Paddock Buzz: Hybrid Passes First Race Test with High Marks

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Action at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut of the new hybrid unit was a success, as 26 of the 27 cars were classified as running at the finish after Pato O’Ward edged Alex Palou in the closest finish of the season on a road or street course.

“In my opinion, it was great,” reigning series champion Palou said of the hybrid. “Much better, much more fun than I anticipated.

“Every lap you can do something different to try and fix your car. I would say that it made even more of a difference during the race than qualifying. I'm 100 percent up for it.”

In NTT P1 Award qualifying, Palou topped O’Ward by .0024 of a second, the closest front-row margin in Firestone Fast Six history. In the race, O’Ward flipped the script, topping Palou by .4993 of a second.

The innovative hybrid system is comprised of a low-voltage (48V) Motor Generator Unit (MGU) and Energy Storage System (ESS), consisting of 20 ultracapacitors, both of which fit inside the bellhousing located between the Chevrolet and Honda INDYCAR SERIES internal combustion engine and the gearbox.

One of the hybrid’s features helped to maintain the suspense until the checkered flag. Romain Grosjean spun off track and stalled his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet with three laps to go following an incident that would almost certainly have triggered a race-ending caution in previous events because INDYCAR SERIES cars had no onboard starters. But Grosjean was able to use the hybrid supercapacitors to refire his engine and return to the track, and the race stayed green.

That allowed Palou to keep alive his full-tilt pursuit of O’Ward, which fell just short.

Palou said he used both the hybrid and Push to Pass – which combined to deliver an additional 120 horsepower to his No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Chip Ganassi Racing Honda – in the battle with O’Ward.

“I could see where Pato was using it,” he said. “I was trying to use it at different places to see if I could get an advantage somewhere. But I think both are important. If you forget about the hybrid, I think you lose a tenth and a half that it's for free, maybe a little bit more.”

Third-place finisher Scott McLaughlin said the hybrid technology is fun because it provides another tool to help deliver a victory in one of the most competitive racing series in the world.

“That's what I think is really cool about deploying,” McLaughlin said after earning his third consecutive top-five finish at Mid-Ohio in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet. “Literally we push a button, and so much changes whether you're battling with someone or by yourself trying to get lap time. That and Push to Pass on top of that.

“It's busy, but I think that's where you're going to see the difference, and there's going to be some mistakes creep in. There's a lot going on. But it's fun.”

Marcus Ericsson finished fifth in the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda for Andretti Global, and he praised the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the decision to implement the revolutionary technology midseason.

“To have a fully new unit and so little incidents throughout the weekend, that’s pretty impressive for the series to be able to do that,” he said. “My hats off to them.”

The series liked what it saw at Mid-Ohio giving a statement of praise for the debut.

“The performance of the new INDYCAR hybrid power unit at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was impactful and highly encouraging. All stakeholders in the INDYCAR paddock share in the pride and excitement for the future that this milestone has generated. It is the result of a truly unique collaboration between Chevrolet and Honda and the culmination of hundreds of hours of engineering, preparation, testing and execution.

“INDYCAR looks forward to the continued evolution of the hybrid power unit as teams and drivers fine-tune the system to optimize performance beginning with the first use of horsepower assist on an oval next weekend at Iowa Speedway.”

One driver was snagged by gremlins. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon was left stranded on track during the pace laps when his car shut off due what he said was an issue with the hybrid system. But the Chip Ganassi Racing crew fixed the problem in the garage, and Dixon returned to the race to complete 40 of the scheduled 80 laps.

Ericsson Gaining Comfort at Andretti

Ericsson gained six spots in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points standings during the three-race June stretch. Entering the month 19th, he rode into Sunday’s The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid 13th in the standings.

Ericsson gained more ground following a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s 80-lap race, propelling him to 12th after nine races, his first season with Andretti Global after spending a year with Arrow McLaren in 2019 and the last four seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It’s a process,” Ericsson said. “My whole group, we did sort of a reset after the Month of May. Our season 2.0 started in Detroit, and since then, we’ve been in the top 10 every race.”

Before his 19th career top-five finish Sunday, Ericsson was runner-up in Detroit, ninth at Road America and 10th at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“We need to keep building momentum and keep getting better together,” he said. “New people take some time to learn each other, and I think you have to be humble to that in a series like INDYCAR. It’s so competitive that you can’t expect to be right there straight away.

“So, we’ve worked hard and been digging deep to get to a point where we’re competitive, and I think we’ve shown that lately. This weekend is a good testament to that.”

Power Relieved Tough Weekend Is Over

Will Power battled 26 competitors this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and an illness that left him fatigued.

Power never considered vacating his No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet despite the bug, as he entered this weekend second in points behind Palou.

Qualifying 15th and finishing 11th was the best he could do through his physical and mental struggles.

“Last night was the first night of sleep where I wasn’t having cold sweats,” Power said. “I’m pretty car-fit, but just the energy, honestly, I’m just mentally tired. I’m just wanting to sleep.

“I’m just exhausted and from just no sleep and can’t breathe real well with feeling it in my chest. In this field, being sick really costs you over a weekend.”

Two-time series champion Power stayed second in points to Palou, but the gap has grown to 48 points entering the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend doubleheader this Saturday and Sunday at Iowa Speedway. He has four top-three finishes in his last five starts at the .894-mile oval.

Ferrucci Feeling at Home with Foyt

AJ Foyt Racing had six top-10 finishes in its last 51 races entering the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Sunday’s 10th-place finish at Mid-Ohio was Santino Ferrucci’s sixth top-10 finish in nine races this season in the No. 14 AJ FOYT RACING/SEXTON PROPERTIES Chevrolet.

This is Ferrucci’s second season with the team owned by legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt and run by his son Larry Foyt, the team president.

“That’s a pretty massive feat for the team and for Larry,” Ferrucci said. “For how hard everyone’s working, especially myself. To take a team from where we were last year from nearly winning the ‘500’ and then just struggling every other race to now consistently competing inside the top 10 and having a chance at solid top-five finishes at a couple of weekends, we’re here to fight.

“Me and Larry always walked into this deal that it would be at least a two-year deal to get this thing going in the right direction, and here we are in year two watching it pay off. It’s pretty impressive.”

Rasmussen Proud Results Reflect Effort

Christian Rasmussen said the potential for a weekend like he produced at Mid-Ohio has been there all along. Between circumstances out of their control or rookie mistakes, Rasmussen came into the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 with an average finish of 24th.

In the last five races, that’s jumped to 16.2, helped by a ninth-place finish Sunday in the No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing. That’s the first top-10 finish of his young career after qualifying a career-best eighth Saturday.

“Just us getting comfortable or starting to work better together and getting to know each other,” Rasmussen said. “I think everyone internally in the team has been able to see that progression. Again, it’s been hard to see from the outside just because we haven’t really transferred it into results. We knew it’s been coming, so it was great to show everyone that today.”

Odds and Ends

  • O’Ward’s teammate Alexander Rossi has four top-six finishes in the last five races in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
  • Sunday was only the second time Palou didn’t win the race as the NTT P1 Award winner. In 2023, he started first for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge but finished fourth. He won in the other four races in which he started from the pole.
  • Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Dawand Jones, an Indianapolis native who played for Ohio State, served as the grand marshal. Jones gave the command to start the hybrid engines Sunday as part of his duties. He called Sunday a “dream come true for an Indianapolis kid to be a grand marshal at Mid-Ohio.”