Portland IndyCar: McLaughlin wins, Power stretches points lead
Scott McLaughlin dominated at Portland International Raceway to score a great win ahead of teammate and points leader Will Power, while Scott Dixon drove a brilliant race to climb from 16th to third.
From pole position, Team Penske-Chevrolet’s McLaughlin launched away from pole with teammate Power firmly in his slipstream, but Christian Lundgaard was haunting them, and went around the outside of Power into second, while Pato O’Ward, the highest started on the harder Firestone primaries, passed Alex Palou to grab fourth ahead of the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda.
By Lap 6, McLaughlin had a three second lead over Lundgaard, with Power running a further 1.1sec adrift but 1.7sec ahead of O’Ward, who was working hard to keep his harder-tired car ahead of the menacing-looking Palou and Malukas. Scott Dixon had made his way up to 14th, but Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson slipped to 19th.
Dixon, who had started on primaries, pitted on Lap 13, while Newgarden stopped a lap later. Perhaps surprisingly, Palou also pitted at the end of Lap 15, as did Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet.
Power pitted from third at the end of Lap 17 and took on a set of scuffed reds, while O’Ward pitted a lap later to take on his first set of reds.
McLaughlin went to Lap 21 before pitting, with Lundgaard stopping a lap later, but a slight delay on the refueling and some strong out-laps from Power meant he emerged behind the #12 Penske.
McLaughlin’s lead over the yet-to-stop Ericsson was five seconds by Lap 28 of the 110, with Power having to work hard not to get too close to Ericsson whereby he might burn up his tires but also keep Lundgaard in his mirrors. RLL’s great Dane was five seconds clear of O’Ward, who had 2.3sec margin over Palou.
That early stop for reds had worked out well for Newgarden who was now seventh ahead of Rahal, Herta and Rossi, while early stopping had also seen Dixon move up to 11th, barely holding off VeeKay.
Ericsson finally pitted at the end of Lap 31, but the tactic hadn’t worked out well, and he was down in 18th, where he started. Meanwhile Power now had a near-eight-second deficit to McLaughlin, and was 1.4sec ahead of Lundgaard, who was being gradually gained on by O’Ward.
By Lap 40, the major track action was the squabble between Palou, Newgarden and Rahal over fifth place, and on Lap 42 down the back straight Newgarden made a very clean move into Turn 10 to snag fifth, leaving the Ganassi driver struggling to fend off Rahal. His efforts succeeded for just a lap, as the RLL driver zoomed past him at the exact same place. Palou then pitted.
Up front, Power had shaved the margin to McLaughlin down to 5.5sec, and had stretched his margin over Lundgaard to over six seconds, and the #30 RLL car was now less than a second ahead of O’Ward.
Newgarden pitted from fifth on Lap 45, the same lap as Dixon, the pair of them taking on scrubbed reds. A lap later, Lundgaard pitted to get off his worn reds to grab a set of primaries.
McLaughlin and Power stopped as they completed Lap 47 to grab primary tires, and they were followed in by O’Ward, whose AMSP team got him out ahead of Lundgaard who was struggling to get his black primaries up to temp. Now O’Ward was on reds again, and he would endeavor to close the eight second margin to Power, although he’d have to also pass the again late-stopping Ericsson who was also on the softer alternates. Ericsson would pit on Lap 54.
Unlike his teammates, Newgarden was on reds and was making the most of them, hustling up onto the tail of Lundgaard, and he calmly outbraked him into Turn 1 on Lap 55 to claim fourth.
On Lap 60, five past half distance, McLaughlin’s lead over Power was 4.9sec, but the pair were being reeled in by O’Ward and Newgarden, 2.2 and 4.3sec adrift respectively.
Lundgaard was a further five seconds back, and a similar distance ahead of teammate Rahal who had Rossi filling his mirrors, with Dixon, Herta and VeeKay close behind. Palou was losing time in 11th, reporting something amiss at the rear of his car.
On Lap 67, O’Ward was within one second of Power, and Newgarden was only two seconds behind. Having drawn within 4.4sec of McLaughlin, Power was briefly stymied by the lapped Jimmie Johnson but by diving past the #48 Ganassi car at Turn 1, Power bought himself some breathing room as O’Ward couldn’t zap Johnson until the back straight, and Newgarden gained on him.
However, the alternates now looked no better than the primaries, O’Ward and Newgarden started losing a tenth or two from Power who was now four seconds behind McLaughlin.
Rossi was the first driver in the Top 10 to make his final stop at the end of Lap 77, and Lundgaard, Dixon, VeeKay and Palou followed suit a lap later. Sadly Lundgaard stalled it as he tried to leave.
McLaughlin, Power, O’Ward, Newgarden, Rahal and Herta stopped next time by, and the remained in that order, but in condensed form. McLaughlin had lost time on his in-lap when Rosenqvist emerged ahead of him from his final stop, and so by the time the top four emerged, McLaughlin’s margin over Power was only 1.4sec. Newgarden, interestingly, had picked primaries for his last stint: would this pay off in the closing laps?
Power had got McLaughlin’s lead down to 1sec when the first caution of the day flew, as VeeKay misjudged a lapping maneuver on Johnson approaching Turn 1, tucking back in ahead before he had cleared the Ganassi car. Instead he squeezed Johnson into the wall, breaking the NASCAR legend’s suspension so he slithered into the Turn 1 run-off.
Following the rash of stops, Rossi had moved up to fifth ahead of Dixon, Rahal, Herta and VeeKay, while Lundgaard’s stalling had dropped him to 10th, although still ahead of Palou.
On the Lap 90 restart, O’Ward tried to outbrake Power into Turn 1, but instead nudged into the Penske, wheel-to-wheel. Right behind them, Dixon had ducked past Newgarden and Rossi as they fought over fourth, Newgarden regretting his choice of primaries. Then as O’Ward lost momentum from his failed pass on Power, Dixon was now on his tail as they exited Turn 3. The AMSP driver moved hard right into Turn 4 to block Dixon and curb his momentum, so was ordered by Race Control to relinquish the spot to the six-time champion.
Behind them, Newgarden lost places to Rossi, Herta, Rahal and Lundgaard, but regained a spot when Lundgaard had to pit. He had been battling with Rossi who had dropped a wheel off the track but when he tried to outbrake the Andretti driver into Turn 1, he ran long and collected a signboard in the runoff, necessitating a pitstop.
On Lap 100, with 10 to go, McLaughlin held a 1.6sec lead over Power, who had 0.9sec ahead of the remarkable Dixon, up from 16th on the grid. O’Ward, who had suffered sidepod damage when he bashed into Power, was now five seconds behind Dixon, and had Rahal, Herta and Rossi stacked up behind him.
With three laps to go, the top three were equidistant, 1.3sec apart, with O’Ward still working hard to grab fourth from the wounded O’Ward. Power did his best to close down the gap, but was thinking big picture, keeping a prime title rival Dixon behind him.
McLaughlin scored his third win of the year by 1.2sec, with Power 0.4sec ahead of Dixon who could be satisfied by a brilliant drive.
O’Ward clung onto fourth ahead of Rahal, Herta and Rossi, while Newgarden eighth ahead of the impressive Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing, and Rosenqvist.
Ericsson and Palou finished 11th and 12th, Palou now unable to retain his championship. O’Ward, too, has now been eliminated.
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