Today’s question: What were your biggest takeaways from The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R last Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, won by Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske?
Curt Cavin: There was so much to enjoy about this Mid-Ohio race, and I’ll leave the Andretti Autosport fireworks to Zach or Paul. My pick here centers on again being dazzled by the composure and execution of Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin. I’ll be honest, when friends and colleagues suggested in the preseason that he could finish in the top five of the standings and win a race, I scoffed. My reasoning was, he couldn’t consistently beat either of his two Penske teammates, wouldn’t finish ahead of Alex Palou or Scott Dixon, couldn’t finish ahead of Pato O’Ward, wasn’t going to take Colton Herta and likely would trail some combination of Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Romain Grosjean. Nothing wrong with any of that given the competition we see weekly. But my hand is raised: I was wrong. McLaughlin is wheeling it and showing why he has won 50 career races in a Penske uniform. In holding off Palou in Sunday’s straight-up duel, McLaughlin became the second multi-race winner of this season, joining Josef Newgarden. Now, I still don’t think he finishes in the top five of the standings, but I won’t be surprised if he wins another race or two this season.
Zach Horrall: The saga at Andretti Autosport is the kind of drama and intrigue I’ve been looking for. It had me glued to the TV near the end of the race, and it’s had me glued to social media in the days following to see how this will continue to play out. It seemed like the Andretti cars all had magnets that were attracting each other on Sunday at Mid-Ohio, with Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean’s multiple bouts of contact, then Rossi’s with Devlin DeFrancesco and Grosjean’s with Colton Herta. Andretti really seemed to be on the upswing the last few races, specifically with Rossi. It felt like the chaos within the team distracted them from a better performance last Sunday, but maybe it was just a one-off occurrence, and they’ll get back to their strong runs in Toronto. But what I predict is not a one-off occurrence is this budding feud between Grosjean and Rossi. They made it abundantly clear on Sunday they have a strong dislike for each other, and maybe always have. It doesn’t seem like the kind of frustration that will go away after one talking-to from bossman Michael Andretti, so I’m keeping my eyes on them throughout the rest of the season to see what kind of paybacks, hard times and harsh words they have for each other. I’ve always felt the NTT INDYCAR SERIES needed a good rivalry, and I think we might have found one.
Paul Kelly: If Will Power wins his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in mid-September, his third-place finish at this event should be viewed as the keystone to that title because Power had no business finishing anywhere near the podium. He spun after an overambitious move on the second lap and dropped to last in the 27-car field. I’m not going to lie: I muttered to myself, “Well, there goes Power’s championship,” as his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet kicked up dust while hopping the curb in Turn 9. But over the next 78 laps, Power produced one of the best non-winning drives you’ll see. He was an animal on the five ensuing restarts after cautions but also methodically drove his rapid machine through the field before ending up third in a title-saving performance for the ages. This brilliant drive was an extension of the “new” Will Power, who didn’t lose his cool during his comeback. But this wasn’t all Zen. There’s no way Power could have ended up on the podium without the fiery tenacity he has shown his entire career. So, this was the perfect blend of aggression and maturity, a drive worthy of a champion. Remember this race if Power hoists the Astor Cup in mid-September at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.