Mid-Ohio is all about what happens in the pits. Timing is everything. Execution is crucial. In 2014, Josef Newgarden had the race in hand until a botched last pit stop handed the race to Scott Dixon. Dixon started last and pitted during a yellow at the start to get to the front. Even then, he ran out of fuel just after getting the checkered flag. Last year Graham Rahal won by pitting just before a caution that caught out the leaders trying to stretch their pit window. Charlie Kimball used a stop on lap 10 in 2013 to take the checkered. This year, the pits were unkind to Mikhail Aleshin. He had cycled to the lead after the second round of stops and was maintaining a healthy lead. When the yellow came out for Jack Hawksworth’s accident, everybody pitted for the final time. The vrew released him into the path of Newgarden. Aleshin hit Newgarden’s car and bumped a crew member from Juan Pablo Montoya’s team. Conor Daly had the lead and the pace, but not enough fuel. He salvaged a sixth place finish after stopping late. The race then returned to the usual suspects.
Simon Pagenaud made a great move on Will Power coming out of the carousel to get into position to win. It has been several years since a driver has won more than three times in a season. Pagenaud slightly slowed Power’s momentum, increasing his lead to fifty-eight points, although Power has three wins and two seconds over the last five races. I wouldn’t count him out yet. Power is stronger than Pagenaud on ovals. There are still 3.7 races left, two of which are ovals.
Overall, it was a better than average Mid Ohio race. There was plenty of drama, and different pit strategies to keep the outcome in doubt for most of the race. Scott Dixon’s early retirement was an atypical error on his part, maybe showing a little impatience. That is not the best place to attempt a move like that. I thought Race Control made a good decision not to go full course yellow with three laps to go after Bourdais ended up in the sand. I do, however, wonder why the start of the race wasn’t waved off. Simon had a Helio-esque jump coming to the line
A New Fan’s Hot Lap Ride-From Boredom to Let’s Go Again in Two Minutes
My girlfriend Marti had her first hot lap ride Sunday. This was just her second Indycar race. She began the ride with no expectations. In fact, Marti thought it would be boring. By the keyhole she began to appreciate the track. When she had to grab the passenger assist bar, she understood why she had to sign a waiver. Her excitement suddenly began to build. The lap helped her understand how drivers race- the acceleration, braking, and the approach to each turn. She tried to imagine how she would take each section. Her favorite part was the esses. As the car pulled into the pits, Marti was ready to do a few more. Overall, the hot lap allowed her to briefly see the track from a driver’s perspective. She now has a better understanding of racing. Marti is eager to take a 2-seater ride now. Amazing how someone’s attitude can change in just a couple of minutes.
Mid Ohio continues to have one of the best crowds of the season. The esses area seemed fuller than last year.
I noticed several new concessions areas this year, including a bar at the foot of the bridge just before Turn 1.
Conor Daly got very lucky after missing Turn 4. he drove across the grass and nearly collided with Charlie Kimball on re-entry.
The start of this race, when all 22 cars are packed together in the space between Turns 4 and 5, is one of the most thrilling parts of the season. Amazing that they usually all get through most years.
R. C. Enerson had an impressive debut weekend. He was competitive in practice and was running well in the race until botched fuel strategy put him well back in the field.