McLaughlin Triumphs at Barber: Penske’s Intense Battle with Grosjean
In a gripping showdown at Barber, Scott McLaughlin clinched his first 2023 victory for Team Penske, overcoming a fierce battle with Romain Grosjean.
Scott McLaughlin secured his first 2023 victory at Barber with Team Penske, despite a second wheel-banging incident with Romain Grosjean, who delivered an impressive performance but couldn’t turn his third IndyCar pole into a win.
Typically, a two-stop strategy is favored in this race, but a three-stop approach can also prove successful, especially if assisted by a well-timed caution.
Grosjean initially fended off challenges from Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward. Meanwhile, the three Penske cars driven by Josef Newgarden, McLaughlin, and Will Power, as well as the Arrow McLaren pair of Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist, opted for the three-stop strategy between laps 13 and 15 of the 90-lap race.
Newgarden reported a problem with his right rear after being struck by Rosenqvist on the first lap at Turn 2, which caused Rosenqvist to spin and fall to the back. Nonetheless, Newgarden overtook McLaughlin after pitting from sixth on lap 13 and managed to rejoin the top eight before the two-stoppers entered the pits around lap 30.
Grosjean retained the lead, with O’Ward undercutting Palou, and was about 22 seconds ahead of Newgarden. However, Newgarden pitted shortly after McLaughlin passed him on lap 37. The following lap, Sting Ray Robb from Dale Coyne’s team stopped at the side of the track, triggering a yellow flag. McLaughlin and Rossi, who were leading, pitted before the pace car appeared.
Grosjean reclaimed the lead with a nine-lap advantage on his tires. McLaughlin, who didn’t have to complete a full outlap like Newgarden, moved into second place. This was the second time Grosjean and McLaughlin had competed for the lead, with their first encounter in St Petersburg ending in McLaughlin taking Grosjean out.
Grosjean successfully defended his position against McLaughlin, who was on used soft tires, while completing a full 30-lap stint on hard tires. As Grosjean entered the pits, McLaughlin took advantage of his extra fuel to stay out and attempt quick laps before pitting three laps later. He managed to stay ahead of Grosjean, who nearly overtook him before making an aggressive move at Turn 13 and gaining the inside of Turn 14. They made contact, but McLaughlin provided enough space for Grosjean to remain on track and take the lead.
Once McLaughlin’s tires reached optimal temperature, he appeared confident and quick behind the former Formula 1 driver, Grosjean. Eventually, McLaughlin pressured Grosjean into making a mistake at Turn 5 on lap 72, allowing him to pull ahead.
With his first win of the year, McLaughlin climbed to fourth in the points standings. This victory was Penske’s second, following Newgarden’s win in Texas, and Chevrolet’s second, evenly dividing the four 2023 races with Honda thus far.
Starting from 11th, reigning champion Power stuck to his three-stop strategy, which paid off due to a combination of impressive laps in clear air before his last pit stop and both O’Ward and Palou encountering traffic before their final stops. This allowed him to secure third place.
Power managed to reduce a 12-second gap to Grosjean, taking advantage of his used soft tires compared to Grosjean’s new hard tires. However, Grosjean successfully fended him off.
With two Penske drivers on the podium and only one Andretti driver in the top 11, it’s evident that Grosjean’s performance was exceptional within his team. His 19-second lead over the closest two-stop competitor further highlights the strength of his drive.
O’Ward’s final pit stop undercut allowed him to finish fourth, just ahead of Palou, who continued to challenge him for the position until the last corner. One of the race’s standout performers finished in sixth place.
Christian Lundgaard surprised Scott Dixon of Ganassi’s team with an impressive pass at Turn 14. Lundgaard’s rise was due to being the sole driver committed to the two-stop strategy who extended the first stint on hard tires. This result marked Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s best performance of the year.
Dixon narrowly held off Rossi and Rosenqvist for seventh place, while points leader Marcus Ericsson used his two-stop strategy to secure a spot in the top 10.
Ericsson and Dixon’s teammate, Marcus Armstrong, should have qualified in the top 15 but lost his two fastest laps due to an impeding penalty. However, he managed to drive from 26th to 11th using a two-stop strategy during his first IndyCar permanent road-course appearance.
Results for a race at Barber in 2023
POS DRIVER TEAM TIME 01 S. McLaughlin Team Penske 01:47’58″9401 02 R. Grosjean Andretti Autosport +1″7854 03 W. Power Team Penske +3″2699 04 P. O’Ward Arrow McLaren +20″5745 05 A. Palou Chip Ganassi +20″9762 06 C. Lundgaard Rahal Letterman +23″5319 07 S. Dixon Chip Ganassi +24″2769 08 A. Rossi Arrow McLaren +25″0582 09 F. Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren +25″5107 10 M. Ericsson Chip Ganassi +26″0190 11 M. Armstrong Chip Ganassi +28″5527 12 K. Kirkwood Andretti Autosport +36″3667 13 C. Ilott Juncos Hollinger +42″4441 14 C. Herta Andretti Autosport +43″7781 15 J. Newgarden Team Penske +45″7346 16 R. VeeKay Ed Carpenter +55″1118 17 G. Rahal Rahal Letterman +56″4422 18 S. Pagenaud Meyer Shank +56″7500 19 D. Malukas Dale Coyne with HMD +57″7650 20 S. Ferrucci AJ Foyt Enterprises +58″5106 21 H. Castroneves Meyer Shank +1’00″0847 22 B. Pedersen AJ Foyt Enterprises +1’01″3063 23 D. DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner +1’03″1924 24 J. Harvey Rahal Letterman +1’04″5393 25 C. Daly Ed Carpenter +1’05″6055 26 A. Canapino Juncos Hollinger +1’06″1483 27 S. Robb Dale Coyne with RWR
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