until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Hybrid hit or miss? Winners and losers from IndyCar Mid-Ohio

by Jack Benyon
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

A battle for the ages between IndyCar's benchmark driver and its most popular one stole the show - and rightly so - in a Mid-Ohio race that featured a host of interesting storylines.

But now the dust has settled on Pato O'Ward ending his and McLaren's almost two-year wait for a win on the road after defeating Alex Palou, who extended championship lead in the process, we have the time to reflect on more performances.

Very questionable strategy calls, a candidate for one of the drives of the season in the circumstances, a great start for the new hybrid unit (albeit with a caveat), and an ex-F1 driver's nightmare Sunday means there's plenty to get stuck into with this edition of winners and losers.

Winners: Pato O'Ward and McLaren

After a string of poor results in the first half of the season, O’Ward is on a run of five-straight top 10s and has finally ended an on-the-road winless streak that stretched back almost two years.

Even he didn’t really count this year’s St Petersburg win, which came after two Penske cars were disqualified in the push-to-pass scandal.

Winning this must have been even sweeter, having held off a charging Palou for the last 25 laps. Especially knowing that on the hard tyre they were both on, Palou had been faster in the first stint of the race.

Getting passed for the win by Josef Newgarden at the Indianapolis 500 must have hurt, but this - holding off IndyCar’s best driver right now at one of the tracks he enjoys most - is redemption.

For McLaren, it's a boost in a period when it has struggled to understand this year's tyre, is always under scrutiny because of its worldwide reputation and the expectations having a Formula 1 team creates, plus its questionable choices in the driver market recently, which have led to widespread criticism.

It will hope this has now changed the narrative.

It was also a first win of the hybrid era for Chevrolet, at a Honda-sponsored race. Honda did the same to Chevrolet at the Long Beach race, so it's one back for Chevy.

Losers: Palou's title rivals

Scott Dixon had a hybrid issue before the race even started and while he eventually got back on track, he watched a deficit of 32 points to Palou rise to 71.

Will Power also lost a lot of points with a mostly anonymous run to 11th - his worst result of the year outside of a crash in the Indy 500 - to hand Palou a 48-point lead.

A day earlier Power had qualified 15th, and heading into the weekend had been suffering with flu-like symptoms.

Dixon and Power will need all of their oval skill and experience to turn this championship fight around now, and therefore Palou is a massive winner with his second place - even if he missed out on a win that looked destined to be his at the race's midway point.

Winners: A pair of rookies

Christian Rasmussen has had a rollercoaster year but a starring performances at the Indy 500, where he finished 12, and here at Mid-Ohio can’t have done his stock any harm. The Indy NXT champion qualified ninth and finished in the same position on a weekend where his race-winning Ed Carpenter team-mate Rinus VeeKay struggled.

Toby Sowery had just one IndyCar test - at Sebring last year with Rahal - under his belt previously, but turned a 24th-place start into a 13th-place finish on his series debut last Sunday.

Given his lack of preparation and considering his Coyne team is struggling this year with a lack of regular talent in and out of the car, it’s nothing short of one of the drives of the season.

It’s another impressive mark on his resume alongside his LMP2 exploits in the IMSA SportsCar Championship this year.

Loser: Josef Newgarden

On a poor run of form heading into the weekend, Newgarden qualified 17th and then in the race attempted a three-stopp strategy, which wasn’t destined to yield huge results but could have easily have resulted in a top-10 finish - before he clipped a kerb and ran off track before his final stop.

Then he received three pitlane penalties - two for speeding and one for not following IndyCar instructions - to finish 25th. He’s 10th in the points, having never finished worse than fifth in his Penske career so far.

Winner: Andretti

All three Andretti cars were in the top eight at Mid-Ohio, partly thanks to Marcus Ericsson qualifying better than he has done on other occasions this year.

Colton Herta took fourth ahead of Ericssion, with Kyle Kirkwood back in eighth. The latter has the highest worst-finishing position in the series this year, which is 11th.

A championship challenge is going to be a tough ask for any of them from so far back and without having won a race this year, but it’s a massive step-up for the team from last year and a good foundation to build on.

Losers: the three-stoppers

Since 2021, drivers have regularly tried the three-stop strategy at Mid-Ohio but it rarely works, and never does without a caution or three to help. With no cautions in this race following the start, it was never going to be a winning strategy.

Newgarden might have made a gain out of it before his issues, but Felix Rosenqvist finished roughly where he started (14th at the finish vs 19th at the start) as the top driver on the strategy, and it’s hard to understand what Ganassi was thinking with a pair of its cars trying it from strong positions.

Linus Lundqvist had another strong qualifying but tried the three-stopper from 10th and finished 15th. Marcus Armstrong tried it despite starting on the hards when he could have gone long on the two-stopper, and ended up 17th behind Sting Ray Robb.

All they did was just hand places to the drivers behind who stuck with the two-stop from the start.

Let this be a lesson for next year: don’t bother with it!

Winner: the hybrid

If you'd asked anyone in the paddock at the start of the weekend if all 27 cars would be running at the end of the Mid-Ohio race, they would probably be surprised. But that was the case on the hybrid’s mid-season debut.

It did cause a title contender to ship a tonne of points (more on that in a moment), but it also gave the race an extra spice and even helped prevent a caution in the closing stages because Romain Grosjean was able to fire up his car again with the hybrid - instead of the previous set-up of waiting for the safety team to arrive, which in turn would require a caution.

There’s more to come from the competition side once it's crank up - it’s not running at max capacity yet to protect the longevity of the units - and the teams are keeping secrets from each other in how they use it on track, so there’s some fun to get into there too.

Loser: Romain Grosjean

After landing Juncos Hollinger’s best IndyCar result at Laguna Seca last time out, Grosjean qualified a respectable 12th and looked set for a solid 13th - even after a pitstop issue cost him 15s earlier in the race, so a much better result might even have been on - and then he spun with three laps to go.

“Not proud of myself on that one,” he said.

He finished 23rd, another blow in his bid to rack up points for the team.

Winner: Santino Ferrucci

The last time an AJ Foyt Racing driver finished 12th or higher in the championship was in 2010, but the team is in contention to do that this year with Ferrucci.

Some clever hires from other teams and a tie-up with Penske have helped boost its form (even if the team's drivers have debated how much information is actually trading hands between Penske and Foyt) and Ferrucci has six top 10s in nine races this year, adding another at Mid-Ohio on Sunday.

Loser: David Malukas

Still suffering from his well-documented hand injury, Malukas netted a stunning third place in qualifying on just his second weekend back in action.

However, at his first pitstop a stall hampered his progress and he fell to 12th. That's still the car's best result of the year, but it leaves a question of what could have been.

A puncture cost him a top 10 at Laguna on his return, and now the stall. When will he get some good fortune?

It's a miracle with his wrist he's able to manage a race distance, never mind at two twisty road courses such as Laguna and Mid-Ohio. It's a very promising start but this still represents a loss from third on the grid here, where he had remained on merit until that first stop.

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