Pato O’Ward Holds Off Palou To Win Late Thriller at Mid-Ohio

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The next event is a doubleheader this weekend at Iowa Speedway. The Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart is at 7 p.m. CT Saturday, July 1, with the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade is set for 11 a.m. CT Sunday, July 14. NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network will provide live coverage of both races.

Lexington, Ohio – Pato O’Ward resisted constant pressure from NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship leader Alex Palou over the closing laps to win The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid on Sunday.

O’Ward slid his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet sideways through the final corner on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to hold off Palou’s No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by .4993 of a second, the closest finish this season on a road or street circuit.

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

This was the sixth career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory for O’Ward and his second this season. But he inherited the first win from the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding after Josef Newgarden, who crossed the line first ahead of O’Ward, was disqualified in April after it was discovered Team Penske illegally used the Push to Pass system.

“Great job by the team,” O’Ward said. “Oh, it’s been awhile. I know we won St. Pete, but this is a proper win. We earned this one this weekend.”

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Scott McLaughlin finished third in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet, his second podium place in the last three races. Colton Herta placed fourth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian.

Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top five finishers in the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda of Andretti Global.

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While all eyes were focused on the debut of the new hybrid system on the engines of all 27 cars, this race evolved into a tale of two tires.

NTT P1 Award winner Palou and fellow front-row starter O’Ward both began the 80-lap race on Firestone primary tires. Palou established his superiority quickly on the harder, more durable rubber, building a lead of approximately six seconds before O’Ward’s first pit stop at the end of Lap 27. O’Ward took the softer, grippier Firestone alternate tires on his first stop, and Palou followed suit on his stop one lap later and stayed out front after the first pit cycle concluded.

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Two-time and defending series champion Palou built a lead of 4.2 seconds over O’Ward by Lap 43, but then O’Ward’s car came to life on the red-sidewall Firestone alternate tires. O’Ward trimmed the lead to just five-tenths of a second by Lap 54, and the race and dueling pit strategies were on.

“We couldn’t make the alternate tires last,” Palou said. “Pato started catching us, and I couldn’t really do anything. I just destroyed my front tires.”

O’Ward made his second and final stop for new Firestone primary tires at the end of Lap 54, while Palou pitted a lap later for scuffed Firestone primary tires. Those stops were crucial. O’Ward’s was clean, while Palou stumbled exiting his pit box and lost a second.

“We had a slow stop,” Palou said. “I couldn’t really engage first gear. Maybe I was trying to get it too fast, so probably my fault. Anyways, good race. Had fun. Good, solid day.”

That delay dropped Palou just behind O’Ward when Palou exited the pits on Lap 57, and O’Ward kept the lead for the rest of the race.

But nothing came easily for the popular Mexican driver over the closing 24 laps. Palou hounded the rear of O’Ward’s car, staying within a second or less the entire way. O’Ward also managed the turbulent air from the cars of Agustin Canapino and rookie Kyffin Simpson ahead of him, both battling to stay on the tail end of the lead lap.

It looked like Palou might dive for the lead at any time in the last five laps. But he lost vital momentum on Lap 76 when the left-side wheels of his car left the track and kicked up a dust cloud.

Still, Palou rallied from that slight miscue and pulled to within four-tenths of a second with one lap to go. But O’Ward maintained his cool – and speed – and gave Palou no chance to attack on the final lap.

“We were pushing,” O’Ward said. “We caught the traffic and couldn’t quite get by them.”

One of the features of the new hybrid system helped to maintain the suspense until the checkered flag. Romain Grosjean spun off track and stalled his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet with three laps to go, an incident that would have triggered a race-ending caution in previous races because INDYCAR SERIES cars had no onboard starters. But Grosjean was able to use the hybrid supercapacitors to refire his engine and return to the track, and the race stayed green.

Palou recorded his eighth top-five finish in nine races this season and expanded his points gap. Palou leads second-place Will Power by 48 points. Power finished 11th in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet. O’Ward climbed to third in the standings, 70 points behind Palou.

The next event is a doubleheader this weekend at Iowa Speedway, as “oval season” begins with six of the last eight races on circle tracks. The Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart is at 7 p.m. CT Saturday, July 13, with the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade is set for 11 a.m. CT Sunday, July 14. NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network will provide live coverage of both races.

Pato O’Ward celebrando su victoria de la carrera Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 el 24 de julio 2022 en Newton, IA.
Foto por Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

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