(LEXINGTON, OHIO) – What a season Team Penske has had in 2022. Only winning 3 races in 2021 (Mid-Ohio, Indianapolis & Bommarito) then turn the page to 2022 with wins at St. Petersburg, Texas, Long Beach, Belle Isle, Road America and now today with Scott McLaughlin’s win at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio gives Team Penske 6 wins on the season.
On a day when virtually every driver in the field left the track with a story to tell, it was McLaughlin, who brought home Team Penske’s 6 win in 2022 when he held off reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda over the final 17 laps, beating him to the finish line by 0.55 seconds.
Today’s finish was the second time this season these two drivers have finished first and second in that order — the first was in the season-opening race in St. Pete, when McLaughlin won his first series race. That gap in the end was just 0.5 sec, and Palou was satisfied with second after being edged out of the Fast 6 in qualifying on Saturday. Palou rose to 4th in the standings, just 35 points back. McLaughlin jumped two positions to seventh in the standings, 69 points back of Ericsson, the winner of the Indianapolis 500.
“It was so close,” Palou said. “Our car was fast, we just missed it by this much. Amazing strategy, amazing pit stops — super-happy.”
McLaughlin’s 3rd podium of the season and Palou’s fourth allowed them to close in on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Marcus Ericsson held his points lead with a sixth-place finish in the No. 8 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda, but he is now just 20 points ahead of Power. Josef Newgarden, who finished seventh, is third, 34 points back.
Credit to McLaughlin and the No. 3 team who executed their race flawlessly, but they also caught a massive break when a caution was needed to retrieve Kyle Kirkwood’s car right in the middle of a pit window and race control opted to wait until the three cars that had yet to stop. The yellow finally waved just as McLaughlin exited the pits in the lead, and eliminated any vulnerability on his out lap. The call caused some chagrin among some of the others in the top 10.
“This is amazing,” McLaughlin said. “I’m really proud of the (Team Penske crew). The car they gave me was a little hard to drive toward the end. I would love to make it a little bit easier for myself, but I’m super proud of them.
“It was tough,” said McLaughlin of spending the rest of the afternoon trying to keep the No.10 Ganassi car in his mirrors. “You’re thinking about fuel (at the end of the race), but thankfully Chevy gave us great fuel mileage and drivability off the restarts that allowed me to get a bit of a gap from Palou.”
Following McLaughlin, the standout drive of the day belonged to the driver of the car just behind him in third. 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power, who rallied from the 21st starting spot and a Lap 1 spin in Turn 9 to his 4th podium finish of the season in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“Amazing day,” he said. “I said in a strategy meeting — which I have a few times this year after we’ve qualified badly — a top 10 would be great. Some good restarts, good exchanges, good pit stops, good strategy and a great job by the team. Starting from the back is certainly more entertaining than leading from the front! Stoked.”
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay finished 4th in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet, his only complaint afterwards being about what he thought was some overly boisterous driving from Power. Ericsson and Newgarden, meanwhile, both salvaged a decent points haul after disappointing qualifying performances and finished sixth and seventh respectively. and six-time Mid-Ohio race winner Scott Dixon rounded out the top five in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“The race control yellow happens, but now they’re waiting — that’s kind of new,” said Scott Dixon. “Had the caution happened when it should have, I think we’d have come out in front. Today we looked like an IMSA race. And I’m fine with that, but we need to be consistent. I think race control needs to work out where they want to be.”
The 1st stoppage came on Lap 1 for a waved-off start, and the 2nd was on Lap 10 for a mechanical failure on the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist, who was running third when his car started hitting the rev limiter in Turn 2 and then billowed smoke.
“I came out of Turn 2 and it felt like I was on the pit limiter, then it got going again after I pulled the clutch ,and then on the straight it just died. I think we had a mega weekend going; we were off-strategy on the black tires, I’d moved up from fourth to third… it’s a big loss for us today. I felt like we were sailing out there. We showed that we were up there and fighting for it – we just have to come back and do it again.”
It was an forgettable day for NTT P1 Award winner Pato O’Ward, who started 1st and led the 1st 28 laps in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. However, on Lap 30, O’Ward began reporting power issues on his car.
By Lap 54, O’Ward’s car had completely lost power as it stalled at the end of pit lane. His Arrow McLaren SP team pushed his car back to the pit box, where O’Ward exited and ended the streak of Mid-Ohio polesitters winning the race at three.
O’Ward’s misfortunate allowed McLaughlin, who started second, to inherit the lead during a round of green flag pit stop cycles on Lap 31.
“Apparently it was something fuel-delivery wise,” he said. “It kept getting worse and worse and worse and then it failed. It’s a bummer, man. Its frustrating. We’ve thrown away an easy podium. We had a lot of pace — the car was really well put together.”
As it was a awful day for Arrow McLaren, maybe a worse day for Andretti Autosport. Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean came together twice in two laps; the second one being amplified by Rossi’s steering wheel being knocked out of his hands mid-corner, sending him wide and punting Grosjean into the dirt. The Frenchman was left a lap down.
“It was a racing incident,” said Rossi. “He was on the softer tire and was probably going to get around me, and he likes to do it fast and early. Had some understeer there, and it’s unfortunate to have contact with a teammate.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES takes a week off before heading to Toronto for the first time in 3 years due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Honda Indy Toronto will take place Sunday, July 17 at 3 p.m. (ET), live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.