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IndyCar: Honda Indy 200 Preview

Scott Dixon leads the first lap of at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. [Andy Clary Photo]

Scott Dixon leads the first lap of at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. [Andy Clary Photo]

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Verizon IndyCar Series Race 13/17

by Paul Gohde

For the 33rd time since 1980 Indy Cars will compete at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Columbus, Ohio, in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200.

Mid-Ohio Facts: Opened in 1962 for sports car racing, the track quickly gained a reputation as a competitive place to compete and over the next 54 years has hosted IMSA sports car events, AMA motorcycles, NASCAR Xfinity and vintage sports cars. With bleachers and grassy berms, the facility can accommodate a crowd of 75,000.

USAC Indy cars first ran here in 1980 with Lone Star JR (Johnny Rutherford) winning the inaugural. CART took over from 1983-2003 and IRL/IndyCar from 2007-present. The 203.2 mile/90-lap race is run on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn, Indy car course first used by CART in 1990.

Scott Dixon has won here five times and has finished in the top five in nine of his 12 starts here.  Chip Ganassi Racing leads all competing teams with 10 wins including seven of the last ten. Team Penske has won here eight times.

2016 Race: Simon Pagenaud set qualifying (1:03.87, 127.271 mph) and race records in winning last season’s Honda Indy 200 for Team Penske Chevrolet. Pole winner Pagenaud chased down teammate Will Power for second-place on a lap 66 restart and then waited for race-leader Conor Daly (Honda) to stop for fuel with just six laps remaining. The Frenchman went on to hold off Power for a 4.162-second win. Honda drivers Carlos Munoz, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Daly trailed. Eventual 2016 series’ champion Pagenaud extended his point lead over Power to 58 with just four races remaining.

2017 So Far: Nine drivers have visited victory lane in the 12 Verizon Series races run so far. James Newgarden, Power and Rahal have each won twice. The Honda Indy 200 will be the ninth race on a road/street course with Rahal’s and Newgarden’s wins both coming on r/s courses. Other winners on r/s tracks were Sebastien Bourdais, Hinchcliffe, Power and Dixon. Dixon’s Ganassi Honda continues to lead the run for the season’s championship with 423 points followed by Penske Chevy teammates Castroneves (-3), Pagenaud (-19), Newgarden (-23) and Power (-64).

The Field: The usual 21 car/driver combinations are entered with one exception. Sebastian Sevedra drove for Schmidt Peterson at Toronto, replacing Mikhail Aleshin. IndyCar’s entry list shows Aleshin back in the car at Mid-Ohio.

Notes: Indy car tested the 2018 Dallara IR-12 chassis with universal aero bodywork Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with test drivers Juan Pablo Montoya (Penske Chevrolet) and Oriol Servia (Schmidt Peterson Honda). Each driver putting in over 100 laps to rave results. Further tests will be held at Mid-Ohio (Aug. 1), Iowa Speedway (Aug. 10) and Sebring (Sept. 26) …TV: Race, Sunday, 3p.m. ET, live- CNBC/ Re-air, 7p.m.ET, NBCSN…Qualifying: Saturday, 2p.m., live… This will be race12 of 17 on the IndyCar schedule…Eleven drivers have won from the pole at Mid-Ohio dating back to Mario Andretti in 1984. Michael has done the trick twice (1990 and’91) …Esteban Gutierrez and Ed Jones are the only rookies in the field.

Our Take: Ganassi Racing Honda seems to have a hold on how to win at Mid-Ohio. Ganassi’s Scott Dixon leads the point chase and has won here five times. Dixon will win barring the unforeseen. If you need to pick a Chevrolet instead, the menu is wide-open with any of Penske’s drivers as your choice.

The Final Word: Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success over the years at Mid-Ohio with, I think, five or so wins. The team really has this place figured out too, as overall they have 10 wins…The flow and rhythm of this track really suits my driving style. It’s a big weekend for Honda and I hope we can put on a good show for the fans who always turn out in big numbers.”

 

 

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”