After two bitter disappointments, Josef Newgarden wins Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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After consecutive disappointments from the pole position, Josef Newgarden finally delivered Team Penske its first victory of the IndyCar season Sunday in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

In the last two races, Newgarden won the pole and dominated the race. He had the wrong tire strategy in the closing laps of Race 2 at Belle Isle and last week a broken gearbox with two laps remaining kept him out of Victory Lane.

For Mid-Ohio, Newgarden started again from the pole and led 73 of 80 laps while closing the deal.

STATS PACKAGE: Results and points standings from Mid-Ohio

Marcus Ericsson came on strong in the final laps, narrowing the gap from 6 seconds to a final margin of 0.8790 seconds. Newgarden saved the majority of his push-to-pass boost for the closing laps. With more than 100 seconds remaining as the field hit the 10-to-go mark, he needed all he could get to hold off the determined charge by Ericsson.

“I’d start each stint and feel like I had everything under control,” Newgarden told NBC’s Kevin Lee from Victory Lane. “You get to the back end of it and everything started to fall apart. So it was really hard to hang on, but I had my wingman Tim (Cindric) coaching me the whole way.”

The win came on the 50th anniversary of Roger Penske’s first IndyCar win.

And with his 19th IndyCar victory, Newgarden becomes the winningest active driver over Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 18.

With a monthlong summer break ahead, the focus already has shifted to the inaugural Music City Grand Prix, which will be held Aug. 8 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.

Newgarden, a Nashville native, wanted momentum entering his hometown race, picking up the top pit selection with his third consecutive pole.

“We need to be the first pit box out at Nashville, so we got that done yesterday,” Newgarden said. “We got some confidence with this win, so I feel like we can make it all happen. We can win any race we go into. Nashville would be a dream  to have a good result for.”

Ericsson scored his second career podium and he has made them count. He won Bell Isle 1 three races ago and came up just short of beating Newgarden at Mid-Ohio.

“We had a great day,” Ericsson said. “The whole team to get 2-3-4 there was a great result. I’m really proud of the whole team.”

Ericsson jumped up to fifth in the points.

“We had a good strategy,” third-place finisher Alex Palou said. “The guys in the pits were amazing. I think we had the fastest pit stop and that is what gave us the podium.”

Palou finished five positions ahead of his closest championship rival Pato O’Ward and extended his advantage to 39 points.

Finishing fourth, Dixon gave Chip Ganassi three of the top-five slots in the same week that he sold the NASCAR portion of his organization to Trackhouse Racing.

Both Ericsson and Dixon have perfect records of top-10 finishes on road courses this year.

Last year, Alexander Rossi swept the podium in a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio. He rounded out the top five this week.

Colton Herta joined Newgarden on the front row and was his closest competitor in the opening laps – until his race fell apart in the pits. A fuel probe failed on the first stop and he stalled the car on his second and final stop. Herta dropped to 13th at the checkers.

Fireworks exploded during the opening laps. Before the field completed a lap, James Hinchcliffe ran into the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay in an accordion-style accident. Felix Rosenqvist was also collected in the incident.

Last week Will Power felt he was on a path to right his season, which saw him entering the race 11th in points.

Starting fourth and racing for a spot in the top five four laps into the race, Power clipped a curb and bounced into Scott Dixon. Power spun and anxiously waited to see if the remainder of the field would be able to miss his car. They couldn’t. Lost in the smoke, Ed Jones slammed into Power and destroyed both cars.

“(My wrist) is not broken, fortunately,” Power told Kevin Lee outside of the medical center. “I foolishly left my hands on the wheel when there was all that smoke. Good lesson there.

“Super disappointed to be out that early. Scott squeezed me down so much, I had nowhere to go. I actually slowed up a lot to make sure I wouldn’t hit him, but he squeezed me there tight. It was impossible. .. I should have known he would be aggressive because he was on reds and I was on blacks. He really wanted to get by.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.