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What We Learned from Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio 2017

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The Big Picture:  It was back in 1983 when businessman Jim Trueman bought Mid-Ohio and about a nano second later when he began sinking funds to turn the facility into something world class. Of the major natural terrain road courses in the United States, this one has taken its place with Road America, Watkins Glen, and Laguna Seca since that year.

Event:  It’s a road racing festival in all the best senses of the word. There’s even time for two support series races!

Qualifying:  Will Power is one of the best road course qualifiers in Verizon IndyCar Series history, and so this competition was no great surprise to have him take his fifth P1 award of 2017. The Australian is now tied with Mid-Ohio icon Bobby Rahal in having 49 series poles to his credit. Starting next to Power will be his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, followed by Honda powered cars piloted by Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal.

Race:   Newgarden led 73 of 90 laps. What more can we say? There was only one caution for four circuits for a single car spin out by likely Rookie of the Year Ed Jones. It was a good clean event won by an American driver. (Yeah.)

Biggest Surprise:  Josef Newgarden’s back-to-back race victories, hard won because of the extreme competitiveness of the series.

Biggest Disappointment:  That Graham Rahal didn’t have the car to vie for the win at what is undisputedly his home track this year.

Best Team:  We must go with Team Penske again but an honorable mention to Andretti Autosports for continued improvement during the season so far. Penske took first, second, fourth, and seventh this week. That means a tremendous amount of quality work by the Penskes.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  Honda has remained loyal to this race as Title Sponsor since Indy Racing League days.

What We Learned:  That an American driver can lead the IndyCar points battle for the first time since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014. (Yeah). That Penske driver Josef Newgarden is having an easier time adjusting to the premier team than his teammate, the very talented Simon Pagenaud, did.

Schedule:  In three weeks, the series travels to Pocono Raceway for the second 500-mile race of the season on August 20th.

Quotes of the Weekend:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’ve got an amazing crew. When they give me a car like this, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s easier at least. I think we’ve been hitting on all cylinders, no pun intended. But these guys were awesome this weekend, had good stops. It was a really fast car. Reds (Firestone alternate tires), blacks (Firestone primary tires), it didn’t matter, the car was fast, so just tried to do my job. I think everyone’s going to want to drive this PPG car. I’m pretty sure it was lucky for (Simon) Pagenaud last year, think it’s lucky for us, so we’re probably going to be fighting over this car paint.” (About taking championship lead): “That’s great. We’ve just got to keep it up. No mistakes. If we don’t have any mistakes, we’ve got plenty enough to win this championship, so we’re going to keep giving what we got for the last four races.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “It was a good run and the Steak ‘n Shake boys did a good job in the pits. 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.”

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Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.