until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Penske 1-2 in first IndyCar race since its DSQ scandal

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

After a week in which the disqualification of two of Penske’s cars from the season-opener last month threw IndyCar into turmoil, the team responded dramatically with a 1-2 at Barber Motorsports Park.

Scott McLaughlin beat Will Power in a race reigning champion Alex Palou could have won if not for strategy bad luck.

The Barber weekend had been totally overshadowed in the build-up after Josef Newgarden and McLaughlin were excluded from St Petersburg for using push to pass on a restart, which isn’t allowed. Accusations of Penske cheating and criticism of the umbrella company of Penske owning the championship have meant tempers have run high.

McLaughlin answered with pole position for Barber and was the class of the field on pace as he led a three-car group committed to a three-stop strategy, versus another group eventually led by Palou on a two-stop.

McLaughlin extended gaps of over seven seconds, but a caution on lap 43 of 90 - for McLaren’s Alexander Rossi having a wheel fall off after a pitstop - should have totally ruined his race as he lost the advantage he’d built up over Palou and the two-stoppers, had to pit and fell to 17th with one stop still to go. In theory the Palou group could make a final pitstop on lap 60 and go to the end.

But another caution on lap 56 redeemed McLaughlin as it forced Palou’s group to pit early, making it a heavy fuel save for the reigning champion’s group to the end.

McLaughlin could push flat out and try to extend a gap, going as much as two seconds per lap quicker including setting the race’s best lap as Palou had to watch McLaughlin drive off into the distance while he saved fuel.

Having emerged from the penultimate caution in traffic, McLaughlin got back to the front and was able to pit with an over 30-second advantage, comfortably getting out of the pits ahead.

In fact, Power - who had gone off track at Turn 5 in the early running - also jumped Palou to pile on the misery. Power had needed a new engine between last practice and the race but was the only driver into the 1m07s with McLaughlin.

A late caution for a Christian Rasmussen spin gave Power one final two-lap chance to attack, but McLaughlin stayed resolute.

Power, who wasn’t disqualified from St Pete but was docked 10 points, is second in the championship, behind a somewhat surprise new points leader who we'll get to shortly.

Because of the advantage of the net three-stop strategy campaigned by McLaughlin, the other drivers who committed to it could also carve their way forward to great results.

Palou’s rookie Ganassi team-mate Linus Lundqvist started nine positions lower but committed to the race-winning strategy and stole the podium from his reigning champion team-mate with 12 laps to go in a blow-by move at Turn 5.

Lundqvist took a plumb Ganassi seat after impressing at Meyer Shank last year as an injury stand-in for Simon Pagenaud. His first full IndyCar season has started strongly - a good result in St Pete was lost only because he was taken out by Romain Grosjean, and he finished sixth in the non-championship Thermal race.

The Barber result came via strategy, but Lundqvist had to deliver the pace to make it work and was mistake-free.

On the final restart Felix Rosenqvist - in the top 10 every race this year - also got around Palou to steal fourth from the reigning champion, finally scoring a result to match his ace qualifying performances at the start of the year with his new team Meyer Shank and taking his best result with the team so far.

Palou held on for fifth at the site of his first Ganassi win in 2021, ahead of Christian Lundgaard who is always good at Barber and used the same strategy as McLaughlin. It might not have been as good as his qualifying where he started third, but still a good result after a tough start to the year.

Santino Ferrucci was already in the top 12 early on despite starting 15th, and used an off-sync strategy to take seventh ahead of 15th-place starter Colton Herta who was the top Andretti driver via some late overtaking to score eighth.

Herta takes the championship lead with third, second and eighth so far. He's been criticised for a lack of consistency before and that cannot be the case this year with a great start to the season.

Marcus Armstrong and Herta’s team-mate Kyle Kirkwood rounded out the top 10.

Erstwhile points leader and Long Beach winner Scott Dixon went off the track trying to pass Graham Rahal in an optimistic move early on, so surrendered his position behind Palou in the early running, and also needed an extra pitstop. 15th was a great recovery.

Newgarden was 16th after a brutal race where he was involved in at least four collisions with other drivers. 

Pato O’Ward had another race to forget. After starting fourth he went off trying to avoid Lundgaard early on and then tagged Pietro Fittipaldi, earning a drive-through for that. O’Ward finished only 22nd.

McLaren’s injury stand-in Theo Pourchaire spun late after contact with none other than O'Ward, and thus finished 23rd in his second IndyCar race.

Another F2 convert Luca Ghiotto was 21st on his IndyCar debut with Dale Coyne Racing.

Race Results

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Scott McLaughlinDallara DW12-Chevrolet90581h56m45.777s1m07.754s354
2Will PowerDallara DW12-Chevrolet901+1.320s1m07.759s341
3Linus LundqvistDallara DW12-Honda904+2.442s1m08.146s336
4Felix RosenqvistDallara DW12-Honda901+4.511s1m09.033s233
5Alex PalouDallara DW12-Honda9012+5.370s1m08.457s231
6Christian LundgaardDallara DW12-Honda900+6.051s1m08.168s328
7Santino FerrucciDallara DW12-Chevrolet9014+6.606s1m08.351s327
8Colton HertaDallara DW12-Honda900+7.513s1m08.770s224
9Marcus ArmstrongDallara DW12-Honda900+8.038s1m09.119s222
10Kyle KirkwoodDallara DW12-Honda900+8.558s1m08.975s220
11Graham RahalDallara DW12-Honda900+9.029s1m09.326s219
12Romain GrosjeanDallara DW12-Chevrolet900+9.450s1m09.327s218
13Jack HarveyDallara DW12-Honda900+10.127s1m08.676s417
14Kyffin SimpsonDallara DW12-Honda900+10.442s1m08.630s316
15Scott DixonDallara DW12-Honda900+11.363s1m08.526s315
16Josef NewgardenDallara DW12-Chevrolet900+12.236s1m08.323s314
17Rinus VeeKayDallara DW12-Chevrolet900+13.510s1m08.874s413
18Marcus EricssonDallara DW12-Honda900+13.844s1m08.867s212
19Tom BlomqvistDallara DW12-Honda900+14.575s1m09.324s311
20Agustín CanapinoDallara DW12-Chevrolet900+14.681s1m08.528s310
21Luca GhiottoDallara DW12-Honda900+15.681s1m08.820s49
22Théo PourchaireDallara DW12-Chevrolet890+0.000s1m09.197s38
23Patricio O'WardDallara DW12-Chevrolet900+16.446s1m08.669s47
24Christian RasmussenDallara DW12-Chevrolet890+0.000s1m08.516s36
Alexander RossiDallara DW12-Chevrolet600DNF1m08.131s25
Sting Ray RobbDallara DW12-Chevrolet540DNF1m09.156s25
Pietro FittipaldiDallara DW12-Honda420DNF1m08.657s25
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