Aussie pole-sitter Power gets first Mid-Ohio IndyCar win

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Washington (AFP)

Australian pole-sitter Will Power captured his long-sought first IndyCar victory at Mid-Ohio on Saturday, winning the first Indy 200 of a double-header race weekend.

The 39-year-old Aussie driver took his record fifth career pole at the venue then dominated over 75 laps at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course at Lexington, Ohio.

"It's just putting down good laps lap after lap," Power said. "Just a flawless day -- that's what you've got to do to win races."

In his 12th Mid-Ohio start, Power finally got the best of a track where he has settled for second place four times, collecting his 38th career IndyCar triumph, his first since last year at Portland.

"It's great to tick the Mid-Ohio box," Power said. "I had finished on the podium five times, finally converted one. Completely over the moon."

As Power told his crew over the radio after crossing the finish line, "It took a while boys, but we did it."

Power captured his 60th career IndyCar pole, seven shy of Mario Andretti's all-time record, and took full advantage of track position.

"This is the first race in about 10 years where I just decided to go hard," Power said. "No worry about fuel. We pushed hard the entire way, went flat out. We won the race so it was a great strategy."

American Josef Newgarden was second followed in order by compatriots Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

"It was a pretty straightforward day. Where we started is where we finished," Newgarden said. "Congrats to Will. That was a clinic he put on."

The runner-up finish pulled Newgarden within 436-360 of season points leader Scott Dixon of New Zealand, who finished 10th after starting 17th on a track where he had won six times, including last year.

Four of 14 races remain in the 2020 campaign, including Sunday's second at Mid-Ohio.

Power grabbed the lead at the start ahead of Newgarden, who began directly behind him, and they cycled back into the 1-2 spots after the first series of pit stops.

Power made his final pit stop on lap 47 and departed in only 6.3 seconds, returning to the track with a seven-second edge on Newgarden and pulling away over the final laps in an overwhelming performance, leading all but nine laps.

The Mid-Ohio races were postponed from August due to the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted the schedule and delayed the season's start until June. State officials last week approved a reduced capacity of 6,000 spectators for each race.

"We're happy to be out here and happy to have fans," Power said. "It's great. We've had a pretty trying year. The circumstances are very tough with COVID and all the social distancing we had to do."