|Ryan Briscoe (C) celebrates with Helio Castroneves (L) and Scott Dixon|
On Saturday Helio Castroneves nipped his Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe by the slimmest of margins to win the pole position. On Sunday Ryan Briscoe turned the tables and won the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a comfortable 7-second win over Castroneves.
Points leader Scott Dixon was right behind Castroneves but could not find a way past and had to settle for third.
KV Racing Technology teammates Will Power and Oriol Servia rounded out the top-5.
The race began about one hour after a downpour soaked the 2.25-mile, 13-turn road circuit at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. IndyCar officials ruled it a wet start, and all the cars had to begin the race on grooved rain tires.
Polesitter Castroneves jumped out to an early lead but Justin Wilson was on the move from his 4th starting spot and worked his way to the front and passed Castroneves for the lead on lap 5.
However, the track was drying fast and three drivers, Vitor Meira, Darren Manning and Will Power, pitted early to change to dry tires and that paid dividends later. When the leaders had to pit under green to change to drys because the track was drying fast, this trio found themselves up front for most of the first 1/3 of the race.
The race was marked by a number of incidences that ruined the flow of the race, and made it a boring follow-the-pace car procession for the fans.
Ryan Hunter-Reay tried to outbrake Enrique Bernoldi at the end of the backstraight on lap 11, they made contact and both went spinning off the road. Hunter-Reay was able to continue after the crane lifted him out of the pea gravel.
Mario Dominguez spun by himself and lightly damaged his rear wing on the tires. Although the officials said it should be OK and sent him back out, the rear wing collapsed down the backstraight and Dominguez went spinning into the pea gravel.
On lap 32 Marco Andretti spun off in the final corner while running 12th but kept the engine running and rejoined on the lead lap.
At that point Justin Wilson had assumed the lead again when some of the leaders chose to pit early under the yellow for Dominguez. Wilson opened up a 4.4 second lead over Dan Wheldon by lap 38 but a spin by Milka Duno brought out the caution and bunched the field up, wiping out Wilson's lead.
On lap 43 the race was about to restart when Mario Dominguez clipped the rear tire of Justin Wilson in the final corner and the spinning cars collected AJ Foyt IV, Marco Andretti and Dan Wheldon.
A real surprise was rookie Mario Moraes running second behind Ryan Briscoe and then leading for a few laps when Briscoe pitted with 30 laps go. While he wasn't in position to win the race he did show some real talent throwing the car through the corners in controlled 4-wheel drifts before getting a bit too aggressive and losing control under braking at the end of the backstraight and spinning out of the race.
With 20 laps to go the order was Briscoe over Bruno Junqueira, Castroneves and Scott Dixon. The order stayed that way as the laps wound down until Bruno Junqueira had to pit for a splash and go of fuel with 8 laps to go, having to give up 2nd place.
Briscoe built as much as a nine-second lead in the final laps, claiming the victory by 7.2640 seconds.
"There was one point where we fell back in the pack, staying out a bit too long on the wets," the 26-year-old Australian driver said. "I was thinking to myself ... 'I know it can be done. I know with Roger calling my strategy, we'll get up to the front. But if we get to win this, it's going to be awesome.' I actually thought that to myself, and here we are."
"We took a gamble of pitting a bit early for that second stop to try to gain track position in case a yellow came out, because you don't lose a lap on a road course pitting on the green," Briscoe said. "That was the key stop for us, because sooner or later a yellow did come and we'd already done our stop and everybody else had to stop on the yellow. We cycled to the front. That was really the turning point for us in the race. From there, it was all about speed."
"I think that was the only chance we had," Roger Penske said referring to the slightly different pit strategy for Briscoe. "What a great drive for Briscoe. I think he's validated himself now as one of the top drivers in the Indy Racing League. And, to finish 1-2, I couldn't believe when I saw what happened here a few minutes ago."
The result marked the second consecutive weekend that teammates have finished 1-2 in the IndyCar Series. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon finished 1-2 July 12 at Nashville.
The next race is on Saturday in Edmonton, where the ex-Champ Car teams have more experience, which should make things a bit more interesting.
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, first): “What a weekend for Team Penske. It really couldn’t be better. It just feels so good to get this win. It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the lead up to here, and this one’s sweet for sure. What a comeback. It’s all strategy from Roger Penske himself. I don’t know if it’s momentum, because the two races in the lead up to this one weren’t so good, but hopefully we’ll keep some momentum from here.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): “The yellow came in the right place. Ryan drove a heck of a race. I was just trying to do everything I can, and unfortunately I got held up in traffic. We just didn’t have enough, so it’s a shame, but second is good.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third): “It was a good day for us. We started sixth. I knew we still had a car to win. Everything was really crazy today. We didn’t get into any rhythm. Everybody knew how it was going to play out and who was doing what, and then we had a bad pit stop when we tried to jump Helio (Castroneves) there, and that put us back a little ways. So it’s frustrating, but still I think we only lost maybe five points in the championship.”
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, fourth): “I am really happy for the KVRT Aussie Vineyards team. This was a track I had never been to and we started well behind the eight-ball. We got the car better and better all weekend, made the right choice on tires early on in the race and had a good race strategy. We had the pace to ride at the front and we did. I am just really happy that we got good championship points here, and hopefully we can do that again next weekend in Edmonton.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology, fifth): “I am just really happy for the KV Racing Technology team. You saw where we started and how we progressed through the weekend from 20th to eighth yesterday. We had a car that could win today. We could have chosen a crazy strategy and maybe been a hero, but having a car that could contend at the front was a smarter thing to do, was more logical, maybe more conservative but definitely the right thing to do as we need those championship points. I am hoping next weekend at Edmonton I can bring the same if not better result to the team.”
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, sixth): “John Barnes made a great pit call, and we came into the pits after taking the green on the first lap to go to dry tires. That’s the second time this season we’ve done that, and both times we shot to the front. This time it put us in the lead of the race. The car was good. It was picking up some push as the race went on, and I was sliding a lot at the end, but I was able to keep (Tony) Kanaan behind me at the end. We would have been a position or two better, but coming out of the pits on my last stop I had contact with one of the Ganassi cars, and that let (Oriol) Servia get past me. The finish was OK, and after our luck we needed to keep finishing races. Again, we were in a position to win, and that’s going to go our way soon.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, seventh): “It was not a good race for this team. We need to regroup, because we’re definitely not doing a good job right now. We’ve got to keep our heads and work through our issues to get better.”
DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing, eighth): “It was a good race for us considering where we started. We discussed pitting straightaway before the race because I don't mind being on the wet with slicks. We made the right decision, coming out second. Our first stop was a tad slow, and we lost three spots, but overall the ABC Supply crew did a great job for me today. Towards the end when everyone's fuel load got down, I was a bit off-pace, and (Tony) Kanaan got me when I had to burp the throttle because it pushed a bit, but it's another top-10 for us. It gives us good momentum going into Edmonton.”
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, ninth): “The Formula Dream car was good at the beginning of the race. In fact, I think we had one of the fastest cars in the first stint. But, the last stint we developed too much of an understeer condition, and we just couldn't pass anyone. Our strategy for the race did not work out the way we needed. It was a tough day. I hope we can have a better result next week.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, 10th): “These guys called some great pit strategy, and we caught one yellow right at a time that helped us. The Firestone tires really held up when we needed them to, and it’s great to come away with a top-10 finish after the start we had to the day. We couldn’t afford to leave many more points on the table. We stayed in the top 10 in points, and we’ll go after it again next week.”
||Ryan Briscoe (6)
||Helio Castroneves (3)
||Scott Dixon (9)
||Will Power (8)
||Oriol Servia (5)
||Vitor Meira (4)
||Tony Kanaan (11)
||Darren Manning (14)
||Hideki Mutoh (27)
||Ryan Hunter-Reay (17)
||Justin Wilson (02)
||Danica Patrick (7)
||Bruno Junqueira (18)
||Jaime Camara (34)
||Ed Carpenter (20)
||Graham Rahal (06)
||Dan Wheldon (10)
||A.J. Foyt IV (2)
||Mario Dominguez (96)
||Buddy Rice (15)
||Marty Roth (25)
||EJ Viso (33)
||Milka Duno (23)
||Mario Moraes (19)
||Marco Andretti (26)
||Enrique Bernoldi (36)
Winner's average speed: 94.873 mph
Time of race: 2:01:22.8496
Margin of victory: 7.2640 seconds
Cautions: 5 caution flags for 19 laps
Lead changes: 7 among 7 drivers
Lap leaders: Castroneves 1-5, Meira 6-26, Manning 27, Wilson
28-38, Briscoe 39-55, Moraes 56, Power 57-59, Briscoe 60-85.
Point standings: Dixon 455, Castroneves 397, Kanaan 365,
Wheldon 364, Briscoe 296, Patrick 284, Mutoh 276, Andretti
263, Hunter-Reay 252, Servia 250.