LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Will Power scored his first win of the season in a 1-2 finish for Team Penske on Saturday in the first race of a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Power beat teammate Josef Newgarden, the reigning IndyCar champion, by more than 7 seconds in winning from the pole. Power earned his 60th career pole earlier Saturday and trails only Mario Andretti (67) for the IndyCar record.
“That’s probably the first race I reckon in about 10 years that I’ve just gone hard,” Power said. “Every other race I save fuel or we try to 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 go hard and use my pace and see what happens.' It was a great strategy."
Alexander Rossi, stuck in a miserable season, finished third. It was just his second podium finish of the year and second for the entire Andretti Autosport organization.
“We just haven't had a lot of things go our way, and we really haven't had luck but we haven't had pace either,” Rossi said. “We are really trying to go out and make the most of the rest of the year.”
Scott Dixon entered the Saturday-Sunday doubleheader with a shot at mathematically clinching his sixth series championship by the end of the weekend. But he qualified an uncharacteristic 17th and had to scramble to make up ground.
Dixon, both the defending winner at Mid-Ohio and the series’ winningest driver at the road course with six victories, rallied to finish 10th.
“We kind of took the conservative route, tough day with this qualifying,” Dixon said.
But Newgarden was able to shave 20 points off Dixon's lead in the standings. Dixon takes a 76-point lead into Sunday's race. There are four races remaining on the most updated IndyCar schedule.
“We just need to be a little sportier than we were," Newgarden said. “We picked up some pretty good points, one spot higher (on the podium) would have been better."
Power, meanwhile, won for the first time in 12 tries at the 13-turn, 2.258-miles course.
“It's just great to tick the Mid-Ohio box. I have finished on the podium like five time and we finally converted one. Absolutely over the moon,” Power said.
It was an uneventful 75-lap race with drivers racing against threatening dark clouds. Teams were preparing to grab rain tires in the closing laps but the race finished moments before the sky opened.
Mid-Ohio had originally been scheduled to run the first week of August, before the Indianapolis 500, but was postponed because of the pandemic. It finally landed back on the schedule about two weeks ago, and state officials only signed off on 6,000 spectators this week.
“We've had a pretty trying year, obviously everyone has,” Power said. "The circumstances are very tough, COVID and the social distancing we have to do. But the fact we are out here racing and we have some fans is fantastic.
“That's what we love to do, we love to entertain and we love to drive.”