The IndyCar series heads to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio this weekend and we preview what could be a pivotal race in the championship.
Championship leader Scott Dixon takes a narrow 3 point lead in the point standings to Mid-Ohio. With the Penske quartet of Castroneves, Pagenaud, Newgarden and Power in hot pursuit the Kiwi is looking forward to racing at a track that has been kind to him.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success over the years at Mid-Ohio with I think five or so wins now. The team really has this place figured out too, as overall they have 10 wins, which is the most wins for a track by the team” remarked Dixon ahead of the Honda Indy 200.
Dixon versus Team Penske?
Dixon is the winningest driver in IndyCar history at the Mid-Ohio circuit with 5 victories (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014). His main championships challengers however are no strangers to victory lane.
Defending series champion Simon Pagenaud won there in 2016 and is hoping for a similar result to close the gap to Dixon.
“I’m excited to head to Mid-Ohio with the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet. We won there last year and it helped impact our championship hunt in a big way. It’s a fun course with great fans who are always excited for INDYCAR racing”
Pagenaud wants repeat of 2016 Mid-Ohio win
Coming off the back of a top 5 at the last round in Toronto, the Frenchman believes he is carrying good momentum in the final stages of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar series: “Our last race, Toronto, was a great event for us and we think the momentum we built there that can really help us as we look for another win to get more points towards the championship.”
Castroneves and Newgarden pushing their championship credentials
Running second in the point standings, Helio Castroneves is another Penske driver who knows what it takes to win at Mid-Ohio with back to back victories in 2000 and 2001. The Brazilian finished a disappointed 8th last time out in Toronto but is confident he can be in contention once more.
“The last time we raced on a road course was at Road America, where we finished third. We had a strong car then and I know my team is preparing another fast car that we can race hard for another win with.”
Toronto winner Josef Newgarden is excited to get back to road course racing this weekend. The #2 Penske driver finished 2nd at Mid-Ohio last season and with 2 wins under his belt in 2017 is full of confidence.
“The last time we raced at a road course was at Road America, where we finished second, and we won earlier this season at Barber. The No. 2 PPG Chevrolet team has really come together this season especially with road courses, and with a fun crowd there, I’ll have everything I need to race for a win with a great team behind me.”
Rahal hoping for success at home
Outside of the Dixon/Penske battle, Ohio-native Graham Rahal is looking to get back on form. Rahal put his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda on the front row last time out in Toronto but could only convert to a 9th place finish.
“It’s important to have a good result at Mid-Ohio. I’m frustrated after Toronto. We deserved better than that. Our car was better than that, our team was better than that so it was obviously disappointing to get the result that we did.”
“Hopefully we can turn that around and have a really, really strong run at Mid-Ohio. I know we will have a lot of support and I’m very appreciative of that. Hopefully we can have a great run in the Steak ‘n Shake Honda because we definitely need it at this point in the championship.”
Rookie Jones putting testing knowledge to use at Mid-Ohio
Rookie star Ed Jones continues to impress in his debut with Dale Coyne Racing. Jones had a tough race in Toronto and believes qualifying at Mid-Ohio will be critical to delivering another strong finish.
“I think a lot of the race results will be decided by qualifying because it’s very difficult to overtake. That’s one area where we really need to work hard to get the Boy Scouts car right for.”
However Jones is confident that Dale Coyne’s recent testing at Mid-Ohio could boost his chances this weekend. Jones was one of the fastest runners during testing and thinks that can translate in to a good performance.
“We had a really good test last week at Mid-Ohio. It was very positive and we worked on a lot of things. The car seemed pretty fast compared to others that were there. As we saw at Road America, it’s beneficial to be able to test somewhere before we race there. It can give you an advantage early on and hopefully we can produce another good result because of it.”
Honda Indy 200 schedule & broadcast coverage
Friday, July 28 (all times local)
10 – 10:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
2:15 – 3 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3:05 – 3:20 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
Saturday, July 29
9:55 – 10:40 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
2:05 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (Live)
Sunday, July 30
11:15 – 11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series warmup, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3 p.m. – Driver introductions
3:40 p.m. – Command to start engines
3:47 p.m. – The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (90 laps/203.22 miles), CNBC (Live)
Honda Indy 200 – pre-race driver quotes:
“It was nice to be able to test at Mid-Ohio last week as we haven’t had a test day in a while, it feels like. It was a really productive day for us. Every day with this car and aero package, we are learning more. I feel like I came quite close to winning the race last year so I’m hoping to have another strong result this year.” Conor Daly, No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet
“We had a rough race in Toronto, so I think it was a good thing for us to take the weekend and regroup before heading into Mid-Ohio this weekend. Obviously, Scott (Dixon) has proven how strong he is at Mid-Ohio, so we’ll just try to get as much data as we can from him and hopefully snag a much-needed podium-finish for the No. 10 NTT Data Honda.” Tony Kanaan, No. 10 NTT Data Honda
“Toronto was a really rough weekend for the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team. We had an awesome, strong car and got tangled up in a wreck. It was really frustrating to end our day that way but we are ready to give it another shot at Mid-Ohio. To get a win there would be great for our season to give us a boost in points that we need.” Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet
“It’s very exciting to get to know another track. I tested there last week with the team. I think it was a very productive test. It helped me, once again, to understand the car better.” Esteban Gutierrez, No. 18 UNIFIN Honda
“We left Toronto with a good result and it is important to carry that momentum to Mid-Ohio and build on it. I always love going to Mid-Ohio. I’ve been preparing physically for an all-green, physical race. Mid-Ohio would be a good place to get a podium or win for the UFD team.” Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
“I’ve always enjoyed going to Mid-Ohio and rate it as one of my favorite tracks to race on. I raced here in Skip Barber when I was a teenager and earned my first-ever INDYCAR podium at Mid-Ohio. It would be great to add a win for the the DHL team to those memories. We have some positive momentum coming off the last two races at Iowa and Toronto and hopefully we can roll that into another successful weekend at Mid-Ohio.” Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 DHL Honda
“We are coming into this weekend with the excitement of finally returning to the podium this year. The motivation to fight for our first win of 2017 is as high as ever and, based on last year, I feel like we have a good platform to start from. I have a lot of team members from Ohio, so this is somewhat of a home race for the No. 98 car and I will be doing everything I can to get an awesome result for them.” Alexander Rossi, No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda