Newgarden grabs IndyCar points lead with Mid-Ohio win

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Josef Newgarden has captured the victory in the 13th round of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2017 season, the Honda Indy 200, from the legendary Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The win is his third this season, and makes him the first driver to hit that mark in 2017. It also means he’s won back-to-back races for the first time in his career, in this, his first season with Team Penske.

And additionally, he goes from 23 points down to then-points leader Scott Dixon to take over the championship lead with 453 points with four races remaining, seven up on Helio Castroneves and eight up on Dixon.

Driving the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden led 73 of the 90 laps and made an early pass of teammate Will Power to set sail from there. And despite a late caution, a lapped car made the sailing even clearer from there.

Power was second, and Graham Rahal third on home soil, probably frustrated to not end higher after losing time in the middle stint with traffic.

On the whole, the start of the race was clean although later witnessed Takuma Sato completing an epic save after Graham Rahal tried to pass him at Turn 4.

On Lap 12, Josef Newgarden made an outside, then inside, move of Will Power for the lead – an incredible move – and promptly checked out to the tune of more than 4.6 seconds in the next three laps before pitting for the first time.

Ryan Hunter-Reay spun after racing close with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi on Lap 18, with the incident reviewed by Race Control with no action taken.

All drivers had pitted by Lap 20 for the first time. At this stage, Newgarden led Power, Rahal, Pagenaud and Rossi, with the top three on Firestone’s black primary tires and fourth and fifth place on the red alternates.

Dixon was dropping like a stone in the second stint, losing more than 20 seconds to Newgarden, and pitted from sixth place on Lap 33 – while running just ahead of Castroneves, Sato, Hinchcliffe and Andretti. Putting 2.5 turns of front wing added to the car, the team made quite an adjustment to help improve the handling on the No. 9 NTT Data Honda.

Newgarden was still several seconds clear of Power before his second stop on Lap 40, and switched back from the blacks to sticker reds at that point. Power pitted a lap later, but stuck with blacks for his next stint, as did Rahal who pitted two further laps later.

By Lap 47 on the tire change, Newgarden held a 7.6 second lead over Power on his reds, with Power a bit slower at the start of the stint on the blacks.

Rahal was also frustrated during this stint, stuck behind Carlos Munoz for most of it, waving and gesturing furiously at the flag stand.

The final round of stops occurred through Lap 66 for all bar JR Hildebrand, who was fifth. But a full-course caution flew for Ed Jones spinning and stalling on the exit of Turn 9. This occurred right after a long stop on the right-rear tire.

Newgarden then was left in an awkward position for the restart, as he was on Firestone’s black tires with Power, Rahal and Pagenaud behind him on fresher reds.

But fortunately for him, he had Esteban Gutierrez between him and Power, and the lapped car slowed any hope Power had of making an attempt to get around Newgarden.

That allowed Newgarden to gap the field by several seconds again, and with the tire difference not as pronounced, for all intents and purposes ended the chances of the rest of the field.

Power was left to hold off Rahal, Pagenaud and Sato from there, who completed the top five.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: After the top three, Pagenaud continued his year of consistency with his 10th top-five finish in 13 races, while Sato bounced back for his first top-five since Detroit race two in the Ruoff Home Mortgage-backed Honda for Andretti Autosport. … Conor Daly enjoyed his best complete weekend of the season, making some great moves and ending 10th after starting 11th, the only driver outside the top-10 on the grid to finish in the top-10. … Perhaps needing a quietly good run, Mikhail Aleshin started 21st, and improved to 14th in his return to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Dale Coyne Racing had a nightmare day with Gutierrez losing time on his first stop, then going under the microscope following the last restart, while Ed Jones’ rough run of results continued with a right rear tire issue on a pit stop, then a spin on track. They ended 20th and 21st. … JR Hildebrand was also unlucky with a likely top-10, possible top-five, lost on the Jones caution when he stayed out longer and then had to pit. Having to serve a drive-through for taking service in a closed pit, he ended an unrepresentative 17th. … In 13th, 15th and 16th, Charlie Kimball, Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan had anonymous days for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NOTABLE: Newgarden’s win was the sixth of his career, all with Chevrolet power. … This marks a sweep for him of all three Honda-sponsored races in 2017 at Barber, Toronto and now Mid-Ohio. … It also extends the streak for Chevrolets in Honda-sponsored events to six straight, although Honda swept the Chevrolet-sponsored Detroit doubleheader. … While Rahal swept both Detroit races this year, Newgarden is the first driver to win back-to-back races at different tracks this year.

QUOTABLE: Newgarden, on the victory and how this one more than Barber and Toronto was more authoritative all weekend: “I feel like no one can take anything away from this win. With this team on the 2 car side, I feel like we really did a great job today. There was no luck involved in that. We went out and won the race. So no one can take anything away from those guys and the 2 car.”

RESULTS

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Results Sunday of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 90, Running
2. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 90, Running
3. (4) Graham Rahal, Honda, 90, Running
4. (7) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 90, Running
5. (3) Takuma Sato, Honda, 90, Running
6. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 90, Running
7. (5) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 90, Running
8. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 90, Running
9. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 90, Running
10. (11) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 90, Running
11. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 90, Running
12. (14) Marco Andretti, Honda, 90, Running
13. (13) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 90, Running
14. (21) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 90, Running
15. (18) Max Chilton, Honda, 90, Running
16. (17) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 90, Running
17. (19) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 90, Running
18. (20) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 89, Running
19. (16) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 89, Running
20. (12) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 89, Running
21. (15) Ed Jones, Honda, 88, Running

Race Statistics
Winners average speed:  114.677 mph
Time of Race: 01:46:19.5989
Margin of victory: 5.1556 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 4 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Power 1-12
Newgarden 13-17
Rahal 18
Newgarden 19-39
Power 40
Rahal 41-42
Newgarden 43-65
Power 66
Newgarden 67-90

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 453, Castroneves 446, Dixon 445, Pagenaud 436, Power 401, Rahal 395, Sato 381, Rossi 358, Kanaan 320, Hinchcliffe 316.

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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