PORTLAND, Ore. — Scott McLaughlin led nearly every lap en route to a crucial win in the IndyCar Portland Grand Prix on Sunday.
“Just really had the concentrate,” McLaughlin said. “The team got the job done in the pits. We got the win, got max points.”
McLaughlin started on the pole and needs a win to keep himself in contention for the championship ahead of the season’s final race at Laguna Seca. Points leader Will Power started second alongside him.
McLaughlin made the decision to start on red tires, faster, but not as durable over the long run. His teammate, Josef Newgarden who started P8, started on the black tires.
After the race’s first 14 laps, Newgarden ditched the black tires for the faster reds and held his own in the top five for most of the midpoint of the race.
Newgarden’s strategy would have no impact on McLaughlin though who opened up an 8-second lead at one point of second place Power by around Lap 35 when the first round of pit stops came to an end. Marcus Ericsson went the first 33 laps without pitting, in hopes of putting pressure on the field. In the end, he would lose lots of time because of the strategy and finish 11th.
Power started to reel in McLaughlin by lap Lap 48 when the second round of stops took place. After pitting, McLaughlin was forced to put on the slower black tires. But, so did Power.
O’Ward and Newgarden were behind at that point on red tires. But, the pace didn’t hold up over the long run and McLaughlin held the lead into the last round of stops on Lap 80.
Newgarden had the choice to put on used reds or brand new black tires in pitting with the leaders running fourth. He chose the blacks.
That would prove to be fatal as the race’s first and only caution came out a few laps later. Jimmie Johnson was slammed by Rinus Veekay into turn one causing Veekay to be penalized. At this point, Newgarden would be the only car on blacks among the top ten, and he fell back to finish eighth.
On the subsequent restart, McLaughlin had a brilliant restart, Scott Dixon, who started 18th, would take advantage of a bad corner and collision between Power and O’Ward and jump to third.
That move would be the move of the day as Dixon finished third and tied for second in the championship.
The day would belong to McLaughlin though as he led every lap from the caution onward to take his third win of the season and solidify fourth in the championship standings heading into Laguna Seca.
Power came home second and, in essence, extended his championship lead by 20-points of Dixon and Newgarden. Ericsson, despite the poor finish (11th), salvaged third in the standings,
With one race left in the season, Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward find themselves eliminated from championship contention. They had finished first and second in the championship last season.
The final race of the year at Laguna Seca will be this coming Sunday.
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