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Newgarden takes Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

Josef Newgarden led 73 of 90 laps on the 2.258-mile permanent road course, taking the checkered flag 5.1556 seconds ahead of Team Penske teammate Will Power. It gave the Tennessean back-to-back wins, following his triumph July 16 at the Honda Indy Toronto.

The win also gives Newgarden the lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, a lead he has for the first time in his six-year Verizon IndyCar Series career. He is the first American-born driver to lead the championship since Ryan Hunter-Reay won the title in 2014 and holds a seven-point lead over another Team Penske driver, Helio Castroneves, after 13 of 17 races.

"I feel like no one can take anything away from this win," Newgarden said. "With this team on the (No.) 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."

Driving the No.2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden started second and made a daring pass of pole sitter Power for first place on Lap 13. Coming down the back straighaway following Power, Newgarden fainted a move high then cut back down low to pass Power. From that point on Newgarden only surrendered the lead for just four laps the rest of the way as pit stops cycled through.

Newgarden has contended for the win at Mid-Ohio each of the past three seasons, but various incidents prevented the rising INDYCAR star from sealing the deal. Today, in his first season with Team Penske, the 26-year-old did just that.

"We've been close before here," he said. "I feel like we've always found speed. ... It's just nice to get something at a track I haven't had a previous history of winning the race. That was nice."

The second-place finish continued a frustrating run for Power, driver of the No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The 2014 series champion has started in the top four at Mid-Ohio for eight straight years - including pole positions in 2010, '11 and this year - but he has yet to win at the track.

"I know we started on the pole and finished second, and that could be viewed as coming up short in some way," Power said, "but it was a very good finish for the Verizon Chevrolet. We really weren't on the pace all weekend and really got the most out of qualifying.

"So second (place), for the pace of my car, that was as good as we could get today. We've had too many seconds in this place, though."

Local favorite Graham Rahal finished third in the No.15 Steak 'n Shake Honda. It was the fourth top-five finish at Mid-Ohio in as many years for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver and New Albany, Ohio, native. Rahal was the last driver to win consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series races, sweeping both ends of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader weekend in early June.

"It was a good run and the Steak 'n Shake boys did a good job in the pits." said Rahal "The strategy was fine. Our car had great pace today. We just could never quite get in clear air, but I'm really proud of everyone on the Steak 'n Shake team. Obviously to be the only team in the top five other than a Penske speaks volumes to the quality of people we have in this organization. We're going to keep our heads down, keep working hard. It was another good day for our United Rentals Turns for Troops program. We raised a lot of money to help the veterans today. We'll be back strong in Pocono."

Castroneves finished seventh in the No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet to retain second place in the championship. Newgarden has scored 453 points to 446 for the Brazilian driving in his 20th Indy car season.

"That was a tough race." said Castroneves "These cars are so physical to drive. We only had the one caution that didn't really affect anyone, I don't think. On that restart, I had some sort of glitch that took away a bunch of power for a couple of seconds and two cars went around me like I was standing still. That's unfortunate. But it was a decent day in points for the Hitachi Chevrolet team. A super day for Josef (Newgarden). Congratulations to that group. He leapfrogged us, but we're still in second. We head to a couple of ovals now which could really mix things up. It's going to be a battle. That's for sure."

Four-time series champion Scott Dixon finished ninth in the race and slipped from first to third in the season standings with 445 points. Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud finished fourth in the race and is fourth in points with 436. Power is fifth with 401 points and Rahal sixth with 395.

"It obviously wasn't the way we wanted the race to go today for the NTT Data car." said Dixon "I really wasn't 100 percent happy after we tested here last week and in qualifying. I don't think we ever had the balance right where we wanted it. It felt like something broke on the car and we made some major front wing adjustments in the race. We had a problem on the left rear on pit lane and that took some time as well. Overall, just not our weekend. We held in there and fought, but need to regroup and get ready for Pocono in a few weeks. Points are really at a premium now with four to go."

The race ran caution-free until Dale Coyne Racing rookie Ed Jones spun into the grass in Turn 9 on Lap 67, bringing out the race's only yellow flag after Newgarden had built a 10-second advantage. Newgarden quickly sped away on the Lap 71 restart and wasn't challenged the rest of the way.

The next race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 20. The 500-mile race on the "Tricky Triangle" oval airs live at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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 fo4 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.

07/30/17

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