Mid-Ohio win vaults Newgarden into championship lead for first time

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Josef Newgarden’s victory at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, his third win of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, was enough to vault him into the championship lead for the first time in his IndyCar career with four races remaining in the season.

Further, as the first driver to win three races this year, a recent trend suggests Newgarden may have the inside track to the championship. In each of the the last two years, the driver who was the first to win three races (Scott Dixon in 2015, Simon Pagenaud in 2016) went on to win the IndyCar championship. (Of note: Dixon was the only driver to win three or more races in 2015, his third win that year coming at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway).

“I think it’s great!” Newgarden quipped in the post-race press conference when asked about leading the championship. “You know, we’ve got to keep building the gap hopefully. And maintaining it is certainly the number one key, but if we can keep building the gap and increase it, that’s going to only help for Sonoma.”

However, Newgarden’s championship lead is a slim one as the already close championship picture became even closer still following Mid-Ohio. Newgarden leads teammate Helio Castroneves by seven points (453-446), with Dixon one further point back in third, his season total standing at 445 at the moment.

Simon Pagenaud sits fourth on 436 points, meaning the top four in the championship are covered by only 17 points with four races remaining.

Will Power and Graham Rahal are still in the thick of things as well. Power sits on 401 points, 52 out of the lead, while Rahal sits on 395 points, 58 markers out.

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Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.