The thirteenth round of NTT IndyCar Series was run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Honda Indy 200.
It’s one of the classic tracks in American racing, and it was also one of the best drivers in qualifying who took Pole Position. Will Power had secured the 57th Pole Position of his career, while Alexander Rossi would start second with a new contract in his pocket.
Championship leader Josef Newgarden started the race from P3, ahead of Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Scott Dixon.
While the start went fine in front, the two Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson had a collision. Later on the lap, Sato had a tour on the gravel after also being involved in the collision between Hinch and Ericsson, causing him a puncture.
Ericsson damaged his suspension in the incident, so he was hopelessly behind before the mechanics repaired the car. After a long attempt, the mechanics had to give up and the Swede climbed out of the car in disappointment.
Marco Andretti had gotten a good start and was up from 19th to 13th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay had lost a couple of places at the start of the race, but he fought his way back up, getting past Jack Harvey and Colton Herta.
After twelve laps, the first drivers began to pit, in an alternative strategy. Amongst others were Pagenaud, Bourdais and Newgarden in the pits, but they came out in the same order.
Bourdais and Herta collided on lap 15, when Herta did a very VERY late dive on the Frenchman. Luckily, Bourdais only lost two positions as Graham Rahal overtook both him and Herta.
Rosenqvist was in attacking-mode and he overtake Rossi for P2, while Dixon was the next person to put Rossi under pressure. The New Zealander managed to get past Rossi two laps later.
27 laps into the race, Rosenqvist took the lead and quickly opened up a gap to Power, who couldn’t match the Swede’s speed at all. Power was on the softer Firestone tires, but Rosenqvist was still faster on the harder, black compound.
A few laps later Rosenqvist pitted, while Power and Dixon followed suit a couple of laps later.
The order one third way into the race was Newgarden leading, in front of Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay and Herta, but all three of them were on a three-stop strategy, while Rosenqvist, Power and Dixon aimed for a two-stop one.
Dixon tried to drive past Power on lap 32, but Power got his ebows out and was about to drive Dixon off the track. Dixon quickly caught up again and already put Power under pressure one lap later. It would take one more lap before Dixon finally got past Power.
When Newgarden got in for his second pitstop after 40 laps, the mechanics couldn’t refuel the car in the first attempt. They had to pull the hose back and set it on the car one more time, before the fuel began to flow. It cost him valuable seconds in the battle for the win. The mechanics changed the fuel hose later, so it would be another one when he’d came back for his last pitstop.
Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter Racing team had a really good strategy at the start of the race. Pigot started in P13 but he was up to second place, with the exact same strategy as Rosenqvist, Dixon and Power.
Rosenqvist pitted for the second time after lap 45 of the 90 laps race, which meant that he was also on a three-stop strategy. He came out a few metres after Power, but just ahead of Rossi in fourth place. Pigot came in the lap later and came out in ninth place, but he was the only driver in top nine who was on the softer tires, apart from Dixon.
On lap 54, Rosenqvist used a good portion of his Push2Pass to overtake Power. After that they drove side by side through Turn 5, 6, 7, and 8, before the Swede got his car ahead in Turn 9 – fantastic driving! However, Rosenqvist had used a lot of his Push2Pass, since he only had about 15 seconds left for the rest of the race, while Dixon, Power and Rossi all had at least one and a half minutes left.
Dixon pitted after 59 laps and got yet another set of red tires mounted on the car. He could drive with them in 30 laps, so he “just” had to do it again. One lap later, Power pitted and came out far behind Dixon, and a couple of laps ahead of Rossi.
Rosenqvist pitted with 24 laps left and came out in second place behind Dixon, with a noticeable distance down to Hunter-Reay in P3. In case all those drivers could avoid punctures, or cooking their tires, they should no longer need to pit again.
This weekend, Carlin car #31 was assigned to RC Enerson, but he didn’t achieve much with 22nd start position and currently running 19th. But his teammate Max Chilton was right in front of him, so it looked like Carlin just didn’t have more speed this weekend.
Newgarden was alone in P4, where all closest his competitors in the championship were behind him, even though he would lose a bit of points to Dixon ahead.
It was obvious that Dixon was in safe-mode with the tires, since Rosenqvist slowly and surely caught up with him. The Swede was on the way to his best result of the season, which thus far had been two fourth places.
With five laps left of the race, Dixon’s lead disappeared quicker than he expected, and he was also under pressure from Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato, who were one lap behind. Dixon did everything he could to keep his car ahead of them, but Rosenqvist, Hunter-Reay and Newgarden came closer and closer, and suddenly they were within four seconds of him – with only one and a half seconds down to Rosenqvist.
Dixon’s rescue was that Andretti and Sato began to fight and swap places several times. Meanwhile Rosenqvist could only drive and swear over them, who were one lap behind.
Everything almost went wrong for Chip Ganassi Racing team, when Rosenqvist decided he had no intention in finishing second. The Swede tried to dive from the inside in Turn 2, but only managed to brake and avoid hitting teammate Dixon off the track!
There was also a wild battle for third place, where Josef Newgarden tried to overtake Ryan Hunter-Reay from the outside, after that he dived on the inside in Turn 2. There was a contact between the two cars, and Newgarden spun around in the gravel, which he never got out of!
What a drama on the very last lap.
But Scott Dixon could bring it home, ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Will Power finished in disappointing fourth place, in followed by Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot and Colton Herta.
What had looked like a quiet day at the office, with the solid plan to extend the lead in the championship for Newgarden, instead became a huge loss of points, with Rossi now climbing up much closer. Simon Pagenaud is still third, while Dixon is now only 62 points after Newgarden in fourth place.
Now the NTT IndyCar Series drivers will have three weeks pause to get their pulse down, before an oval race in Pocono, Pennsylvania at 18 August 2019.