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Race report
IndyCar Mid-Ohio

IndyCar Mid-Ohio: Palou wins third consecutive race, more pain for Herta

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou won the ninth round of the IndyCar Series at Mid-Ohio, scoring his third victory on the trot in emphatic fashion.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Championship dominator Palou took control during the middle stint of his two-stop strategy, moving clear of pole position winner Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport, who once again suffered painful misfortune that cost him a podium finish when he was caught speeding in the pitlane.

Poleman Herta led the field to green and held the top spot through the first corner, ahead of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal. Palou briefly nosed ahead of Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) for third, but Kirkwood drove around the outside of him to hold the position.

Behind them, Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) and Felix Rosenqvist (Arrow McLaren) tangled through Turn 6, with Ericsson briefly flying over the top of his fellow countryman. Ericsson suffered broken right-front suspension after a heavy landing and crawled into the pits for lengthy repairs, while Rosenqvist rejoined a lap down with a huge tyre mark on his aeroscreen.

“I just couldn’t get the car stopped and ran into Felix, so I feel really bad for ruining his day,” said Ericsson, who started the day second in points.

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, crash, start

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, crash, start

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

The green flag flew on lap six, with Herta leading Rahal, Kirkwood, Palou, Christian Lundgaard (Rahal), Scott Dixon (Ganassi), Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) and David Malukas (Dale Coyne Racing). The latter pair swapped places when McLaughlin was called for blocking on the exit of Turn 1.

From 25th position, after he spun out of Q1, McLaren’s Pato O’Ward gained eight spots in the opening 10 laps. He climbed to 14th before pitting to find clear track, after failing to get around Josef Newgarden’s Penske entry.

Rahal attacked Herta for the lead at the Keyhole on lap 13, but Colton fended him off despite complaining of tyre drop-off. Behind them, Kirkwood came under attack from Palou again, who’d started on the primary tyres.

Palou went around the outside of Kirkwood at Turn 4 on lap 19, where Kirkwood was pinched at the apex and spun, dropping to ninth.

Palou quickly caught Herta and Rahal, but then backed off to save fuel, with Herta pitting for his first stop on lap 28. Rahal went a lap longer, promoting Palou to the lead. Rahal rejoined behind Herta but just ahead of the amazing O’Ward, who’d been lapping substantially faster on his three-stop strategy.

Palou stopped on lap 30, benefitting from a much faster pitstop with a shorter fill, rejoining in the lead from Herta, with Dixon jumping up to third from Power (after they both ran two laps longer than their opposition) and the charging O’Ward. Rahal was the big loser in the first cycle of stops, a fuel hose connection issue dropping to seventh behind team-mate Lundgaard.

Palou extended his lead over Herta to as much as 8.4s, as O’Ward passed Power for fourth on lap 32 before the Mexican made his second stop.

Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, start

Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, start

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

By half distance, Palou’s lead was cut to 4.8s as he became trapped behind Benjamin Pedersen’s AJ Foyt Racing car, who stubbornly refused to go a lap down.

Palou had to battle his way past around the outside of Turn 5 to put a lap on him, with his lead down to 3.8s. But Herta wasn’t showing much pace at this point and had Dixon cruising up to his tail.

Palou got the hammer down and extended his lead to 8.5s before making his final stop on lap 54, while Dixon also pitted from third allowing Herta to lead for a lap. Herta stopped a lap later, suffering a big slide in the pit entry, but his hopes were dashed by a pit speeding penalty, as he said the limiter didn’t work.

After taking his drive-through penalty, Herta dropped to 11th. Rahal then pitted from the lead but suffered a slow left-rear change, making it a disastrous pitstop cycle for the front-row starters.

Palou now led by 6s from O’Ward, Dixon, Power, Lundgaard, McLaughlin, Malukas and the delayed Rahal. The off-sequence O’Ward stopped for the final time with 16 laps to go, rejoining in ninth.

That ensured a Ganassi 1-2 for Palou and Dixon, who finished well clear of Power, Lundgaard, McLaughlin, Malukas and Rahal. O’Ward continued his charge, passing his McLaren team-mate Alexander Rossi for eighth with 10 laps remaining, with Marcus Armstrong (Ganassi) also getting ahead of Rossi to finish ninth.

Conor Daly, subbing for the sidelined Simon Pagenaud, finished 20th.

IndyCar Mid-Ohio - Race results (80 laps)

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