Mid-Ohio Preview

The Verizon IndyCar Series makes its annual visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend for the Honda Indy 200. This is one of those tracks that I really want to go to one of these days, but so far I’ve never been. Such will be the case this weekend as I’ll be watching from the confines of my den.

From what I can gather, Mid-Ohio is a lot more like Road America than Barber Motorsports Park – my two points of reference. When I say it’s like Road America, I mean it is sort of a throwback. Road America was built in 1955 and Mid-Ohio is a just a few years newer, having been built in 1962. From what I can tell, both tracks have something of an old-school charm about them, and they are both in somewhat remote locations.

But that’s pretty much where the comparisons end. Road America is slightly over four miles long and has long straightaways with passing zones. Mid-Ohio is only 2.258 miles long and has few passing zones. But to say that you can’t pass at Mid-Ohio is an untrue statement. Granted the winner at Mid-Ohio usually comes from the first two rows, but Scott Dixon came from dead-last in the very back of the field to win in 2014.

Most people know that Mid-Ohio has been Scott Dixon’s playground. Since IndyCar returned to Mid-Ohio in 2007, Dixon has won five of those eleven races. But some may not know that of the eleven races that have been run since 2007 at Mid-Ohio, seven have been won by Chip Ganassi Racing. Aside from the five won by Dixon (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014), Dario Franchitti won for Ganassi in 2010, and Charlie Kimball did so in 2013. Graham Rahal won in 2015, while Team Penske has won the remaining three races; with Ryan Briscoe winning in 2008, and Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden winning the last two in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Pagenaud and Newgarden used their wins to catapult them to the season championship for the last two years. Will this be a sign for Sunday’s winner? Could be.

For most of this season, this has been the championship that no one has wanted. Just as someone seems to have momentum, they hit a slew of races with poor finishes. Right now, Scott Dixon seems to have a stranglehold on the championship. Heading into this weekend, Dixon has a sixty-two point lead over second-place Josef Newgarden, with five races to go. If Dixon wins at Mid-Ohio, and Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and/or Ryan Hunter-Reay stumble at all this weekend – you can pretty much gift-wrap Dixon’s championship. His lead wouldn’t be technically insurmountable, but some strange things would have to happen for anyone else to win it.

However, if Dixon has an off-weekend at Mid-Ohio like he did at Iowa and some or all of his closest pursuers have strong weekends – all bets are off.

Dixon can finish last on Sunday and he would still leave Mid-Ohio with the points lead. But Newgarden, Rossi and Hunter-Reay are within only twenty-nine points of each other. A win by Newgarden and a bad day by Dixon could completely change the complexion of this championship. Not that I’m wishing any bad luck to befall Scott Dixon, but it would keep some interest in the championship as we near the end of the season.

But it’s now time to pick a winner. As usual, I’ve had dismal results with my picks. I think I’ve successfully picked the winner twice this season out of the twelve races run. That’s not very impressive. When I make my picks, I don’t usually try to go out on a limb with some outlandish pick, nor do I always try to go with one of my favorite drivers (unless I think that driver will actually win).

So who will win Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio? I’ll answer that first by saying you can forget all of those comments I just made about tightening up the championship. Scott Dixon will win on Sunday and will practically cement his fifth IndyCar Championship. Given his record there and what he has at stake in the championship, I’d be foolish to pick anyone else.

On a side note, please remember that if you want to watch Sunday’s race live, it will be carried live on CNBC with coverage starting at 3:00 EDT; with an encore replay on NBCSN at 6:30 EDT. Qualifying will air live Saturday at 1:30 EDT on NBCSN.

George Phillips

7 Responses to “Mid-Ohio Preview”

  1. BrandonWright77 Says:

    You’d love Mid-Ohio George, I’ve been several times and it’s a great facility in the middle of beautiful Amish country. I’ve not been to Road America yet but I have a buddy who has been to both and he said Mid-Ohio reminded him of a smaller Road America. Not always the most exciting race but it’s a great place to spend a weekend.

    If Dixon does indeed have a sixty-two “pint” lead I’d say maybe Josef’s challenge isn’t as hard as it seems! 🙂

    (I’ll show myself out…)

    • Ha! I’ve now made the correction…

    • billytheskink Says:

      I dunno, that’s nearly 8 gallons.

      • I distinctly remember Jack Arute doing a piece some years back (I wish I could remember when or who this was about) on how a polesitter had grabbed the pole by such a tiny margin, that it could have been accounted for by the weight difference of “a pint of pee”. If Dixie really has a 62 pint advantage this weekend, he might lap the entire field several times.

        • Crap. I’m now second guessing myself and wondering if it might have been Derek Daly who grossed me out so severely with the “pint of pee” anecdote over a decade ago. Either way, I’m now skeeved out all over again.

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    Succinctly written. Have another pint.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    A Mid-Ohio bonus: At least 6 opportunities to see the Cooper Tire Girls who are the main motivation for drivers to get on the podium; also the main motivation for me too watch the undercard.

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