Power Captures Race 1 At Mid-Ohio

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 13 2020

Will Power got his first IndyCar Series win of the season on Saturday. He will shoot for No. 2 on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

The most physically demanding track on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule and the threat of rain were no match Saturday afternoon for Team Penske’s Will Power, who cruised to his first win of 2020 in Race 1 of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Power drove the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet to a dominating win in a caution-free 75-lap race, beating teammate Josef Newgarden to the finish line by 7.4523- seconds for his 38th career INDYCAR win. The 2014 series champion led 66 of 75 laps from the pole after winning the NTT P1 Award in qualifying earlier in the day. It was Power’s 60th INDYCAR pole, inching him closer to Mario Andretti’s record of 67.

“I’m so happy to have the Verizon No. 12 car in Victory Lane,” Power said. “This is probably the first race, I reckon, in about 10 years that I’ve just gone hard. Like every other race we’ve tried to save fuel and play a strategy game. Today I said, ‘Let’s just go hard, man. Screw this. We don’t want to get caught by a yellow. Let’s just run hard and use my raw pace and see what happens.’ And we won the race.

“It was a great strategy. It’s just putting down good laps, lap after lap after lap. Just a flawless day. It’s what you have to do to win races in this series. The whole team did a fantastic job.”

Rounding out the top five were runnerup Newgarden in the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 Honda, Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Honda and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 Honda.

“It was a pretty straightforward day,” said Newgarden, the two-time/reigning series champion. “Where we started is where we finished with the PPG Chevrolet. It was good to get by Ryan (Hunter-Reay) right there at the beginning of the race, and that helped us, for sure.

“But congrats to Will _ he is still Will Power. He’s been knocked down a little bit this year, but he drove really well and that was a clinic he put on out there. I’m really happy for him, but we were just a couple of tenths slower than him all day long today. I could kind of tell we were fighting for second today. We just need to be a little better. We picked up some good points today, which is good.”

It was the fourth podium finish of the season for Power, who last visited Victory Lane on Sept. 1, 2019 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway _ 377 days ago. His previous podiums this season were recorded at Road America-1 and on the Iowa-2 and Gateway-2 ovals.

The Australian’s victory was his first at Mid-Ohio and Team Penske’s 11th on the 2.258-mile/13-turn natural terrain layout in Lexington, Ohio, tying Chip Ganassi Racing for most wins at the circuit. The win also extended Power’s streak of consecutive seasons with at least one win to 14, dating to 2007.

“It’s just great to tick the Mid-Ohio box,” said Power, the 2018 Indianapolis 500 champion. “I’m over the moon about that.”

Power’s biggest challenge came from 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Rossi, who used alternate pit strategies at every chance to try to get in front of Power. During the first round of green flag pit stops between Laps 19-29, Rossi stayed out to try to overcut the leaders. Rossi led five laps during the cycle and jumped one position when green flag pit stops cycled through, from fifth to fourth.

On Lap 46, Rossi was the first driver to pit as he flipped the script and attempted to undercut the leaders. Rossi gained another position, jumping from fourth to third once green flag pit stops cycled through on Lap 53. Rossi held off a late-charging Rahal to score his second podium of the season. Rossi also finished third at Road America-2.

“Yeah, it’s good,” said Rossi, of Andretti Autosport. “We just haven’t had a lot of things go our way. I don’t think we’ve had luck, but we haven’t had pace either. We’re just really trying to go out and make the most of each opportunity we have for the rest of this year. The No. 27 NAPA/AutoNation guys did a great job. The car was good.

“Had we been able to clear Ryan a bit sooner and get Josef, we could have had a shot at it. The car’s pace was really good. Regardless, it wasn’t meant to be. Starting P6 was always going to be a bit of a challenge, but nonetheless it was a good day for us, and we get to do it all again (Sunday).”

Saturday’s biggest surprise was delivered by series point-leader Scott Dixon, the winningest INDYCAR driver at Mid-Ohio with six victories. The defending event champion, Dixon quietly finished 10th _ his second-worst result of the season.

Dixon struggled in qualifying and started 17th. He looked strong early, improving six spots in the first eight laps, placing him 11th. Unfortunately, the five-time series champion from Chip Ganassi Racing remained in that pack for the remainder of the race.

“It’s was just OK for us in the No. 9 Honda,” Dixon said. “It just didn’t play-out the way we thought it would. We went with a cautious move and made sure we ran the (Firestone soft) red tires first based on what we saw in qualifying. I guess looking back maybe we should have gone the other way, but who knows?

“Then we got caught up with (Colton) Herta on the pit exit, and I’m not sure what happened there or why he slowed up or whatever, but I thought we might have broken the front end after that. I hit him pretty hard, but I guess at the end of the day we made up seven or so spots and that’s a small win.”

Dixon’s 96-point championship lead over second-place Newgarden shrunk by 20 points. Third-place Pato O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 McLaren SP Chevy, finished 11th and is 120 points back of Dixon with four races remaining in a season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This weekend’s doubleheader is open to a limited number of spectators required to follow health and safety protocols, including the statewide mask mandate.

Power will look to sweep the weekend at Mid-Ohio on Sunday during Race 2 of the doubleheader at 1 p.m. (EDT, NBC). Qualifying for Sunday’s race will take place at 10:15 a.m., live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. In addition, radio coverage will be available for the race on SiriusXM Ch. 211. 

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 13 2020
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