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Pato O’Ward Wins First Race of IndyCar Hybrid Era

a group of race cars on a track
Pato O’Ward Wins First Race Of Indy's Hybrid EraIndycar

Sunday’s 80-lap Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the ninth race of the season, was all about Pato O’Ward, who won, and Alex Palou, who finished.499 of a second in second place. Palou led 53 laps, and O’Ward, scoring his second win of the season, led the final 24. The only other driver with laps led was Scott McLaughlin, who was out front for three. McLaughlin finished third.

O’Ward dominated the final third of the race, but Palou surged late to move in position to challenge for the lead. Palou trimmed the deficit to only.3 of a second, but slower traffic complicated the finish and helped O’Ward maintain the lead.

“It was a hard-fought race,” O’Ward said. “We were really, really strong on the reds (tires). Palou was really, really strong on the blacks. So all I needed to do was just kind of stay at bay in the first stint and then come into the pits and put those reds on and try and close the gap.”

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Indycar

The race debut of the long-in-development hybrid engine seemed to go well, although competition at the front obviously was not overwhelming. The hybrid will get its opening runs on an oval next Saturday and Sunday at Iowa Speedway.

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“The performance of the new IndyCar hybrid power unit at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was impactful and highly encouraging,” IndyCar said in a statement released after the race. “All stakeholders in the IndyCar paddock share in the pride and excitement for the future that this milestone has generated. It is the result of a truly unique collaboration between Chevrolet and Honda and the culmination of hundreds of hours of engineering, preparation, testing and execution. IndyCar looks forward to the continued evolution of the hybrid power unit as teams and drivers fine-tune the system to optimize performance beginning with the first use of horsepower assist on an oval next weekend at Iowa Speedway.”

The race’s key moment occurred on lap 56 when Palou exited his pit slowly after a stop, allowing O’Ward to pass as they ran into Turn 1. O’Ward saw daylight the rest of the way.

a green race car on a track
Alex Palou led from pole but finished second. Indycar

For Alex Palou It Was All About The Points

The day wasn’t all sour for Alex Palou.

The second-place finish increased his championship point lead to 48 over Will Power with eight races remaining.

“That was very, very close,” Palou said. “It’s a shame we couldn’t make the alternate tires work and be better. We knew that we were going to struggle a little bit, and that’s why we tried to go a little bit harder on the first primary stint. Almost made it work. I had a little bit of traffic on my in-lap, and then we had a slow stop. When I tried to engage first gear, I think I was too excited to get going fast, and it was too soon.”

a group of race cars on a track
There was only one caution flag during the race. Indycar

Hybrids Get a Long Green Flag Test

Only one caution flag slowed the race day, giving teams the opportunity to test the new hybrid power unit through long green-flag runs.

“We were in no man’s land there, so I had my own race and was just playing with the hybrid a bit and learning it, as well,” said third-place finisher Scott McLaughlin. “We have been up and down all year, and it’s nice to get a solid result. Hopefully, we can build on this.”

Runnerup Alex Palou said driving with the hybrid unit “was a ton of fun. There were a lot of times where I was getting closer or he (Pato O’Ward) was pulling away because of the hybrid system. It made things interesting. I think everybody had fun with it.”

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Scott Dixon did not complete a lap Sunday. JAMES J BLACK

Difficult Day For Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon had virtually no opportunity to test the positives or negatives of the hybrid.

Dixon’s Honda stalled in Turn 5 on the first lap, apparently because of an electrical issue. He finished last, throwing a wrench into his run for a seventh series championship.

Dixon is fourth in series points, 71 behind leader Alex Palou.