Newgarden takes points lead with Mid-Ohio win
Josef Newgarden knew he had a good car and didn't waste time showing it.
Newgarden dominated at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to win the Honda Indy 200 on Sunday for his second straight IndyCar victory. He moved from fourth to first in the series points standings, seven points ahead of Helio Castroneves.
Newgarden led 73 of the 90 laps on the 2.258-mile course to finish 5.156 seconds ahead of Team Penske teammate and pole-sitter Will Power. He also won at Toronto on July 16 and has six career wins, three this season.
"We had an awesome race. It's what we needed," Newgarden said. "This was a good day for Team Penske."
Newgarden showed his intentions early when he made an inside pass on Power on the 14th lap. Local favorite Graham Rahal took a temporary lead when Newgarden pitted on lap 41, but when Rahal went in the next time around, Newgarden went to the front.
"I felt like we were a little bit stronger (than Will) at the start," Newgarden said. "Will struggled a little bit more than me. I didn't want to wait until the pits. I felt it was time. He gave me race room, which a good teammate does."
By lap 50, the Tennessee native had extended his lead over Power to 6.5 seconds.
"We didn't have the machine to stay with him today," Power said. "It wasn't my race today. I'm very happy with second."
Rahal couldn't get around last-place Carlos Munoz for more than a dozen laps and lost contact with Power. The 2015 winner finished third for Rahal Letterman racing. Last year's champion, Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske), was fourth.
The lone caution came in lap 67 when Ed Jones spun out in turn 9.
On the reset on lap 70, rookie Estaban Gutierrez, who finished 20th, got between Newgarden and Power and created havoc.
"I thought Gutierrez for a second was going to run into me on turn 4," Newgarden said.
Five-time winner Scott Dixon, who came in as the series leader, radioed around lap 40 that something was broken and struggled to a ninth-place finish for Chip Ganassi Racing.
"It felt like something broke on the car and we made some major front wing adjustments in the race," Dixon said. "We had a problem on the left rear on pit lane and that took some time as well."
He is third in the series standings, eight points back.
Newgarden wants to put the hammer down on the series championship with four races. "We want to build the gap. We need to maintain certainly," he said.
During Sunday morning's practice session, Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing had the rear of his chassis get loose off the carousel into the front straightaway and crashed straight into the hard barrier near the finish line. Starting 17th, he drove teammate JR Hildebrand's oval car and finished 19th.
THEY SAID IT
Rahal on the driving of Gutierrez and Munoz: "We need to have a closed-door talk and deal with it."
Pocono Raceway, Aug. 20. Will Power is the defending champion.
Photo of Josef Newgarden's victory lane celebration provided by IndyCar