One of my favorite weekends of the year is the Indycar race at Mid-Ohio. Mid-Ohio is the first race I went to outside of Indianapolis, so I have a soft spot for it. I really like the track and its surroundings. After the 500, this is the race I have attended the most. There is virtually non-stop track action with all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy and Pirelli World Challenge in addition to Indycar.
The Indy Lights races here are always entertaining and something unexpected always happens. I have seen drivers crash into one another, get out of their cars and throw punches. I saw the leader pit a lap too early and lose the race. Something usually happens to scramble the points standings.
For Indycar, the racing is usually not that exciting. The last two years have had some drama, however. Last year Simon Pagenaud made a wheel banging pass on Will Power for the win that virtually assured his title. In 2015 Graham Rahal beat Justin Wilson to turn 4 on a late restart to win his home race. It was a very popular victory.
Most of the time, the race is decided on pit lane. Since 2013, pit activity has created the winner. Charlie Kimball used off- sequence strategy to get his only series win. Scott Dixon, starting last, took advantage of a first lap caution to pit and eventually win the race. Josef Newgarden lost what was a sure win because of a botched pit stop. Last year Mikhail Aleshin looked to be on the way to his first career win when he left his pit box and collided with an incoming car. Teams have held their drivers out until the end of the pit window and were caught by an untimely yellow.
What happens in the pits will decide this year’s race as well.. Team Penske was very strong here last year with Pagenaud and Power dominating the race. Rahal will be looking for his second win in three years, which would strengthen his chance for the championship. Right now he on the edge of falling out of contention. Scott Dixon has been very strong at Mid-Ohio, winning four times, and I think he will increase his points lead over Helio Castroneves Sunday.
The winner? This is the time of the season when the contenders take over the races and the qualifying. My pick is Josef Newgarden, who could jump to second in points depending on where teammates Castroneves and Pagenaud finish. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, to see the season’s tenth winner on the top step of the podium Sunday. It all depends what happens when the cars are stopped.
Mikhail Aleshin is listed on the entry list for the 7 car. Will this be his last drive for Schmidt-Peterson?
Ruoff Mortgage, Takuma Sato’s sponsor on his winning car for the 500, returns to the 27 car this weekend.
After watching the new look aerokit on track Tuesday, it may be difficult to watch the current cars this weekend. I guess I just have to pretend I know what my Christmas present is and I can’t open it until next March.