July 31, 2016 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, OH
Teammates and podium regulars Simon Pagenaud in the #22 HP Enterprises / Team Penske Chevrolet and Will Power in the #12 Verizon / Team Penske Chevrolet started the race one and two and ended the race in the same positions…but not without some very exciting close-quarters passes and nudges along the way.
Josef Newgarden – who has done remarkably since his accident – seemed to have had a coating of car attractant painted on his #21 Preferred Freezer Services / Fuzzy’s Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet this week. It was lap 22 when Will Power made contact with the rear wing of Josef’s car…forcing him to pit for a replacement. Then on lap 62…race leader Mikhail Aleshin in the #7 SMP Racing / Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was waved back into pit traffic…and right into the left side of Newgarden’s car.
Scott Dixon in the #9 Target / Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had a forgettable day with an early pit for front wing damage. Then on lap 15, he tried a bold inside pass of Helio Castroneves in the #3 Hitachi / Team Penske Chevrolet which pushed him up on the turn’s curb, then back into Helio’s rear left tire…which bounced the #9 and resulted in critical damage to Dixon’s left front suspension. That would be that for the podium chase, but the team did repair the vehicle and it re-entered the race for a few laps to meet an engine-mileage-before-replacement requirement. Castroneves would pit later for a rear wing replacement.
Our comeback kid this race was none other than James Hinchcliffe in the #5 Arrow / Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda who on lap 20 was cast to the back of the pack for a pit speed violation…but still came in fifth.
The construction of the track – with grass borders and large sand areas for roll-outs – affected many a car this weekend. Jack Hawksworth in the #41 ABC Supply Co. / A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda caught his right wheels on the shoulder and took a nearly full speed ride into the race barrier…but was alert when he was extracted from the car. The resulting caution lasted from laps 61 to 65.
With only four laps remaining, fifth place Sebastien Bourdais in the #11 Team Hydroxycut / KVSH Racing Chevrolet impacted the rear of fourth place Takuma Sato in the #14 ABC Supply / A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda…sending both cars off track. While Sato’s momentum carried him back to the race, Bourdais’ car was well and surely beached in the roll-out.
This single incident formed up the top five list with Graham Rahal in the #15 United Rentals / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and James Hinchcliffe in the #5 Arrow / Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda slipping past on Bourdais’ and Sato’s misfortune.
With this win, Simon Pagenaud has bolstered his lead in overall series points with 484 over Power (426) and Castroneves (373), but it still can be anyone’s prize with four races remaining.
The Top Five
Simon Pagenaud in the #22 PPG Automotive Refinish / Team Penske Chevrolet
Will Power in the #12 Verizon / Team Penske Chevrolet
Carlos Munoz in the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda
Graham Rahal in the #15 Steak ‘n Shake / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
James Hinchcliffe in the #5 ARROW / Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda