Today was a nervous day for Roger Penske at the Mid-Ohio Sports car course, as his two drivers and championship contenders, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, battled to death in the Honda Indy 200.
But it didn’t always look that way with trouble starting for the Penske team on Lap 6 when Chip Ganassi’s, Scott Dixon, made contact with Helio Castroneves. The caution came out as Dixon’s front left suspension was broken. Castroneves continued. When the new leaders, Montoya and Andretti, (who didn’t pit under the caution), came in for their stops on Lap 27, SMP Racing’s, Mikhail Aleshin, assumed the effective lead with a perfectly timed pitstop. Penske team mates, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, tucked in for 2nd and 3rd.
As the race neared the half way point on Lap 40, Aleshin pitted and retained the lead, whilst Power undercut Pagenaud, dropping the Frenchman to effective third position.
The top 3 would stay that way until another caution on lap 61 for Jack Hawksworth who dipped a wheel onto the grass at Turn 1 and lost control, going straight into the barriers. Aleshin lost his 10 second lead over the Penske drivers as they neared pit road, but that was the least of his concerns.
As all three came to pit road, Aleshin was released first, but into the path of Josef Newgarden. This meant that both Power and Pagenaud jumped the Russian driver – as he came out fifth. But the damage was worse than originally feared – and he had to pit again for repairs. He would finish 17th, as what looked like his maiden Indycar win was ripped away from him in cruel and harsh circumstances.
Rookie driver, Conor Daly, opted to stay out over the caution and assumed the lead, whilst a battle began to brew between Power and Pagenaud on the race restart.
With just under 30 laps to go, an aggressive pass through the Carousal section (Turns 12 and 13) saw Pagenaud jump ahead of Power. With each lap that passed by, a win for Conor Daly looked more and more possible, but he had to pit with 10 laps left (for fuel) – he would finish 6th.
Pagenaud continued to pull away from Power, and eventually won the race and extended his points gap on the 2nd placed Power from 47 to 58. Andretti Autosport’s, Carlos Munoz, would round out the podium places.
Indycar will return to the oval in just under 3 weeks time with the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. The unique triangular oval will be Will Power’s chance to narrow his points lead to Simon Pagenaud if he is too stand a chance at winning the championship in the last 4 rounds.