Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP, Inc.

Alexander Rossi Wins From Pole at Mid-Ohio

By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor

LEXINGTON, Ohio — Alexander Rossi made a step back toward the championship with a dominant win from pole at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Rossi led 66 of 90 laps and put together a textbook drive with a two-stop strategy to claim Sunday’s Honda Indy 200. The result was his fourth-career Verizon IndyCar Series, and his second of 2018.

“To be able to rebound from the three pretty difficult weekends we had coming into this one is a fantastic effort by everyone on the 27 NAPA team,” Rossi said afterward. “Very grateful for them. They deserve the two-week break we have going into Pocono. We’ll reset, come out hard again.”

From the time the green flag flew, Rossi’s drive to victory was rarely in danger. A strong drive from Robert Wickens let the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie into contention during the early stages of the race, but doing so required Wickens to undergo a three-stop pit strategy. Rossi’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport team elected to stay on a two-stop strategy, and the race going caution-free meant that Rossi was all to build and sustain a healthy advantage.

In the end Rossi took the checkered flag 12.8285 seconds clear of Wickens to claim the victory.

“We knew going in that three stops, two stops was basically the same, but risked with three stops,” Wickens said. “I got stuck behind (Takuma) Sato on new reds. He was quick enough (that) I couldn’t do anything. I had to wait to get a bit of deg. Wasn’t making any inroads as he came. We were both kind of stuck there. Just a frustrating stint.

“I was shocked by the pace I had after that. It’s unfortunate. I think in that second stint of the race, we kind of overcut Ryan, thought things were looking pretty rosy on the reds. Had a great day. The stint went flawlessly, pulled out a 13- or 14-second lead. Our strategy was blacks till the end of the race. Unfortunately that third stint, traffic, that just destroyed the race for me.”

Will Power slotted in third to complete the podium after leading nine laps early in the race. Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon completed the top five, with Sebastien Bourdais rising from 24th to slot into sixth. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Zach Veach completed the top 10.

Dixon’s quiet top five meant that the Chip Ganassi Racing ace escaped with his points lead firmly intact, but Rossi made gains. The Californian left Mid-Ohio second in the championship, 46 points behind Dixon for the top spot.

Honda won their battle with Chevrolet in the manufacturer-sponsored event, playing seven cars inside of the top 10, including the top two finishers. Hondas have won eight of the year’s 13 races thus far, and they have the top two drivers in the championship standings with Dixon and Rossi.

Next up for the Verizon IndyCar Series is a trip to Pocono Raceway on August 19. Just four races remain in the 2018 season.

Honda Indy 200 Results

  1. Alexander Rossi
  2. Robert Wickens
  3. Will Power
  4. Josef Newgarden
  5. Scott Dixon
  6. Sebastien Bourdais
  7. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  8. Simon Pagenaud
  9. Graham Rahal
  10. Zach Veach
  11. Marco Andretti
  12. Jordan King
  13. Spencer Pigot
  14. James Hinchcliffe
  15. Ed Jones
  16. Charlie Kimball
  17. Takuma Sato
  18. Tony Kanaan
  19. Matheus Leist
  20. Jack Harvey
  21. Rene Binder
  22. Conor Daly
  23. Pietro Fittipaldi
  24. Max Chilton

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Aaron Bearden is a Contributing Writer for Motorsports Tribune, handling coverage of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A native Hoosier, Bearden has attended races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he was three years old. He can be found on social media at @AaronBearden93.