IndyCar: Alexander Rossi dominates at Mid-Ohio, cuts Dixon’s lead in points

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Pole-sitter Alexander Rossi dominated en route to victory in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Rossi led 66 of the race’s 90 laps, including the final 34 laps, capturing his second win of the 2018 season (also won at Long Beach). He finished a commanding 12.8285 seconds ahead of runner-up Robert Wickens to capture the fourth win of his IndyCar career.

It’s also the first time in Rossi’s three-season IndyCar career that he’s won more than one race in a season – and there are still four more races remaining for the Andretti Autosport driver to add to his 2018 wins mark.

“It’s what we needed,” Rossi told CNBC. “We said coming into this weekend that we had to execute for five weekends in a row. This is the start of that, hopefully.

“It was great strategy early today. We knew we could two-stop if we committed early and that’s what we did.”

Ironically, while doing a celebratory burnout, Rossi spun into the frontstretch grass and got stuck. He had to wait to be pulled out so he could move on to victory lane.

This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Will Power, finished third, leaving him still winless in his career at the 2.2-mile permanent road course in north-central Ohio.

Defending race winner Josef Newgarden finished right behind his Team Penske teammate in fourth, while points leader Scott Dixon rallied to finish fifth.

Dixon came into Sunday’s race with a commanding 62-point lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings over Newgarden and a 70-point lead over Rossi.

After Sunday’s race, Dixon leads Rossi by 46 points and has a 60-point edge over Newgarden.

“We’re thinking about (the championship), but we’re also focused on just race wins,” Rossi said. “We’ll take a very well-deserved break before Pocono (the next IndyCar race on August 19), we’ve been strong there the last two years and just try to do what we did today.”

Added Newgarden, “We did what we could to try and cover our bases with Scott and some of the other championship runners and it didn’t work out. For the most part, it just didn’t fall the way we needed it to. … It’s IndyCar racing. You can’t predict these perfectly every time.

“You make the best bet possible and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. It was an okay day. We gained some ground on Scott, which is good, and it tightens up the battle a little bit, but we need to make up more ground in the next race.”

Sebastien Bourdais rallied from the back of the field to finish sixth, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Ohio native and IndyCar rookie Zach Veach.

Rossi regained the lead on Lap 50. By Lap 58, he had built a one-lap lead over Wickens and Newgarden. Rossi made his final pit stop on Lap 60, turning the lead over to Wickens, who still had one more pit stop himself.

Rossi finally regained the lead for the final time when Wickens pitted on Lap 66.

Among incidents in the race:

* While there were numerous incidents during the three practices and qualifying Friday and Saturday that brought about red flag stoppages, there were zero yellow caution flags in today’s race, a rarity.

* Pole-sitter Alexander Rossi almost caused a huge crash on the opening lap when appeared to he brake-check the field heading into Turn 1. Race Control officials reviewed the incident but chose not to penalize Rossi.

* Max Chilton, who started with a career-best sixth position, was sent to the back of the field after being assessed a drive-through penalty for tapping Takuma Sato. Sato did a 360-degree spun but did not hit any other car or wall at the end of the front straight in the Lap 2 incident.

Chilton went off-strategy and pitted on Lap 11 and suffered additional time when his team struggled on the pit stop wit a defective air gun to take his left side tires off.

All that combined led to Chilton falling to last in the 24-car field, where he finished.

* Déjà vu: Josef Newgarden passed Will Power at the end of the back stretch to win last year’s race, and then did it again Sunday to take the lead from Rossi on Lap 27. However, the lead was short-lived as Newgarden quickly came into the pits on the following lap. Rossi regained the lead, choosing to stay out for two more laps, hoping to make the finish on just two pit stops.

* Shortly after Rossi finally pitted, Robert Wickens took the lead on Lap 30 and quickly built up a 13-plus second lead over Will Power. Wickens pitted on Lap 40, turning over the lead to Power.

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Eli Tomac wins Budds Creek, clinches 2019 championship

Vanessa O'Brien (KawasakiUSA)
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Last week Eli Tomac suffered through his worst race of the season and gave Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin a glimmer of hope were the championship was concerned.

On Lap 1 of Moto 1, Tomac did his best to dash that hope. Justin Bogle grabbed the hole shot, but Tomac swept past him immediately and surged to victory.

Moto 2 was much the same. Tomac grabbed the early lead and set his sights on earning maximum points for the weekend. By the end of Moto 2, Tomac had a 15 second lead over Jason Anderson to score his third perfect victory of the season. Tomac also scored a 1-1 at Pala and Washougal.

That was not Tomac’s only victory, however.

With two minutes remaining in Moto 2, Anderson and Marvin Musquin passed Ken Roczen.  That dropped Roczen to 54 points behind Tomac at the time and only elevated Musquin to a 50-point differential. Musquin needed one more position to be able to deny Tomac the championship for one more week, but he was 10 second behind Anderson and unable to make up the gap by the end.

“I didn’t know (I had won the championship) until the last lap,” Tomac said after the race. “I thought I needed one more spot on everyone. I’m just in complete shock right now. All we did today was put our head forward (and) put last week in the past. … Gosh what a way to finish it off. 1-1; it was so cool.”

Tomac is the first rider to win three consecutive championships since Ricky Carmichael won six in a row from 2000-2006.

In Moto 1, Tomac narrowly edged his two points’ rivals. Roczen finished second in that race with Musquin in third.

“It was so special,” Tomac said after he was handed the No. 1 plate that he will affix to his Kawasaki throughout next season. “So many things had to go our way this weekend with having a 1-1 and beating the two guys behind us in second and third (in Moto 1).

Anderson’s pass on Roczen late in Moto 2 was significant for another reason. With a 4-2, he scored a second overall to stand on the podium for the fourth time this season. In doing so, he matched his best finish from RedBud.

“For me, I’m just trying to build my base going into the next Supercross season,” Anderson said afterward. “I feel like I’m getting better.”

Finishing third in both motos was bittersweet equaled a third overall for Musquin. He climbed to second in the points with that finish and if he is able to stay there following next week’s Ironman, it will be the third straight year that he has finished behind Tomac.

Roczen faded to seventh in Moto 2 and with his 2-7 he finished fourth overall. It was a fitting end to his championship hopes because Roczen has faded at the ends of events all season long.

Zach Osborne (5-4) rounded out the top five.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

It’s fair to call Shane McElrath’s 1-1 victory a surprise. Perhaps one can even go so far as to call it a shocker. Entering Budds Creek, McElrath had not stood on the podium yet this year. In fact, he has only one top-five finish that came at Spring Creek two weeks ago.

McElrath got off to an early lead in Moto 1, passing then-leader Ty Masterpool on Lap 3 and refusing to look over his shoulder. It was his first moto victory since Washougal last year and there was speculation about whether he could match that performance. If anything, McElrath looked even better in Moto 2 and he cruised to a 7.7 second lead at the checkers.

McElrath may have been the only rider who was not surprised by the performance and he summed up the drastic uptick in his post-race interview.

“One word: just perseverance,” McElrath said. “It’s been a real test of our faith this year. A real test of our strength. It’s been humbling for sure. … My results this year haven’t been what we wanted, but we just kept at it.”

With a 2-5, Adam Cianciarulo finished second overall despite a disappointing second moto.

He was much better in Moto 1, but even that race had drama. Four minutes into Moto 1, Cianciarulo rode off course and high sided on a berm. He dropped from second to fifth. He climbed into third by Lap 6, but it took the entire race before he would reclaim second.

At the end of Moto 1, Cianciarulo was optimistic about his weekend.

“I’m just doing the best I can,” Cianciarulo said on NBC Sports Gold. “I just want a good result on the day and that’s how I’m looking at it, taking it moto by moto. I’m just disappointed in how I rode there at the beginning.

“Masterpool was riding really good and I just got out of my rhythm. The track’s really slick so you can’t override it – and I really was – I just wasn’t riding good. But I’m glad I was able to calm down and take a breath, make some passes back – get to where I needed to be.

“Championship aside, I really want to do the best I can every moto. … If I leave it all out there, whether I win or lose, I can go to bed at night and sleep just fine.”

Justin Cooper ended the day with a 6-2, which was good enough for third overall. It was not good enough to keep his title hopes alive, however. Ending the day 60 points behind Cianciarulo, he has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Dylan Ferrandis is now the only rider who can challenge Cianciarulo, but he needs to make up six points in Moto 1 at Ironman Raceway next week to keep the pressure on. Like Cianciarulo, Ferrandis’ day was not without incident. In Moto 2, Mitchell Falk got turned around early in the race and knocked Ferrandis down while he was running 11th at the time – one position behind Cianciarulo.

The two points leaders were able to slice through traffic and Ferrandis eventually prevailed over his rival, but he could manage only a fourth-place finish at the checkers. With a 4-4, he finished fourth overall.

RJ Hampshire (3-8) rounded out the top five.

In Moto 1, Masterpool led his first professional laps. He paced the field five times before McElrath overtook him. Masterpool maintained a top-three spot for the next three laps. He finished seventh in that race and 11th in Moto 2 for an eighth overall.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

450MX
[10] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch II, RedBud I, Washougal I & II, Budds Creek I & II)
[5] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, Unadilla I & II)
[3] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, The Wick I, RedBud II)
[2] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek I & II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (The Wick II)

250MX
[7] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, The Wick I, Spring Creek II, Unadilla I)
[7] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, The Wick II, RedBud I & II, Washougal I & II, Unadilla II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[2] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I, Spring Creek I)
[2] Shane McElrath (Budds Creek I & II)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)

Next race: Ironman Raceway, Crawfordsville, IN, August 24

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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