There should be lots of shuffling in the running order early for this afternoon’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio. It seems as if each driver in the top-12 felt they should have advanced to the Fast Six in qualifying, if not for an untimely red flag.
In the short and stressful 12-car session, James Hinchcliffe was sitting atop the board when he backed the No. 5 ARROW Electronics Honda into the tires to bring out a red flag. While Hinchcliffe was punished by having his two fastest laps eliminated, the damage wasn’t limited to his results.
Multiple drivers, including Graham Rahal, Ed Jones, Scott Dixon, and Zach Veach, were left on the outside looking in at the end of qualifying’s second round. If you had asked each of those drivers, they feel the red flag kept them from advancing to the Fast Six with cars that were more than capable.
“Clearly, I’m disappointed that it turned out the way that it did because I know that we had the speed to advance to Round 3 (Firestone Fast Six),” Rahal said after being eliminated in round two.
“The Fifth Third Bank car felt really good once I got some temperature in the tires in Turns 5 and 6. I thought ‘OK, we’ve got a good shot at this thing.’ The next thing I know, the red flag is out. I’m very frustrated. We’re just going to have to work our way to the front from seventh.”
While Dixon thought he was a fringe competitor for the Fast Six, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ed Jones felt the No. 10 NTT Data machine was more than quick enough to make the final cut.
“I think we had a great start to the weekend yesterday and the DC Solar car has shown good speed so far,” Jones relayed. “We were on a lap that would have put us through to the final round, but the late red flag came out and that was pretty much it.
“It’s frustrating when you know you have a fast car that can get you through to the next round, but circumstances out of your control keep you out. We’ll make the best of it and work our way up from there for the race tomorrow.”
For Dixon, he alluded to an incident with would-be-polesitter Alexander Rossi during round two that stunted multiple quick laps for other drivers.
“I think it would’ve been tight for us without the red flag to get through, but you never really know. The PNC Bank car was good and we had definitely made gains from Q1 to Q2 there,” Dixon reported.
“The problem there was Rossi. He came out in front of us and others in Turn 5 when we were on our fast lap. We would have easily made it through. I think he screwed (Josef) Newgarden, too. We just couldn’t finish the lap and it was a bit of a bummer.”
The red flag from Hinchcliffe halted the progress of many, but it would actually work in Newgarden’s favor as the defending series champion was able to cling to that final transfer spot in 6th.
Veach, on the other hand, thought he was surely into the Fast Six before the caution period cut his quickest lap down. The rookie Andretti Autosport driver was tracking well inside the top six drivers when he had to slow for Hinchcliffe’s mistake.
“I was going down the back straight when they told me what the cut off for the Fast Six was going to be, I was about three tenths up on that,” Veach recalled. “I thought ‘Wow, I just have to finish this lap and we’re in.’ I get to Turn 6, and basically, just need to limp it home from there, and then the red flag came out.
“It’s just frustrating,” Veach continued. “Our lap before that was thrown away because Jones and a couple of others slowed up, so I had to slow up to get track position. It’s tough.
“Not many times do you have a car this fast, and when it’s easy to make the fast six and it gets taken away from you, it’s just hard to swallow. I was really hoping to have my first fast six come this weekend at my home track – but we’ll work hard to move the Relay car forward tomorrow.”
It seems as if 12 guys thought they were good enough to make the Fast Six, so that should create some interesting battles and strategy early on for Sunday afternoon’s race.
The Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio goes live on air at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time – this time on CNBC and not NBCSN. You can follow along with live timing and scoring at RaceControl.IndyCar.com, and catch the action live on the radio by finding your local IndyCar Radio affiliate.
Image courtesy of Chris Jones/INDYCAR Media.