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IndyCar Mid-Ohio Doubleheader: Power and Herta in two dominant drives

PHOTO INDYCAR START RACE 1The start. Power leads through the Esses - Honda Indy 200 Race 1 (Chris Owens/INDYCAR)

NTT INDYCAR Series Honda Indy 200 Race #1 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
• Power takes command

Lexington, OH, Sept 12/20 (GRW): Saturday here was Will Power Day. The Australian driver started on the pole and held the lead – save for a pair of pit stop cycles – the entire distance in a race which ran caution-free. He took the checker by a seven-second margin over his Penske teammate Josef Newgarden. It had to be a happy day for Power who has had some troubled days earlier this weird season.

Alexander Rossi finished third, Graham Rahal fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth

Right from the start it looked like Power was on his way to the race win. He and Newgarden set up a two-car train at the front of the pack. Power was one of the first to pit in the first round of pit stops so Rossi took over the lead for five laps before handing it back to Power again.

For the second round of pit stops, Rossi pitted earlier but, when Power pitted on lap 48, Colton Herta had not yet pitted, so he led for the next four laps. With the race running uninterrupted by cautions, it was a simple two-stop strategy for everyone. Once the second round of pit stops was completed, Power cruised home the rest of the way.

“I’m so happy to have the Verizon 12 car in Victory Lane,” Power said. “This is probably the first race, I reckon, in about 10 years that I’ve just gone hard. Like every other race we’ve tried to save fuel and play a strategy game. Today I said: ‘Let’s just go hard, man. Screw this. We don’t want to get caught by a yellow. Let’s just run hard and use my raw pace and see what happens.’ And we won the race.

“It was a great strategy. It’s just putting down good laps, lap after lap after lap. Just a flawless day. It’s what you have to do to win races in this series. The whole team did a fantastic job. To see Verizon in Victory Lane again is fantastic because it’s been a while.”

Herta, who was to win flag-to-flag the next day, finished in ninth place on Saturday. Scott Dixon, who has won here six times before, ran mid-pack all day, finishing in tenth place.

This Mid-Ohio IndyCar weekend was in doubt until the last minute. It seemed as if the promoters, Green-Savoree, were holding out until they could get permission to allow spectators to attend the races. They asked for 10,000 and the State government approved 6000 each day – but it was another hopeful sign that things were getting back to normal.

• Click HERE for the results of Saturday’s Honda Indy 200 Race #1

• This Saturday race was followed by a second Honda Indy 200 (Race #2) the next day

PHOTO MID OHIO 2 HertaColon Herta, Honda Indy 200 Race 2 (Chris Owens/INDYCAR)

NTT INDYCAR Series Honda Indy 200 Race #2 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
• Herta’s Sunday in the Park

Lexington, OH, Sept 13/20 (GRW): If Saturday was Power’s race, Sunday was Colton Herta’s day to shine. He started from the pole and led 57 of the race’s 75 laps. This was his first win of the 2020 season, his third in his two-year Indy car career. This race was a three-car sweep for Andretti Autosport – Alexander Rossi was second, 1.3-seconds back and Ryan Hunter Reay was third. Graham Rahal finished in fourth place with Marcus Ericsson in fifth.

Like Power the day before, Herta started from the pole but after that the race story played out a bit differently. The races here start mid-way down the first proper straight coming off the keyhole section. This makes the rise and left-hand turn they call ‘madness’ the second corner on the first lap after the starter shows the green flag. This time things went wrong here on the very first lap. Marcus Ericsson slid wide to the left and then swerved back onto the track, slamming Felix Rosenqvist into the barrier on the right. Alex Patou, who had qualified in fifth place, was also caught up in this and, although he was able to drive back around to the pits, his car had a damaged wishbone and it was retired. Scott Dixon had qualified third quickest on Sunday and he was hoping for a better day this time; he was in the middle of this and not happy with young Herta but he was able to avoid most of the carnage and he continued.

On lap 15, the young Canadian Dalton Kellet crashed off course and retired – bringing out the race’s second caution. Most of the cars had already made their first scheduled pit stop but Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti had not, putting them at the front of the field.

Sato stayed in the lead when the track went green again. A couple of laps later, Dixon made an ‘unforced error’ when he got on the power too soon coming out of the first turn (the one under the bridge after the pit lane exit) and he did a half spin and he fell to the back of the field. Another bad day for the five-time champion and the current points leader. He would finish the race in tenth place, the same as the day before.

Sato continued to lead for 16 laps until he pitted on lap 32, handing back over to Herta. After Herta pitted on lap 46, Graham Rahal had a one-lap turn at the front, followed by Marcus Ericsson for a single lap before Herta resumed command and led the remaining 28 laps to the checker. However, despite Sato’s run in the lead, and the others leading during a round of pit stops, Herta’s dominance of this race was never in question. The multi-year champion Dixon may have issues with the youngster Herta, but it looks like he may need to get used to this guy winning more races – and he is just one of the many youngsters coming up who are getting set to challenge to established order.

“I’m so happy,” Herta said. “We’ve been knocking on the door almost every weekend. We’ve had the pace. But for some reason or another, one thing has gone wrong or this thing has gone wrong. We finally put everything together. We got the pole this morning, had a stellar car. Everybody on the Capstone Turbine crew gave me an incredible car.”

The last time Andretti Autosport swept the podium was in 2005 at St. Petersburg when Dan Wheldon scored the win and fellow Andretti teammates Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta – Colton Herta’s father – followed to sweep the top four finishing positions for what was known as Andretti Green Racing at the time.
(With notes from INDYCAR)

• Click HERE for the results of the of Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 Race #2

• The next race weekend will be a double-header again – the INDYCAR Harvest GP, Race #1 on Friday, October 2, and Race #2 on Saturday, October 3, both races on the IMS road course. After that there is only one more race in the 2020 schedule, a finale at St. Peterburg in Florida, the race that was supposed to have been the start of the season, postponed to the end.

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