Throughout Scott McLaughlin's rookie year, he looked like a driver adapting to a top-level open wheeler for the first time ever at a relatively old 28. Best finishes of second and fourth, both on intermediate ovals, highlighted what was otherwise a disappointing year where one of Australia's greatest-ever domestic talents could not finish better than eighth on a road course or street circuit. That rookie season left expectations muted for this year, which made his win at St. Petersburg and second at Texas to open the year all the more surprising. He's proven himself to be a weekly contender since.
McLaughlin started this weekend with a strong run to second in qualifying, sandwiching him between young stars Pato O'Ward and Colton Herta. He had nothing for O'Ward on the start, but the Arrow McLaren SP ace had an issue with more than one of his fuel maps during the first stint that cost him pace and stopped before McLaughlin pitted under well-timed caution. That dropped O'Ward to fourth and handed McLaughlin the lead. On the second and final cycle of stops, second-place Herta failed to stop with the rest of the field before a caution and fourth-place O'Ward slowed in the pit lane shortly after his stop.
That left McLaughlin fighting Alex Palou in the closing laps, a position he held despite constant pressure. McLaughlin would go on to grab his second career IndyCar win, beating out Palou in a relatively quiet race. Behind those two, the race was far more chaotic.
Third-placed Will Power spun on the opening lap. He recovered to fight up to tenth by lap 40, then continued pushing up to that podium spot to secure a great finish in his hunt for a long-awaited second championship. Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, and Josef Newgarden closed out a top seven full of drivers still hoping to have a shot at a championship this year, while just about every other contender suffered a wild misfortune.
Felix Rosenqvist retired with a mechanical issue from third just a few laps into the race. O'Ward retired later with his own issue. Herta's shot at a win ended with his team's strategy mistake, but his race really went downhill when he was hit off track by teammate Romain Grosjean while fighting to get back into the top 15, even though Grosjean was a lap down. He lost that lap in a clash with Andretti teammate Alexander Rossi, who hit Grosjean three times in a ten-lap stretch. Rossi, who crawled back into the championship hunt with a string of stellar finishes in May and June, also crashed into the fourth Andretti car of Devlin DeFrancesco near the end of the race. Both McLaren and Andretti will have very awkward post-race meetings.
Indianapolis 500 winner Ericsson retains the championship lead leaving Mid-Ohio, but ten drivers remain within about 100 points of him with eight rounds left to race. IndyCar has next weekend off, but the series races five times in the four races after that. The year's final list of championship contenders will become much clearer very soon.
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