By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Will Power and Graham Rahal were just trying to catch Josef Newgarden all day long but ended up falling short during Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Power and Rahal had great performances, finishing second and third respectively. However, both had points of contention with how road and street course races tend to play out.
Later in the race, Ed Jones stalled on track which caused a full course yellow on Lap 67 out of 90. This is where the first point of contention arrives.
Whenever a caution period comes out in an IndyCar race, the pits are closed until the cars pack up behind the pace car. This traps any cars that haven’t pitted yet out on track. When those drivers pit under caution, they are stuck at the back of all of the cars that have pitted under green. That wasn’t a major issue Sunday since everybody up front had pitted except for JR Hildebrand. Power and Rahal both took issue with this procedure again in the post race press conference.
“I don’t know if anyone were [caught] out,” Power said.
“In that instance, if anyone had gone a lap longer, they literally get a drive-through penalty, and that’s what’s wrong with closing the laps on the yellow. If you stayed out one lap longer, you’d be at the back. To me, that’s so wrong if you’ve done a good job of saving fuel.
“All these guys should have been fighting for the win. Instead, they’re put to the back for doing a really good job. I think the field is competitive enough now to make it fair because it’s a total lottery for who’s in the pits.”
Rahal echoed his competitor’s sentiments.
“Today’s yellow was fine for us,” Rahal said.
“As Will said, this championship is too competitive for a race to be decided like Toronto, you know, in my opinion. That’s why I was pretty hot after the race.
“The championship is too close for that to play a role. Today, luckily, it was okay because we could have gone another lap to turn and decided not to.”
The other point of contention was with lapped cars. Rahal was running in the top five while he was stuck behind Carlos Munoz during the middle portion of the race, gesturing to the flag stand several times as he passed by on the front straight. Power, on the other hand, had to deal with Esteban Gutierrez after a late race restart.
Gutierrez was lined up second on the restart after Newgarden and in front of Power. Gutierrez tried to get his lap back but Newgarden pulled out enough of a gap that Gutierrez could not gain his lap back and soon after pitted.
“I think we need to have a talk behind closed doors with the drivers,” Rahal said.
“I would say Gutierrez was damn close to taking out the leader. I’m sure you saw it, that’s just ridiculous, honestly. We’ll talk about it behind closed doors. I think everybody needs a little bit of a shakeup here with just the respect between drivers, but we’ll go from there.
As for Munoz?
“He was on overtake every single straightaway. It’s like come on. You know, come on,” Rahal added.
Power doesn’t place the blame on Gutierrez for being in the position he was in. He blames the rules.
“It’s actually not Gutierrez’ fault,” said Power.
“The rules for IndyCar is kind of ridiculous, that the team would tell him to stay and push and he’s not even in the lead. He’s not even leading. I understand if he was ahead of Newgarden because then, if it goes yellow, he gets his lap back.
“IndyCar on one hand wants really good racing, but then you put a bunch of back markers, people a lap down in the mix. It ruined probably a very good battle at the end because Josef was on black tires and we were on reds.”