Sunday, February 5, 2023

McLaughlin Delivers Dominant Drive to Win the Grand Prix of Portland

McLaughlin wins at Portland
Each one of Scott McLaughlin’s victories this year has come from starting on pole. Image courtesy of James Black / Penske Entertainment

Scott McLaughlin put together a dominant drive to win Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.

The 29-year-old New Zealander started on pole in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet and went on to lead 104 of 110 laps en route to victory by 1.1792s over teammate and championship leader Will Power. It is the third win of the season for McLaughlin, with each of those coming from pole.

The strongest drive of the day belonged to six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who drove the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda from a 16th-place starting spot through the field to claim the third and final step on the podium.

Pato O’Ward kept his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet in front of a charging Graham Rahal in the final laps to hold on to fourth, with the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda grabbing fifth.

The No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda of Colton Herta ended up sixth, ahead of teammate Alexander Rossi in seventh.

It was a tough outing for Josef Newgarden, who drove his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet to eighth.

Rookie Callum Ilott was a smooth operator behind the wheel of the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chrevolet, climbing from 14th to finish ninth for his second top-10 result of the 2022 season.

The No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist quietly delivered a 10th-place finish. The Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Marcus Ericsson and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished 11th and 12th, respectively.

The contest got off to a uncharacteristically calm start as the field of 25 made it through Turn 1 without any issues for the first time since the series returned to the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course in 2018.

McLaughlin was comfortably out front until the caution waved on Lap 84 after Rinus VeeKay’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet swerved into the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Jimmie Johnson in the approach to Turn 1. The outcome put Johnson into the wall at the end of the front straightaway and with enough damage to knock him out of the race. Additionally, Race Control delivered a drive thru penalty to VeeKay for avoidable contact. VeeKay went on to finish 20th, while Johnson was credited with 24th.

A restart came on Lap 88 and saw McLaughlin drive away from the field, but it was Power’s No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet that came under attack from O’Ward, who delivered a late lunge for the runner-up spot into Turn 1. Despite contact, Power held off the threat of second place and left O’Ward with slight damage to the left rear of his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Moments later, Race Control gave a penalty to O’Ward for blocking Dixon and forced him to relinquish the third-place position to the Chip Ganassi Racing pilot.

The one driver that was plagued by the restart was Newgarden, who was on the primary (black sidewall) tires while everyone was on the preferred alternates (red sidewall). Although he lined up fourth on the restart, he dropped dramatically until the field spread out over the next several laps, falling to ninth before recovering one position back at the checkered flag.

While seven drivers came into the weekend mathematically eligible for the championship battle, only five have a chance with one round left next weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Following Portland, O’Ward and Palou were eliminated from contention. So, the five drivers that will fight for the title in the 17th and final race of the season are Power, Newgarden, Dixon, Ericsson and McLaughlin.

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