Mid-Ohio Preview

Although we didn’t get full confirmation that this event would even be held until last Saturday afternoon – the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will take place this weekend. This event was originally scheduled for the weekend of August 8-9, it had been postponed due to increasing restrictions in the state of Ohio.

On the NBCSN broadcast from Gateway, Jay Frye said that he gave Mid-Ohio a 90% chance of happening this weekend. But as the days went on last week with no official confirmation, doubts began to linger. Marshall Pruitt of Racer.com had assigned last Friday as the “drop-dead’ date for needing to know something definite. But it was not until Saturday before we actually learned something.

This is the world we live in right now; when events get cancelled and confirmed at a moment’s notice. With Mid-Ohio being a double-header to help make up for other lost races in this truncated season – this event needed to happen. There will only be about 6,000 fans on hand in attendance, but that’s better than zero. Plus, everyone in attendance will be required to wear masks at all times – indoor or outdoor.

This will be similar to the schedule that we had at Road America, with a late Saturday afternoon race, followed by an early Sunday race. There will be no Friday practice. Practice One will take place on Saturday morning at 10:45 am EDT and can be seen on NBC Sports Gold.

Qualifying will be run in two groups. It will not be the traditional knock-out qualifying for the Firestone Fast Six. Instead, there will be two separate groups going out for individual twelve-minute sessions. Each will determine either the inside or outside lane of the grid. Saturday’s qualifying session begins at 2:00 pm EDT and can be seen only on NBC Sports Gold. Race coverage begins at 4:30 pm EDT on NBCSN and the green flag flies at approximately 4:50 pm EDT.

Sunday has an early start, with qualifying beginning at 10:15 am EDT and shown exclusively on NBC Sports Gold. Race coverage will begin at 1:00 pm EDT on Big NBC (not NBCSN) with the green flag flying almost immediately after race coverage begins. Being on the big network is the good news. The bad news is that it will be going directly against Opening Day for the NFL. The Colts will be kicking off their season at the exact same time over on CBS, so I wouldn’t expect a big ratings number for Sunday’s race, even in Indianapolis. I’m lucky because I won’t have to choose – the Titans play at Denver on Monday night.

As much as the NTT IndyCar Series needed this race to run this season, this has never been one of my favorite races to watch from my couch. Last year’s race was the exception to races at Mid-Ohio because it was exciting. Since the introduction of the DW-12 in 2012, the IndyCar races have been a lot better. But over the last thirty years or so, I’ve seen more duds than anything else from the natural terrain road course in Lexington, Ohio.

However, I will throw out this disclaimer – I’ve never been to Mid-Ohio. People that go seem to love it, so it remains at the top of my list of tracks I have not been to, but plan to visit someday. That list also includes Iowa, Texas, Watkins Glen and Long Beach.

From a TV viewer’s standpoint, Mid-Ohio seems not as scenic as Road America or Barber; but about as exciting as Sonoma. That’s probably not a totally fair statement, since there have been some exceptional moments from Mid-Ohio – including last season.

In 2019, Scott Dixon won his sixth race at Mid-Ohio, but it didn’t come easy. His strongest competition came from his Ganassi teammate, Felix Rosenqvist. Near the end of the race, Dixon’s tires were shot. Rosenqvist began whittling away at Dixon’s nine-second lead. On the final lap, Rosenqvist was right there. He made his move entering The Keyhole and the two cars touched. At that point, Rosenqvist seemed to back out of it. I guess he figured a second-place in his rookie season was better than taking out both Ganassi cars – especially since he had already torn up a few cars, while making bad decisions earlier in the season.

To be fair to the track, there have been other exciting races at Mid-Ohio – probably more than I realize. But my perception is that when I think of Mid-Ohio, one word comes to mind – parade. This season, most road courses have been more interesting than most of the ovals. And before everyone blows up, I said “most”. The Indianapolis 500 was decent and the first Iowa race was great. The first Gateway race was decent and that’s about it for the ovals. In my mind, the best race of this current season was Race Two at Road America, when Rosenqvist didn’t back down and passed Pato O’ Ward with just a few laps to go. Perhaps Mid-Ohio can give us a finish like that this weekend.

With his record there, you would have to be a fool to bet against Scott Dixon at Mid-Ohio. I may not have any sense, but I’m no fool. Twelve percent of all of Dixon’s fifty IndyCar wins have come at Mid-Ohio. If you look at his other podium finishes there, you actually would be a fool to say that Dixon won’t win one of the two races there this weekend. My prediction is that this will be a Ganassi sweep this weekend. One race will be won by Scott Dixon, the other by Felix Rosenqvist. We’ll see.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Mid-Ohio Preview”

  1. Knowing how much you love Road America, you would like Mid-Ohio. It’s a lovely place to be and to roam around and has a similar feel to the Wisconsin track. The races seem more exciting in person too, it’s just fun to watch the cars flying around there (even if they don’t overtake much).

  2. I have been attending various races at Mid Ohio since 1971 from Can Am to SCCA Runoffs . It is a great track and very competitive. The physical size is smaller than RA or WG being more compact you can walk around the track a lot easier. Being more compact a normal IndyCar weekend can feel very crowed and not a lot of elbow room in choice hillside viewing areas. The paddock allows for an interesting overhead view of the team garages. The amenities have improved every year. I can only attend Saturday this year however looking forward to doing so even for a day. I expect it will feel odd with such a small amount of spectators .Mid Ohio is a gem of a track and I highly recommend attending any event there.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Mid-Ohio is to Dixon as Iowa is to Newgarden as Toronto is to Michael Andretti as Long Beach is to Little Al as Trenton is to AJ Foyt as Milwaukee is to Rodger Ward as Pikes Peak is to Bobby Unser as Elgin, IL is to Ralph DePalma.

    Still, Newgarden has won at Mid-Ohio… but he’ll need to be really lucky this weekend to close the championship gap by any significant amount. Also, with the confidence that O’Ward is driving with now, I would not be surprised to see him win one of these races. If the Andretti team is going to salvage anything from this season, it ought to start on Saturday as well.

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