• Newgarden stars before late-race pit stop issues
• Munoz extends rookie points lead with fourth-place finish
• Rahal’s strong run nets fifth-place result
In a race with at least three potential Honda-powered victors, James Hinchcliffe capitalized on an opening lap-crash to make up 11 positions in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, turning that first-lap charge into a third-place finish, his best result in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series.
Josef Newgarden was another Honda driver to shine throughout the first two-thirds of today’s 90-lap contest, shadowing early leader Sebastien Bourdais through the first stint, despite starting on the harder-compound “black” Firestone tires to Bourdais’ quicker, softer “red” tires. After the second round of pit stops and now on “reds” – drivers must use both types during the race – Newgarden moved around Bourdais and then caught race leader Scott Dixon, pulling out to a 4.5-second lead over the field when Dixon, on a fuel-saving strategy, pitted on Lap 62.
Newgarden appeared headed for his first career IndyCar Series win, but his Lap 67 final stop went seriously awry when an air gun hose caught on the side of the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, pulling a crew member off his feet and resulting in a long stop, followed by a “drive-through penalty” for the pit lane safety violation and leading to a 12th-place finish.
Graham Rahal had one of his strongest runs of the season, finishing fifth, while Ryan Hunter-Reay led two laps today, but saw his chances at victory halted by a pit-lane speeding penalty on Lap 28. Carlos Munoz finished fourth, the rookie leader’s fifth top-four result of the season.
James Hinchcliffe (#27 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 16th, finished 3rd, first podium finish of 2014: “That start was pretty crazy. Going down into Turn 4 there, it was like the seas parted in front of me. I felt bad for the guys that got involved in that wreck, but it allowed us to get up there a little bit. The car was really fast; we were running some really good lap times. We got caught behind a couple of [slower[ guys at one point, [or] we might have been able to pick one more spot up. I’m really proud of our team: great in the pits; awesome car. It was fun racing Sebastien [Bourdais] there at the end. Obviously, big congrats to [Scott] Dixon. I don’t know why they don’t just give him the trophy when we get here on Thursday. Good job to those guys."
Josef Newgarden (#67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda) started 2nd, finished 12th: “We didn’t get it right. It’s a shame. We had such a strong car and, man, we had a great strategy. What a killer idea going with blacks there [to start the race]. All we had to do was hang onto [Sebastien] Bourdais on the opening stint – we knew he was going to be stronger on [the softcompound] ‘reds’ [tires]. We just hung with him and it fell right into our seat. It was just a perfect strategy call. You don’t always stick with your plan but we did that today and it unfolded perfectly for us. It was a shame that it didn’t work out but I think everyone knew we were strong today and definitely had a shot at winning the thing. And that’s all you can ask for, we’ve had a couple of those this year and we’ll have a couple more before it’s done.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s Honda Indy 200: “We had a very strong and reliable engine today. But for a series of mishaps, the opportunity for an eighth consecutive Mid-Ohio victory was there for us, but we were unable to achieve our desired results at our ‘home’ race. Thanks for the tremendous support from all our associates in the great crowd today, it made for a great racing environment.”