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Scott McLaughlin celebrates in victory lane. (Penske Entertainment/ Chris Owens)

McLaughlin Triumphs, Andretti Tempers Boil At Mid-Ohio

STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske was the grand finale on IndyCar’s Fourth of July Weekend at Mid-Ohio, but it was Andretti Autosport drivers Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean that supplied the fireworks.

McLaughlin won his second career NTT IndyCar Series victory by claiming the checkered flag in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Honda Civic Type R. He defeated defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou by .5512 seconds, led 45 laps in the 80-lap race and has moved up to seventh in the standings with 53 points.

His parents are in the United States from New Zealand and finally saw their son score his first IndyCar win in person, his second overall.

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McLaughlin works his way around Mid-Ohio. (Al Steinberg Photo)

“I really wanted to get a win here with mom and dad here,” McLaughlin said. “And our first time we have had Odyssey Battery on the car, and you know it was it was awesome as well to have them on board, but that mom and dad is very special on America’s weekend.

“Last night I was dressed up as a bald eagle, so maybe I need to do that every year, on July 4 weekend.

“It was tough. You know, you’re thinking about fuel but thankfully obviously Chevy gave us the great fuel mileage and drivability off the restarts that allowed me to get a little bit of a gap from Palou and the Honda there so I’m really, really proud of the guys for the car they gave me even though it was a little hard to drive towards the end. I would love to make it a little bit easier for myself but I’m super proud. Everyone did great pitstops from this car three, the thirsty threes, baby we’re going to the moon.

“It was tough, because my car sort of went away a little bit towards the end of the race. It was good at the start. I think once a tire that the track changed a little bit and got a little bit dirty and bits and pieces, they got hard to sort of put the power down, which was making it hard to defend, but it is what it is we’ll learn and move on. But I think we’ve made some changes that certainly helped us today. And thankfully we did them.

“It’s great momentum for us at the end of day this is IndyCar. Things can happen all the time. And I think we’ve had great pace to be in the top five. I’ve made mistakes. There’s been certain things that haven’t gone our way strategy wise that have made us sort of fall back a little bit, but we’ve always had the pace and it was all about having the belief and the belief and the guys we’ve got a great group here on the car three you know it’s we’re all mates you know, we’re just having fun with a go racing and have fun. So really proud to do it.

“I’m excited.”

Will Power started 21st, spun off the course on lap 2, the first green flag lap of the race, and dropped all the way back to 27th place.

Power then drove a spectacular race, slicing his way through the field to finish third for Team Penske. He is second in the standings, 20 points behind the leader, this year’s Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Yeah, the spin, I went up the inside, everyone was very checked up and just got someone’s back wheel, trying not to take them out,” Power recalled. “I spun, kept it running, kept going, and had passed a few cars then and then pitted again, went to the back, and then yeah, just started passing cars. I had a good pit stop sequence. The yellows hurt us actually for the sequences, but it helped us for restarts. We had some good restarts, definitely gained positions because of restarts.

“It was another great day, good strategy, and keeping ourselves right in the points game.

I definitely feel like we had the fastest car because in the second practice I had left three tenths on the table. I was up three tenths and the throttle broke, and then obviously in qualifying we had our issue. We had the fastest car, and it really hurts to give up a chance at a pole or potentially a win, but to get back to third, you’re not looking back on those days saying that’s why we lost a championship, definitely.”

Rinus VeeKay was fourth in the No 31 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing and Scott Dixon started fifth and finished fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. He was upset with IndyCar Race Control for waiting until the entire field had completed a lap, long after Kyle Kirkwood had crashed in turn 9.

Prior to that, Dixon had pitted and would have had an advantage if IndyCar had been quicker on throwing the yellow flag.

And now, for the real fireworks.

On lap 59, the battle between Andretti Autosport teammates Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi finally reached a boiling point. After initial contact earlier on the lap, the two finally crashed into each other in turn 4, sending both cars off course and into the gravel trap.

It was the sixth caution, and it came with 21 laps to go. Herta was the leader followed by McLaughlin, Palou, and Power, who had raced his way back from last place after the earlier crash put him at the rear of the field on lap 2.

Further back in the field, Jimmie Johnson, who started last in the 27-car field, had raced his way up to 18th place in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

The green flag waved on lap 62 with McLaughlin leading Palou, Power, VeeKay and Dixon.

Herta drove off course in the Keyhole after he got tagged by teammate Grosjean, but racing remained green.

The two drivers screamed about each other over the team radios during the race. Even rookie driver Devlin DeFrancesco could not avoid the feuding teammates when Grosjean drove him off course for a brief moment late in the race.

DeFrancesco finished 17th, Rossi 19th and Grosjean 21st.

“Just a racing incident,” Rossi said. “He was on a softer tire and probably going to get around me, but he likes to do it fast and early. I had to test him there and obviously that’s unfortunate to tap into a teammate, but that’s the way it goes.”

Asked if Rossi is racing Andretti drivers differently now that he knows he’s leaving the team, he said no. 

“Of course not. We’re teammates for Andretti Autosport and trying to get the best result possible,” Rossi said. 

When the Andretti Autosport drivers reached pit lane, team owner Michael Andretti called them into a team meeting.

Shortly after the meeting ended, Andretti left with issuing comment. Grosjean called Rossi an “idiot” to a group of media assembled outside the team’s transporter. Rossi ducked back inside of his team transporter and emerged a few minutes later to get on his scooter and whisk himself away without uttering any comment.

Rossi will be leaving Andretti Autosport at the end of this season to join Arrow McLaren SP beginning in 2023. It’s doubtful that Grosjean will be throwing a “Goodbye Party” for Rossi.

“I haven’t seen what happened today on track, but people told me it was exciting, so yeah, cannot wait to see that,” said second-place finisher Palou, referring to the Andretti Autosport situation.

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