LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — As Scott McLaughlin celebrated with his parents and Team Penske on the quaint victory podium at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a full-blown crisis raged across the paddock at Andretti Autosport.
McLaughlin picked up his second career IndyCar victory on Sunday, his first with his parents in attendance after a 31-month separation because of the pandemic. Wayne McLaughlin paced pit lane over the closing laps, while his wife, Diane, wiped away a tear as their only son crossed the finish line.
“I’m just so excited for him just that he could get a win while we were here,” Wayne McLaughlin told The Associated Press in victory lane. “I knew he wanted to do that, but we’d never talked about it because we didn’t want to put any pressure on him. What an amazing result.”
It was one of the few celebrations at Mid-Ohio, where Chevrolet lost five cars to malfunctions and the Andretti camp fumed over contact between its drivers. Team owner Michael Andretti stormed away from Alexander Rossi’s pit stand after contact between Rossi and teammate Romain Grosjean knocked them both off course, and Andretti was later seen in a heated discussion with Rossi’s father.
Rossi is leaving Andretti at the end of the season to drive for Arrow McLaren SP.
Rossi and Grosjean had repeated wheel-to-wheel contact and one of the bumps 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.
Grosjean 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. Rossi downplayed the drama after the race.
“Just a racing incident,” he said. “He was on a softer tire and probably going to get around me, but he likes to do it fast and early. I had to test him there and obviously that’s unfortunate to tap into a teammate, but that’s the way it goes.”
Asked if he is racing Andretti drivers differently now that he knows he’s leaving the team, Rossi said no.
“Of course not. We’re teammates for Andretti Autosport and trying to get the best result possible,” he said.
Tensions were far more at ease at Team Penske, which celebrated both the McLaughlin win and brilliant drive from Will Power from 21st to third and double podium for Chevrolet.
For McLaughlin, the win may go down as one of the most special victories of his career. His parents finally were able to leave New Zealand in May to attend the Indianapolis 500 and booked their trip to maximize their visas, planning nine IndyCar races on their tour of the United States. It took four to see their 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. McLaughlin, who won three consecutive V8 Supercars championships in Australia before moving to IndyCar, said his parents had last been present at a win at the Bathurst 1000 in 2019.
“It’s not just to be together, but just to win with them here. That’s the coolest thing,” he said. “Even in Australia, I didn’t really win with them a lot at the race. It just means so much. They’re the people that shaped me as a person.
“I’m probably giving them a few more gray hairs, but that’s part of the development of everything, and I’m really proud to win in front of them, win in front of mom.”
IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished second for Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda, and Power closed out 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.
DOUBLE DNF FOR MCLAREN
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.
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.
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.