After the results had time to sink in, let’s take a closer look at what mattered in Sunday’s (July 4th) Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the NTT IndyCar Series.
First, and probably most important, Josef Newgarden scored Team Penske’s first win of the season and the first win for a driver that’s led the most laps in a race since Scott Dixon won at Texas back on May 1st. For what it’s worth, a Penske driver has led the most laps in the three races prior to Mid-Ohio, but just couldn’t quite come up with the victory.
Of course, that streak could have continued had Newgarden not felt something going wrong with his Chevy engine and the No. 2 Team Penske crew changed out the engine for a new one the evening before the race. Had that engine not been changed, Newgarden’s race would’ve ended early and another driver would have won.
But Colton Herta would likely not have been that driver, even if he would’ve led more laps with Newgarden falling out without an engine change.
The No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda was up near the front in the first part of the race and actually led five laps. However, pit stops were the undoing for the St. Petersburg race winner. On Herta’s first stop, an issue with the fuel probe meant that the first stop took a lot longer than it should have. Herta dropped down many places before making his second stop on lap 57.
However, Herta then stalled his car on pit road, requiring his engine to be restarted before leaving the pits. And after all that bad luck, Herta missed his fuel number and had to make a final pit stop on the penultimate lap of the 80 lap race.
After winning last year at Mid-Ohio, Herta was looking for more, especially after qualifying second for the third race in a row in 2021. But it’s on to Nashville for the son of Bryan Herta, who happens to be his strategist.
Pato O’Ward had an uphill battle on race day. Qualifying at Mid-Ohio did not go the way the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet driver wanted it to go, and starting 20th on a track where passing is very difficult made it that much worse.
However, O’Ward managed to claw his way to an eighth place finish, mitigating the points Alex Palou gained on him.
“We made our way forward and I think today was a solid points day in terms of where we started,” O’Ward said on pit road after the race. “I think it was definitely a missed opportunity in qualifying, we just didn’t get it right on the reds, the window’s so small. So we need to qualify better, once we qualify better we’re always up front and fighting for wins. I’ll be sure to be doing that from Nashville on and I’ll claw my way back into the championship fight.”
O’Ward currently sits 39 points behind Palou, who finished third behind Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson.
Guess who didn’t have a good race to salvage a season? James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Both started in the top 10 but Hinchcliffe spun coming out of turn 1, hitting Hunter-Reay’s car and sending the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner into the tire barrier on the right side of the track. Hunter-Reay’s car had damaged right rear suspension that was repaired and he finished two laps down in 24th while Hinchcliffe finished 17th.
Jack Harvey had one of the fastest cars on track. Hell, the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda posted the race’s fastest lap on lap 65. However, a three stop strategy was a gamble that didn’t pay off as the Brit finished in 19th place.
The worst part is that he could have started and finished a lot higher. Harvey was pushing in qualifying but went a little over the edge in turn 9, spinning in the first group of round one. His spin meant that his best lap time was deleted, and instead of advancing to the second round and maybe the Firestone Fast Six, Harvey started 23rd of 26 cars.
C’est la vie.