NTT Indy Car Series: Honda Indy 200 Preview

Team Penske and Team Andretti at Mid-Ohio. [Andy Clary Photo]

by Paul Gohde

With the list of winners at Mid-Ohio full of names like Zanardi, Montoya, Franchitti and Fittipaldi, the challenging but tight natural road course has established itself as a place where the real road racers win, and the oval masters fight to finish. Along with the likes of Road America, Portland, Laguna Seca and Barber, the IndyCar schedule has morphed from an oval-dominated calendar to one somewhat evenly spread over ovals, street courses and those natural road circuits. Going into Sunday’s Independence Day Honda Indy 200 run, Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward (both coming from road race backgrounds) lead the NTT IndyCar points chase with just seven races left on the schedule. We’ll see if those two, along with the likes of VeeKay, Rosenqvist, Ericsson and Grosjean cash in on the advantage some believe they hold.

Race Facts: Sunday’s holiday race will run for 80 laps/180.64 miles (down from previous years) over the 2.258-mile/13-turn Mid-Ohio road course. This will be the 38th Indy car race at the course, initially designed for motorcycles. Johnny Rutherford won the first race back in 1980 (a USAC-sanctioned event), defeating Gordon Johncock and Bill Alsup…Charlie Kimball averaged a course-record 117.825 mph while defeating Simon Pagenaud and Dario Franchitti in 2013 while Pagenaud holds the qualifying mark at 127.271 mph set in 2016…Scott Dixon could be considered the favorite to win here Sunday as he has visited victory lane six times (2007-2019) in 17 Mid-Ohio starts…Chip Ganassi Racing has won as a team 11 times, including eight in the past 15 tries…

Recent Mid-Ohio Results: 2020’s IndyCar schedule was altered due to the Pandemic, resulting in Mid-Ohio hosting a double-header weekend with Colton Herta and Will Power grabbing wins.

2021 Season So Far: NTT points race after Road America Round 9: 1) Alex Palou, 2 wins, 349 points…2) Pato O’Ward, 2, 321…3) Scott Dixon, 1, 296…4) Josef Newgarden, 0, 261…5) Simon Pagenaud, 0, 25. Others with a win include Rinus VeeKay, Colton Herta, Marcus Erissson and Helio Castroneves. Honda leads the engine manufacturer’s championship with 738 points, (five wins) to Chevrolet’s 710, (three wins).

 Race Entries: Twenty-Six cars with the usual road course background will meet Sunday’s green flag. Santino Ferrucci returns for RLL…Ohio rookie Ryan Norman makes his initial IndyCar start for Dale Coyne/Rick Ware. He replaces Cody Ware, and comes from a background that includes Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport… Felix Rosenqvist is back for Arrow McLaren SP after missing two races due to injuries sustained in a crash during Detroit Race 1.

Notes: TV: Qualifying, NBCSN, Saturday, 8:00 pm (ET, same-day delay)…Race, NBC network, Sunday, Noon (ET, live)…Forty drivers have competed on the IndyCar circuit so far in 2020…It is reported that the Arrow McLaren SP team may expand to three cars beginning in 2022…With the recent sale of Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR team, many wonder if that might mean some expansion to either Chip’s IMSA sports car team or his three-car IndyCar group…2020 is IndyCar’s 26th season sanctioning Indy car races…Scott Dixon is celebrating his 21st season on the IndyCar circuit, having won at Mid-Ohio six times…Team Penske has won 219 times in IndyCar competition…Newcomer Ryan Norman hales from nearby Cleveland, Ohio…

Our Take: As we get nearer the final series’ races, Palou, O’Ward and Dixon seem to be stretching their lead in points over the rest of the field. As stated earlier, Dixon is the all-time winner here, but the road racers continue to have a seeming advantage with six of the seven remaining events on street/road courses. Palou and O’Ward might have an advantage but remember that Dixon is the all-time winner here with six. I’ll go with Palou or O’Ward to win, with Dixon or Rahal sneaking onto the podium.

“They Said It:” Santino Ferrucci No. 45 Hy-Vee Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda: “I’m super excited that they went back to the 80-lap race this year in Ohio. It’s a little bit better because you can run a two-stop or a three-stop (pit) strategy. It makes people do different things; you can run fuel-saving or run hard and fast. I don’t think it’s a big deal with endurance since we’re not running a double-header this weekend…My highest start came at Mid-Ohio last year. I started outside the front row. I think our car will have good pace. It’s good to be back with RLL. I think we can get a top-five or be on the podium or maybe win one.”

Next Race: August 8…Music City Grand Prix…Nashville (TN) Street Course



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