Mid-Ohio Preview

This has been a busy week in the IndyCar world. Fans of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had a field day on Monday discussing the grueling and sparsely attended Brickyard 400 that took started Sunday afternoon and lasted well into Sunday evening until it was threatened by darkness. Then Tuesday, the new common body kit for use in 2018 made its debut at IMS before a crowd that gathered at the south end of the track that almost looked bigger than what we saw there on Sunday. Lost in all the hoopla surrounding IMS this week was the fact that the Verizon IndyCar Series resumes after a week off from racing.

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course hosts its premier event of the year this weekend with the Honda Indy 200.

While it’s never been as high as Road America on my to-do list, Mid-Ohio is a track I would like to visit one day. I think it’s a similar situation to Road America, where you either camp on-site or be prepared to stay twenty miles away, or more. My camping days are long behind me, so we’ll have to spring for a hotel room when we go. From what I hear, Mid-Ohio has the same rustic charm of Road American and Watkins Glen, another track I want to visit someday.

This will be the eleventh visit to Mid-Ohio for the Verizon IndyCar Series, since they started running there in 2007. For years, Mid-Ohio had been a staple of the CART schedule before being dropped by CART CEO Chris Pook. Not only did he not like having both Mid-Ohio and Cleveland on the schedule due to the close geographic proximity to each other, he felt that like the Champ cars in CART had outgrown the windy circuit, much like some felt they had at Laguna Seca.

For the next three seasons, there was no open-wheel racing at Mid-Ohio, before IndyCar revived the race in 2007. Since that time, it’s been pretty much the playground for Chip Ganassi racing. Three different Ganassi drivers have combined to win seven of the eleven races since 2007, with Scott Dixon winning five of those. Dixon’s most recent win came in 2014, so some would say he’s due.

Simon Pagenaud won for Team Penske last season, while Graham Rahal won on what is considered his home track in 2015.

Since Chevy rejoined the series in 2012, they have only won twice at Mid-Ohio – last year with Pagenaud and three years ago with Dixon. But Scott Dixon now has a Honda engine in his car. The total race wins for each manufacturer is tied at six apiece. The tie will obviously be broken this weekend. Team Penske and Chevy have won three of the past four races, while Scott Dixon and Honda won the other.

But don’t overlook Graham Rahal and Honda. Rahal owned the field in both races at Belle Isle back in June. Like Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, he was much faster at Toronto than his ninth-place finish showed. In fact, if you look at Rahal’s season after his twelfth- place finish in the Indianapolis 500; his six finishes since then are first, first, fourth, eighth, fifth and ninth. If you go back three years and check Rahal’s results at Mid-Ohio, you’ll see he has finished fifth, first and fourth. To ignore Rahal at Mid-Ohio would be a mistake.

Team Penske has won this race twice since IndyCar revived the event in 2007. Aside from Pagenaud winning last year, their only other win came in 2008 with Ryan Briscoe taking the checkered-flag for The Captain. Come to think of it, other than a four year stretch in the mid-nineties when Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Jr. scored two wins apiece from 1992 through 1995. Other than that, Team Penske’s only other CART wins at Mid-Ohio came in 2000 and 2001 with Helio Castroneves taking both wins. But considering CART raced at Mid-Ohio in consecutive years from 1983 until 2003, that’s not a Penske-like record.

Helio Castroneves trails Scott Dixon by only three points in the championship battle. A mere twenty-three points separate positions one through four.

While there are several cars that can win this race, I think the most likely winner will be either Scott Dixon or Graham Rahal. I predict that while he won’t win, Helio Castroneves will leave Mid-Ohio with the points lead. That’s because Scott Dixon won’t win either – his previous five wins there not withstanding. That honor goes to Graham Rahal, who will be amassing his third win of the season when he takes the top step of the podium at Mid-Ohio.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Mid-Ohio Preview”

  1. Wondering how everyone feels about the notion that NASCAR beat the Indy 500 in ratings this year. I think it’s questionable if that is true facts based on the original race time or more about the race going to prime time and people waiting for Megyn Kelly to come on.

    For this weekend, I have a feeling RHR will win, not sure why, maybe so though.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Rahal has had great natural terrain road course pace since the introduction of the aerokits, so I would certainly expect him to contend… but I have got to think a Scott Dixon storm is coming at Mid-Ohio or Watkins Glen, if not both.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    My comment is based more on a hopeful outcome than anything else. Coverage of a Scott Dixon win usually brings coverae of Emma Dixon. Sleek and Swifty.

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