By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Scott McLaughlin on Sunday picked up his second career IndyCar victory, which may go down as one of the most special wins of his career.
The New Zealander won at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with his nervous parents watching from pit lane. McLaughlin had not seen his family in 31 months because of the pandemic, but his parents finally were able to leave New Zealand in May to attend the Indianapolis 500.
Wayne and Diane McLaughlin booked their trip to maximize their visas and planned nine IndyCar races on their tour of the United States. It took four to see their only son drive his Team Penske entry to victory lane.
When he won his first race in February on the street course in St. Petersburg, Florida, he had to celebrate with his parents via FaceTime.
“I really wanted to get a win here with Mom and Dad,” said McLaughlin, who had won three consecutive V8 Supercars championships in Australia.
The race took a turn when five different Chevrolet drivers were knocked out with various problems, and Andretti Autosport began battling internally.
Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean kept bumping wheel-to-wheel and their final contact knocked the steering wheel out of Rossi’s hands, leaving him unable to turn as both cars went off course.
“What the hell is wrong with him?” Grosjean screamed.
So he was less than pleased to later receive team orders to aid Rossi’s finish.
“What do you want me to do? Just block everyone behind and not go ahead?” Grosjean asked.
Told that yes, Andretti Autosport expected Grosjean to hold up traffic to help his teammates, the Frenchman declined.
“Because Rossi put me in the wall, so I am not going to protect him,” Grosjean replied.
Grosjean was then informed of the stakes via team radio: “Rossi is not a lap down, you are.”
Rossi finished 19th, Grosjean was 21st and Colton Herta spun mid-race and finished 15th, best of the four-car Andretti fleet.
IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished second for Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda, and Will Power had a brilliant run to put a second Penske driver on the podium. Power had been penalized in qualifying, started 21st, spun in the opening laps and charged through the field to finish third.
The race had the potential to upend the IndyCar standings after the top three drivers in the standings — Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, Power and Penske teammate Josef Newgarden — all had poor qualifying efforts. It put Pato O’Ward, who was fourth in the points, on the pole with the chance to close major ground in the title hunt.
Instead, he and Arrow McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist were two of the five Chevrolets knocked out early, and Ericsson retained his hold on the standings. He leads Power by 20 points.
Rinus VeeKay finished fourth for Ed Carpenter Racing and was followed by Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Ericsson.
Jimmie Johnson finished 16th for his best result on a road or street course. He gained 11 positions on track.
O’Ward and Rosenqvist started Sunday expecting to contend for the victory. Instead, both were knocked from the race early with issues to their Arrow McLaren SP entries.
O’Ward, who started from the pole, was screaming over his radio: “I’m losing power! I’m losing power!” fairly early in the race. Rosenqvist had already retired with some sort of electrical or mechanical problem just 18 laps into the race.
“Fuel-delivery wise, it just kept getting worse and worse and worse and then just failed,” O’Ward said. “It’s a bummer. We’ve thrown away an easy podium there.”
O’Ward had been trying to capitalize on poor qualifying efforts from the three championship contenders ahead of him in the standings. Instead, he finished 24th.
Rosenqvist, who is on a mission to keep his IndyCar seat with McLaren with strong runs that will stave off a relocation to McLaren’s upcoming Formula E team, started fourth in search of his first podium of the season. An issue with his Chevrolet ended the Swede’s day early.
Rosenqvist was furious and threw his gloves after climbing from his disabled car.
“It’s just unfortunate. I had a really, really good run. Big loss for us today,” he said. “You never know what would have happened later on, but I really felt like we were sailing. We were fighting for podium finishes and have to come back and do it all again.”
Rosenqvist entered the race coming off four consecutive top-10 finishes as he’s trying to make the case to keep his seat in the No. 7. He signed a multiyear extension with McLaren, but the team doesn’t know if Rosenqvist will drive next year in IndyCar or Formula E.
IndyCar returns to Canada for the first time since 2019 for a race through the downtown streets of Toronto. Simon Pagenaud won the last IndyCar race held in Canada before a two-year pandemic pause.
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