Newgarden breaks Penske’s curse with Mid-Ohio win

IndyCar

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After two agonising defeats in a row, the third time was the charm for Josef Newgarden to score his first win of the 2021 IndyCar season. Newgarden took a commanding victory in Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, leading 73 out of 80 laps for his and Penske’s first win of 2021.

Completing a full lap under green flag conditions proved a challenge at the start of the race. The first of two full-course cautions came just two corners into the race, when Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, and the returning Felix Rosenqvist were involved in a chain-reaction incident.

Less than a lap after the race resumed, Will Power spun off while battling Scott Dixon for position. He then kicked up a cloud of smoke as he attempted to get back on track – in doing so, Ed Jones was unable to avoid striking Power over the blind crest at turn five. Both Jones and Power retired due to damage and were taken to the infield care centre and cleared.

After the early carnage, Newgarden dominated proceedings – just as he did in the second race at Detroit, and just as he did at Road America, only to luck out both times. He only conceded the lead during the two routine windows for pit stops, where Newgarden pitted on laps 30 and 53.

Colton Herta ran second in the first stint of the race, but a fuel flow problems at his first pit stop caused him to drop down the order. Marcus Ericsson inherited second place, but Newgarden led by as much as 8.6 seconds in the middle stages of the race.

Start, Mid-Ohio, IndyCar, 2021
Chaos broke out behind Newgarden at the start
That sickening feeling of deja vu must have lingered in the cockpit of Newgarden’s car, however, once Ericsson closed down to within 3.5 seconds with ten laps remaining. His Ganassi rival pushed hard to close the deficit down to less than 1.5 seconds with two laps to go, and the pair were separated by less than a second on the final lap.

But this time Newgarden finally closed the deal on his long-awaited first win of the year, holding off Ericsson at the line by 0.879 seconds. Ericsson’s second-place finish marks his second podium in four races, following his maiden win at the first race in Detroit.

Great pit work helped championship leader Alex Palou jump to third place on the last stint, and he was able to pull away to secure the final podium place – and extend his championship lead over Patricio O’Ward, who struggled during the last stint on the alternate compound tyres – but was able to consolidate an eighth-place finish, a great result after charging from 20th on the grid during the opening stint.

Scott Dixon finished at the head of a six-car battle for fourth place. Alexander Rossi scored his best finish of the year in fifth. Ohio native Graham Rahal finished sixth, ahead of rookie Romain Grosjean in seventh, then O’Ward in eighth, and Santino Ferrucci in ninth, his fourth top 10 finish in as many starts with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this year. Takuma Sato completed the top 10 after Herta was forced to pit for emergency service on the last lap.

With six races remaining, and five weeks until the next race on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee; Palou now leads O’Ward by 39 points. Defending IndyCar champion Dixon is third in the table, 56 points back of teammate Palou. Newgarden’s win brings him within 69 points of the championship lead – and Ericsson’s runner-up finish today moves him to fifth in the championship table.

Newgarden’s win comes on the 50th anniversary of Penske’s first IndyCar race victory. With his 19th career victory, Newgarden surpasses Hunter-Reay as the most successful American driver in the series today.

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Race result

PositionCarDriverTeamEngine
12Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet
28Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda
310Alex PalouGanassiHonda
49Scott DixonGanassiHonda
527Alexander RossiAndrettiHonda
615Graham RahalRLLHonda
751Romain GrosjeanCoyne/RWRHonda
85Patricio O’WardMcLaren SPChevrolet
945Santino FerrucciRLLHonda
1030Takuma SatoRLLHonda
1114Sebastien BourdaisFoytChevrolet
123Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet
1326Colton HertaAndrettiHonda
1422Simon PagenaudPenskeChevrolet
1520Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet
1621Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet
1729James HinchcliffeAndretti SteinbrennerHonda
1859Max ChiltonCarlinChevrolet
1960Jack HarveyMeyer ShankHonda
2052Ryan NormanCoyne/RWRHonda
214Dalton KellettFoytChevrolet
2248Jimmie JohnsonGanassiHonda
237Felix RosenqvistMcLaren SPChevrolet
2428Ryan Hunter-ReayAndrettiHonda
2512Will PowerPenskeChevrolet
2618Ed JonesCoyne/VasserHonda

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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