The Verizon IndyCar Series season continues to chug along as teams visit the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. It will be the 34th time that an Indy car race will have been held at the historic Ohio racetrack.
New Zealand’s Scott Dixon tightened his grip on the championship chase following a victory at Toronto (his 44th career IndyCar win), though his many challengers are far from finished.
Defending champion Josef Newgarden utilized a red-hot summer stretch last season to secure his first series crown, winning at Mid-Ohio in the process. It was Newgarden’s first triumph at the track in six starts, where he has an unsavory average finish of only 11.83.
No driver has won more on road and street courses in the last two seasons than Newgarden (5 victories) so for his sake, the recent run of results may outweigh the dismal track record at Mid-Ohio. The result will have to be much better than that on Sunday if he wants to remain within shouting distance of Dixon.
“The race weekend at Toronto didn’t go the way we were hoping but we’re ready to put that behind us and really focus on Mid-Ohio,” said Newgarden this week. “We ran a really strong race there last year and have had some good luck on road courses this season, so we’re feeling pretty good going into the weekend.
“It was great for us all to have a weekend off to refocus, but I know the entire No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet team and myself are ready to head back to Mid-Ohio and have a great performance to gain more championship points.”
Hanging onto third place in the championship hunt is Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. The California native is enjoying his most consistent season to date with a win at Long Beach, two poles and 394 points to his name. Rossi trails Dixon by 70 points in the standings.
With two Mid-Ohio starts to his record, Rossi has finished 14th (2016) and 6th (2017). He has yet to lead a lap at the challenging circuit though last year’s improvement was important for him to see. More than that, a string of rough runs recently has not been enough to deter the 26-year-old Rossi.
“The pace is there, which is the most important thing,” Rossi remarked. “All of our focus is on executing and doing our jobs in Mid-Ohio, and if we can do that we will close the gap up to Scott.”
The last two drivers with any significant hope remaining are Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Team Penske’s Will Power.
Back in June, Hunter-Reay broke a three-year winless streak by taking victory at the Detroit Grand Prix’s second race. While Hunter-Reay has 5 top-five finishes on road and street courses in 2018, he also has three finishes of 16th or worse on the twisties.
With a career average finish of 9.08 at Mid-Ohio, Hunter-Reay will have to raise the bar this weekend if he wishes to stay in the championship race.
For Power, history tells us that he will be Dixon’s greatest threat to victory this weekend. Despite never winning at Mid-Ohio, Power has the second-best average finish of all active drivers with a median finishing position of 5.33 (only teammate Simon Pagenaud is better at 5.0).
In 9 starts at Mid-Ohio, Power has 4 podium finishes, 6 top-fives, and 7 top-tens to go with 3 pole awards. Remarkably, the Australian has led laps in 6 of those 9 races with 104 total laps led – all without finishing the deal. Could Power be due for a breakthrough?
Unfortunately for the rest of the field, each driver is looking up at Scott Dixon. At 38 years old, Dixon is having a career year – even by his hall of fame standards.
The numbers don’t lie: Dixon has an average finish of 4.5 this season, which would tie for the second-best of his career while being his best average finish in a season since 2008. Furthermore, Dixon is on pace to complete 2,317 laps this season (which would be his highest total since 2010) and lead 296 laps this year (high highest total since 2015, when he won the championship).
This summer run by Dixon is a familiar phenomenon in the IndyCar world, and he continues to tighten his grip on the championship lead like a boa constrictor wrapped around its prey. With five career victories and a stout average finish of 5.54 at Mid-Ohio, Dixon is the favorite to extend his already sizable lead.
Practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio rolls off Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. All practices and qualifying sessions can be seen live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, with commentary from the IndyCar Radio crew.
Coverage of Sunday’s race will go live at 3:00 p.m. Eastern with the telecast being shown live on CNBC this week, not the normal assignment for IndyCar on NBC. The race will encore on NBCSN later on Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
Fast Facts for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Race weekend: Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29
Track: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a 13-turn, a 2.258-mile road course in Lexington, Ohio
Entry List: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (PDF)
Driver Performance History: IndyCar at Mid-Ohio (PDF)
Race distance: 90 laps / 203.22 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race.
Twitter: @Mid_Ohio, @IndyCar, #Honda200, #INDYCAR
Event website: http://www.midohio.com/
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2017 race winner: Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet)
2017 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 1:04.1720, 126.672 mph
Qualifying record: Simon Pagenaud, 1:03.8700, 127.271 mph, July 30, 2016
NBCSN television broadcasts: Qualifying, 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday, July 28 (live); Race, 3 p.m. ET Sunday, July 29, CNBC (live); 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, July 29, NBCSN (re-air); Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for the NBCSN broadcasts this weekend alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.
Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Ryan Myrehn and Michael Young reporting from the pits. Verizon P1 Award qualifying and The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 216, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. All Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Video streaming: All practice sessions for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar).
At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, July 27
11 – 11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
2:35 – 3:35 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3:40 – 4 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
Saturday, July 28
10 – 10:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
1:35 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (1:30 p.m. live)
Sunday, July 29
2:55 p.m. – Driver introductions
3:35 p.m. – Command to start engines
3:42 p.m. – The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (90 laps/203.22 miles), CNBC (live)
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR Media.