For all his prowess on road and street courses, it’s surprising that Team Penske’s Will Power has yet to win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Entering this weekend, his best results at the Lexington, Ohio road course were a pair of second-place results in 2012 and 2016, and he looked poised to win both of those races as well, only to see pit stops or on-track passes take those potential wins away.
Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio was more of the same for Power. Sitting on the pole, Power jumped out at to an early lead ahead of teammate Josef Newgarden, but lost it in the early laps after Newgarden made a daring move in which he faked outside and sliced up the inside of Power entering turn 4.
Newgarden quickly built up a gap over Power, and the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion was never able to close on him from there. A lap 67 caution for a spinning Ed Jones erased the gap between the two, which might have given Power an advantage, as he was on the red alternate tires while Newgarden was on the primary blacks.
But, with the lapped car of Esteban Gutierrez in between the two, it was always going to be difficult to mount an attack, and Power was unable to pass the Dale Coyne Racing driver on the lap 70 restart. Power resigned himself to finish second from there, his third runner-up finish at Mid-Ohio.
However, in the post-race press conference, Power actually felt he overachieved given the car’s pace. “It’s much better than starting sixth and finishing seventh! So that’s as good as we could do,” Power said of the result. “(We) kind of weren’t on the pace all weekend and really got the most out of qualifying. So second, for the pace of my car, that was as good as we could get today.”
Still, Power acknowledged that the lapped car of Gutierrez put paid to his chances of a late-race push for the win. He did not fault Gutierrez, but did mention he would like the rule regarding lapped traffic to be revisited.
“It’s actually not Gutierrez’s fault. The rules for IndyCar is kind of ridiculous, that the team would tell him to stay and push and he’s not even in the lead,” Power asserted. “He’s not even leading. I understand if he was ahead of Newgarden because then, if it goes yellow, he gets his lap back. Yeah, I mean, IndyCar on one hand wants really good racing, but then you put a bunch of back markers, people a lap down in the mix. It ruined probably a very good battle at the end because Josef was on black tires and we were on reds.”
Even though he missed out on a victory, Power did gain a little ground in the championship fight. He broke a tie he had with Graham Rahal entering Mid-Ohio and now sits fifth all by himself, 52 points behind new points leader Newgarden.