The Honda Indy 200 was all about who had the best tyre strategy as it dictated the outcome of Sunday’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio.
Team Penske’s Will Power led the field to the green flag with his teammate Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves in pursuit.
Marco Andretti had an excellent start as he went from 14th up to 10th, behind his Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, in just three laps.
Power and Newgarden had a big gap over Sato who had Rahal in his mirror for third spot. As Rahal attempted to overtake Sato on his inside, he clipped the bumper pod of Sato’s Andretti Honda with his front wing but Sato managed to save his car from going off-course.
Some drivers made early pit stops, starting on Lap 5 with Carlos Munoz. Max Chilton came in two laps later and Ed Jones pitted on Lap 9.
Leading driver on the black primary tyres, Rossi made his first pit stop on Lap 12. James Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, and Charlie Kimball made their stops on the next lap. While Rossi pitted, Newgarden made a big move on Power to take the lead from him in Turn 4 and was gone from there, opening a two second gap on his teammate.
On Lap 15, Ohio native, Rahal snatched third from Sato, closing the gap on Power to less than a second.
On the next lap, Castroneves, Sato and Simon Pagenaud made their first stops, with Sato and Castroneves falling behind the Andretti duo of Rossi and Hunter-Reay.
Rossi caught his teammate, Hunter-Reay on Lap 18 to overtake him for sixth but as he passed him, Rossi closed the door on Hunter-Reay, sending the DHL Honda spinning around in Turn 4, falling him back to 13th. As you can imagine, Hunter-Reay who has had nothing but bad luck all season was not happy with his teammate on the radio.
Rahal took the lead and was the last person to make his stop, as Newgarden and Power made their stops and would quickly pass Rahal after he pitted.
Following pit stops, Newgarden held a four second lead over Power, with Rahal behind in third, all three of them on primary tyres being chased by Pagenaud and Rossi who were both on the soft red tyre compounds. Scott Dixon ran in sixth on red tires, four seconds behind the leaders but was ahead of Castroneves, Sato, Andretti and Hinchcliffe.
Dixon had been holding up traffic all the way from 14th but he eventually had no choice but to make his pit stop on Lap 32 under green flag to put on new sticker reds and four turns of his front wing adjustment as he was fighting too much oversteer on his car. The leaders would come in a few laps later.
Rossi spent much of the race in the top five but was passed for fifth by Pagenaud on Lap 55.
The final round of pit stops began on Lap 62 when Andretti and Dixon brought their Hondas in. Dixon had a very long pit stop that lasted 18 seconds due to a problem on the rear tyre. Rossi made his final stop on Lap 63, whilst Sato and Hinchcliffe came in on the following lap.
Newgarden had a 12 second lead on Power but he came in sooner as expected while Power came in on Lap 66 to put on black tyres.
As the final cycle of pit stops were occurring, the first full course caution flew out for rookie Ed Jones stalling his car in Turn 9 after spinning.
On the restart, Newgarden led the field to the green with the lapped car of Esteban Gutierrez lined up in between him and Power. As Power attempted to pass Gutierrez, the Mexican driver locked up his tyres in Turn 4. Behind them, Sato and Rossi got around Castroneves, who fell to seventh.
As Gutierrez was holding up Power, it gave Rahal a chance to overtake the Penske driver into Turn 4 but Power defended the bottom line and was able to keep his position. Further behind, Hunter-Reay passed Hinchcliffe for eighth.
Gutierrez finally came to make his final stop on Lap 76, giving Power a chance to close the gap on Newgarden. The top four drivers were setting their fastest lap times of the race but Newgarden was the fastest of all of them, increasing his lead on Power.
Power’s biggest concern was losing second to Rahal on the closing laps but Rahal was unable to get around him.
Newgarden recorded his third win of the season at Mid-Ohio, making him the new points leader ahead of Castroneves and Dixon. Power finished second, Rahal rounds up the podium spot for his home crowd, Pagenaud secures fourth and Sato earned a respectable fifth place finish.
Rossi finished sixth ahead of Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Dixon and Conor Daly who made an impressive overtake on Hinchcliffe for 10th in the closing laps.