacks to cover off in case of a caution. He was followed by Rossi and Rahal who dueled off of pit road, all onto the black wall tyres. Palou used the overcut to great effect, jumping Rossi for provisional fourth place following his pit stop on lap 55.

Ericsson slowly closed the gap to the lead throughout the stint, and with nine laps to go the Swede brought the gap to Newgarden down to three seconds with traffic up ahead. With two laps to go a large queue of cars lined up behind Jimmie Johnson ahead of Newgarden, with the gap behind now down to one and a half seconds. But after losing out to O’Ward at Belle Isle and then Palou at Road America, Newgarden would not be denied and finally got his well-earned victory. Ericsson came home in second place to continue his incredible run of form with the confidence found from his first IndyCar victory in Detroit in June, and was followed by two of his Ganassi teammates with Palou in third and Dixon in fourth.

Roger Penske congratulates Josef Newgarden after his victory. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens / IMS Photo 2021 / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Rossi was the only Andretti car to finish the race without issue, coming home in fifth place for his best race result so far this season. His teammate Herta was on pace for a top ten finish despite his earlier fueling issues and stalling on his second pit stop, but a fuel miscalculation meant that he had to pit for a splash of fuel and finished thirteenth.

Rossi was closely followed by Rahal in sixth and Grosjean in seventh, who improved eleven positions from his eighteenth place starting position despite sustaining nose damage on the first lap in his incident with Rosenqvist.

O’Ward was the only driver in the top ten who was able to do the final stint on fresh red tyres and looked poised for a seventh place finish, but struggled late on his tyres and fell to ninth and benefitted from Herta’s misfortune to finish eighth. O’Ward was also one of the biggest movers of the race, gaining twelve positions from where he started.

The biggest mover of the race was Santino Ferrucci, who gained thirteen positions from twenty-second to finish ninth, the highest mover of the race in his last scheduled race with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. His teammate Takuma Sato was lifted to tenth after Herta’s pit stop, putting all of the RLLR cars in the top ten.

Rinus Veekay finished a full race at the physical Mid-Ohio course with six screws and a plate in his collarbone after breaking it last month, finishing sixteenth, while Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing rookie Ryan Norman finished twentieth in his debut race in the IndyCar series.

With his podium result, Palou’s lead grows to 39 points over O’Ward in the championship, with Dixon keeping the young guns honest in third. Newgarden holds firm in fourth place while Ericsson jumps up three positions to fifth in the standings.

The IndyCar series will now take their summer break, returning 08 August for the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix at the new Nashville Street Circuit.

Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Official Results

12Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske01:39:58.855
28Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing+ 0.879 sec.
310Alex PalouESPChip Ganassi Racing+ 22.235 sec.
49Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+ 32.377 sec.
527Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport+ 33.141 sec.
615Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 34.122 sec.
751Romain Grosjean (R)FRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing+ 35.163 sec.
85Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP+ 35.692 sec.
945Santino FerrucciUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 35.993 sec.
1030Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 50.331 sec.
1114Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 52.001 sec.
123Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske+ 52.425 sec.
1326Colton HertaUSAAndretti Autosport+ 56.848 sec.
1422Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+ 58.349 sec.
1520Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing+ 58.812 sec.
1621Rinus VeeKayNEDEd Carpenter Racing+ 59.639 sec.
1729James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Steinbrenner Autosport+ 1:07.512 sec.
1859Max ChiltonGBRCarlin+ 1:08.053 sec.
1960Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing+ 1:08.479 sec.
2052Ryan Norman (R)USADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing+ 1 lap
214Dalton KellettCANA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 1 lap
2248Jimmie Johnson (R)USAChip Ganassi Racing+ 1 lap
237Felix RosenqvistSWEArrow McLaren SP+ 2 laps
2428Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport+ 2 laps
2512Will PowerAUSTeam PenskeCrash
2618Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-SullivanCrash
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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