Mid-Ohio Preview

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With seven races to go in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon has been relatively silent since winning at Texas in early May and winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500. While there has been a lot of excitement revolving around young drivers like Rinus VeeKay, Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward or current points leader Alex Palou; it seems that Scott Dixon has become an afterthought in a lot of people’s minds.

That is a huge mistake.

The 2020 IndyCar season was unusual for Scott Dixon. He got off to a fast start by winning the first three races of the season. He won only one more race in the second half of the season, as Josef Newgarden made things interesting by winning two of the final three races of the season.

Normally Dixon turns it on in the second half of the season. While Palou and O’Ward have been making the most recent headlines by winning at Belle Isle and Road America; Scott Dixon is quietly lurking in third place, just fifty-three points out of first. Dixon had a poor qualifying effort two weeks ago, but still managed to squeeze out a fourth place finish.

Fortunately for Dixon, and unfortunately for those ahead of them in points – the next race on the schedule is this weekend at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, near Lexington. Ohio.

But O’Ward and Palou can take solace in one stat – in the six races that Dixon has won at Mid-Ohio, none have resulted in him winning the championship that year. Dixon won at Mid-Ohio in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2019. In each of those years, someone else won the IndyCar championship. So if Dixon wins on Sunday, history says he won’t win the championship at the end of the season.

Besides Dixon, Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal and three of the four Team Penske drivers will be the only former winners of this race in the field. Will Power won the first race of last year’s double-header at Mid-Ohio, while Colton Herta won Race Two.

I’m told by people that have been to both venues that if I love Road America, I would love Mid-Ohio. To be honest, I’m a little skeptical of that notion. Road America always appealed to me every time I watched a race there. Mid-Ohio always seemed a little boring, at least to watch on television. I keep saying that I want to eventually go to Mid-Ohio, but I never seem to do it. Maybe next year (as I’ve said many times before).

I understand that Mid-Ohio is very rustic and a little quirky, but I also hear that is part of the charm there. The starting line is actually over on the backstretch, while the finish line is on the front straightaway in front of the pits. There are a lot of wide-open runoff areas, and also tight turns. While there have been some decent IndyCar races at Mid-Ohio, there have also been some snoozers. It seems the common body has made the DW12 more racy on non-ovals. A perfect example has been the last few races at Belle Isle. Although I can’t really remember anything special about last year’s double-header at Mid-Ohio; I recall the 2019 Honda Indy 200 being a fascinating race. My hope is this will be the case on Sunday.

Three drivers return to the grid on Sunday, after missing Road America, while one driver makes his debut. Santino Ferrucci returns to the No. 45 HyVee car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, while Felix Rosenqvist and Rinus VeeKay return from injury to their respective full-time rides. Indy Lights driver Ryan Norman will debut in the No. 52 that Cody Ware drove two weeks ago at Elkhart Lake

Practice One will begin at 2:30 pm EDT today (Friday) and will be shown live on Peacock. Practice Two will roll off on Saturday morning at 9:05 am EDT, also on Peacock. Qualifying will be shown live on Peacock at noon EDT on Saturday, with a delayed broadcast Saturday night on NBCSN, starting at 8:00 pm EDT. Live coverage for Sunday’s race will begin at Noon EDT on Big NBC (over-the-air network).

Who will win on Sunday? Will Alexander Rossi return to his winning ways at this track, as he did in 2018? Can Ferrucci become the latest promising young driver to find victory lane? Will Team Penske finally put it all together and put their nine-race winless streak behind them? Can Graham Rahal win again at his home track? Will Scott Dixon win a seventh race at Mid-Ohio? Will the young drivers add another win to their growing resume? Will someone come out of the blue and steal a win? There are a lot of questions headed into this race.

My thoughts? I think people are going to notice Scott Dixon again. It’s not that he ever went anywhere, but I think he will force everyone to realize he is still a force to be reckoned with. What better place to start than a track he has owned in the past? Also think Dixon will buck history this season. He will win at Mid-Ohio for the first time on his way to a championship, and for the first time in his illustrious career – he will win back-to-back championships, while winning his record-tying seventh IndyCar championship this season. How’s that for going out on a limb?

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Mid-Ohio Preview”

  1. Dixon needs at least two more wins to have a shot at the title. Mid Ohio is probably his best chance for one of them. getting a win is really tough this season.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    While Dixon has a reputation for coming on strong and making up deficits on his way to the championship, he’s actually only done that with 7 races to go in 3 of his 6 championship years (which is still quite impressive). He has never done so facing a gap as large as 53 points or while looking up at a teammate in the points standings, though he has made up more than 53 points twice (though one required the double points finale to accomplish). Here is Dixon’s standing with 7 races to go compared to his final standing since 2003:

    2003: 3rd, -15 to 1st, +18 (+33 points)
    2004: 7th, -157 to 10th, -263 (-106 points)
    2005: 15th, -205 to 13th, -307 (-102 points)
    2006: 3rd, -23 to 4th, -15 (+8 points)
    2007: 2nd, -47 to 2nd, -13 (+34 points)
    2008: 1st, +48 to 1st, +17 (-31 points)
    2009: 2nd, -2 to 2nd, -10 (-8 points)
    2010: 3rd, -78 to 3rd, -55 (+23 points)
    2011: 3rd, -83 to 3rd, -55 (+28 points)
    2012: 3rd, -35 to 3rd, -33 (+2 points)
    2013: 3rd, -42 to 1st, +27 (+69 points)
    2014: 8th, -149 to 3rd, -67 (+82 points, double points finale)
    2015: 3rd, -43 to 1st, +0 (+43 points, double points finale)
    2016: 4th, -90 to 6th, -182 (-92 points, double points finale)
    2017: 1st, +34 to 3rd, -21 (-54 points, double points finale)
    2018: 1st, +45 to 1st, +57 (+12 points, double points finale)
    2019: 4th, -94 to 4th, -63 (+31 points, double points finale)
    2020: 1st, +84 to 1st, +16 (-68 points)

    I do agree, though, that if he is going to be fighting for the title at Long Beach, he will likely need to win this race. Same for Newgarden or Pagenaud to keep the outside shots that they have (though Newgarden made up 101 points of a 117 point gap with SIX races to go last year, which is incredible).

    • Great source of facts and statistics. Great post. Can’t wait for this weekend. Dixon starting 5th. Let’s see if he can get a strong result this weekend. All he needs to do is a solid podium and hope for some bad results with those ahead of him and it will be tightened back up again.

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