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McLaughlin secures dominant victory in thrilling Grand Prix of Alabama

Written by Caitlyn Gordon, Edited by Dan Jones

Credit: Chris Jones

The NTT IndyCar Series headed south-east for the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. Qualifying saw Team Penske lock the front-row out with Scott McLaughlin and Will Power leading the pack. After 90 laps around the 2.38-mile circuit, McLaughlin was victorious in an action-packed race around the Barber Motorsports Park securing a second consecutive victory at the circuit.

How it all unfolded

As the cars lined up on the grid, the alternatives were the preferred starting tyres with the majority of the grid opting for the reds, whilst pole-sitter McLaughlin and teammate Power, opted to start on the primary tyres. 

As the lights went green, McLaughlin had a stellar start getting away brilliantly, however, the back of the field wasn’t as fortunate. Sting Ray Robb spun out after getting rear-ended by Rinus VeeKay, however, was able to escape unscathed but dropped to the back of the grid. 

Pato O’Ward suffered a spin on Lap 2, looking to avoid contact with Christian Lundgaard his Arrow McLaren locked his rears and spun onto the gravel, the Mexican dropped down the grid to 24th.

Fittipaldi's day was ended early after contact with O'Ward. Credit: Chris Owens

It wasn’t turning out to be a great day for O’Ward with the first caution being brought out after the Mexican had contact with Pietro Fittipaldi at Turn 11, sending the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car spinning into the barriers. O’Ward was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident - though didn’t agree with the penalty, stating over the radio that he believed it was ‘a racing incident.'

The green flag waved and racing action went underway once again. McLaughlin got a great launch once again, already building a gap of six tenths to his teammate in second, whilst Alex Palou was making moves up the field, starting in 10th the Spaniard was already up in fourth by lap 14, cruising by cars with ease.

A couple of laps later, Long Beach’s victor, Dixon was struggling, driving wide and onto the gravel dropping down the standings to 18th after running strong in 7th.  He wasn’t the only one, however, Power who was closing in on his teammate slid onto the gravel as well, though the mistake wasn’t detrimental with the Australian only dropping down one position.

McLaughlin was able to maintain his lead after the first round of stops. Credit: Chris Jones

Christian Lundgaard on the alternative-used reds and the three-stop-strategy, headed into pit lane on lap 25, once he exited he came out in 14th - finding himself in the thick of traffic. McLaughlin followed shortly after on lap 28, setting off a domino-effect of drivers running to pit road. This worked in favour for the Kiwi who found himself back up at the front of the grid, not losing much track position.

Marcus Armstrong was having a strong weekend, entering his first Fast 6 of his career and running near the top of the pack. As he exited the pits he ran alongside, Newgarden and as Armstrong made a move to overtake the American he hit the No.2 causing the Penske car to run onto the gravel, losing out on his track position, and dropping down to 18th.

It’s been a weekend to forget, once again for Arrow McLaren who brought the next caution out a couple of laps later. The incident involved Alexander Rossi who stopped on track after his left-rear tyre flew off after not being attached properly whilst he was leaving pitlane.

Palou would be tasked with a monster fuel save. Credit: Karl Zemlin

With the caution flying, the top three - McLaughlin, Lundgaard and Power - headed into the pits and put on a set of sticker reds. The fight was now on with Penske opting for a braver call, with pitting. In the meantime Palou took the lead of the race, already a second ahead of Rosenqvist a couple of turns later. 

The green flag period didn’t last long before the caution was brought out once again with Sting Ray Robb sliding into the barrier, bringing the race's third caution out. This significantly helped those on a two-stopper, a majority of the grid headed into the pit lane with Palou getting out ahead of the rest.

Robb's day would be cut short after a steering failure. Credit: Karl Zemlin

The battle was spicing up between Palou and McLaughlin, the Kiwi had the advantage running in third and building his gap up to eight seconds with just under half of the race remaining. Once Linus Lundqvist headed to the pits, McLaughlin had clean air to build some track position, the Penske was now in a brilliant position with a 21-second gap to Palou and setting the fastest lap of the race to that point.

The No.3 entered the pits for the final time on lap 75, after building a 30-second gap to Palou, it was looking good for the Chevrolet driver who exited with 1.5-seconds ahead of the Spaniard. 

Behind the top of the field, rookie Linus Lundqvist was running strong, looking to aim for his maiden podium position. The Swede grabbed 4th place out of Rosenqvist’s wheels and the only one blocking his path to champagne was Palou. He shortly passed the IndyCar champ, grabbing hold of third with 10 laps to go and steadily building a four second gap.

However, the race wasn’t over just yet, with five laps to go, the fourth and final caution was brought out with Christian Rasmussen spinning on the track, though he saved it, he lost the engine but was able to restart. With two laps remaining the race went green, McLaughlin shot ahead with the advantage of clean air working in his favour. 

Lundqvist claimed a first IndyCar podium. Credit: Joe Skibinski

McLaughlin crossed the line and secured his second victory at Alabama. After a difficult weekend Penske had a redeeming weekend with two of its drivers finishing on the podium. Behind the two Penske’s was Chip Ganassi’s rookie, Linus Lundqvist, who crossed the line grabbing his maiden podium position, the Swede ran an honourable race, fighting up at the top and avoiding making any mistakes.

As the race concluded, the championship standings was altered with Colton Herta moving up and sitting just one point clear of Power.

The show now hits the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the 'Month of May' traditions begin, with the 27 drivers hitting the road course on May 11th, before eyes turn to the oval and the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500.


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