NTT IndyCar Series: Honda Indy 200 Doubleheader Preview

Graham Rahal riding the curb0 at Mid-Ohio. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

Graham Rahal riding the curb at Mid-Ohio. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

It took just over a month, but the Mid-Ohio round of the IndyCar schedule, postponed in August due to the COVID-19 virus, finally found a September date for this weekend (September 12-13) with co-operation from the Ohio Governor’s office. The Honda Indy GP doubleheader will be run in front of a limited audience of about 6,000 fans each day as they watch NTT Series points leader Scott Dixon attempt to stretch his 94-point margin over 2020 series champion Josef Newgarden with but five races remaining. Dixon has won here a record six times and will be looking for number seven.

Race Facts: Each day will feature 75-lap, 169.35-mile races, with separate qualification runs prior to each event over the 2.258-mile,13-turn natural road course… The doubleheader races will be numbers 36/37 for the Indy cars that began racing here in 1980 when Johnny Rutherford beat Gordon Johncock and Bill Alsup at a speed of just 86.601 mph…Dixon leads all drivers with six wins here, while Chip Ganassi Racing leads all teams with 11 victories, including six-in-a-row from 2009-2014…Simon Pagenaud holds the qualifying mark at 127.271 mph (2016), while Charlie Kimball’s 2013 win was at a record 117.825 mph pace over 90 lap.

Recent Race History: Dixon grabbed Mid-Ohio win number six last season; but just barely. He was able to edge Ganassi-Chevrolet teammate Felix Rosenqvist by a race record 0.0934-second margin with Ryan Hunter-Reay third. Points-leader Josef Newgarden tangled with Hunter-Reay on the final lap and finished 14th. Dixon led twice for 38/90 laps. Pole-winner Will Power finished fourth for Team Penske.

2020 Season So Far: Once again Dixon leads the NTT points race after nine events. 1) Dixon: 416 points, 4 wins, Honda…2) Newgarden: 320, 2, Chevrolet…3) Pato O’Ward: 297, 0, C…4) Takuma Sato: 274,1, H…5) Colton Herta: 250, 0, H…6) Pagenaud: 237,1, C…10) Rosenqvist: 208, 1, H.

Race Entries: The usual twenty-three road course drivers are entered with Conor Daly back with Ed Carpenter’s team, leaving Max Chilton as Carlin’s single entry.

Notes:   TV: Saturday, NBCSN, Race 1, 4:30 p.m. ET…Sunday, NBC, Race 2, 1:00 p.m. ET …Manufacturer’s Standings: Honda-six wins-747 pts./ Chevrolet-three wins-674 pts…Two sets of fathers/sons have won at Mid-Ohio: Mario/Michael Andretti and Bobby/Graham Rahal…In a switch from the usual, Fontana’s two-mile, 120,000+ capacity Auto Club Speedway oval, which has hosted NASCAR, IndyCar and numerous other events over the years, has submitted a proposal to change the track into a half-mile, high-banked oval within the tri-oval area of the original superspeedway. New grandstands and other amenities including new suites would also be built. The track, along with another now torn down facility in Ontario, CA, started out with strong attendance in their early days but suffered from smaller crowds over the years.                                          

Our Take:   As has been noted during the past months, the “normal” isn’t normal anymore; and that applies in buckets to motorsports. To think that the Mid-Ohio race, originally scheduled for August 16, and then postponed with no future date set, could be rescheduled on September 5 for a September 12-13 race-date with the cooperation of local governmental bodies, somewhat boggles the mind. When it comes to the logistics of planning and running these rescheduled races, all the dominoes were fortunately lined-up in straight rows. Mid-Ohio has been hosting races for 40 seasons. Promoter/track owner Green-Savoree Promotions are veterans at that process as is the sanctioning body INDYCAR and the hard-working race teams that will pack up on short notice and come well-prepared for the weekend. A smaller-than-usual crowd will populate the hills and berms of the track (by state order) come the weekend, and they will enjoy a hastily put together, but well-organized event. All those behind the scenes of the event should take a bow, for without their expertise and cooperation the show would never have gone on. They deserve everyone’s thanks.

They Said It: Dalton Kellett (No. 14 K-Line USA AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet: “I am very excited for the doubleheader at Mid-Ohio and thankful for the efforts of INDYCAR, Green-Savoree Promotions and the State of Ohio for surmounting the challenges of rescheduling the race. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I love the technical and fast-paced nature of the layout. This weekend should be physically and mentally challenging for both crews and drivers. It shouldn’t be quite as hot as the Indy G.P., but you can’t discount the physical nature of this place. There’s not much time to relax…Given the condensed schedule, we’re doing more development during the race weekends than we might on a typical year. That means it’s important for me to give the engineers my accurate feedback in practice so we can get it right for the race. Every (practice) session is an opportunity to learn.”

Next Race: Harvest GP Doubleheader…Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course…  Friday/Saturday October 2-3

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