Race Day at Mid Ohio

Photo: Kyle McInnes

We are ready for Round 13 of the NTT Indycar Series, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio. Yesterday’s qualifying will make this an interesting race. Can Will Power break his winless streak?  Can Alexander Rossi gain ground on Josef Newgarden? How aggressive will Rossi be at the start? Will a two or three stop strategy lead to victory?

Power said that he is planning on three stops. Rossi used a two stop strategy last year on his way to a convincing win. Teams may not decide until after the noon warmup. The heat may be a factor today as well.

Qualifying Doesn’t Reflect Practice

Six of the top ten in final practice failed to advance in qualifying. Santin Ferruci, Graham Rahal, and Spencer Pigot didn’t get out of Round 1. Pigot was second fastest in the morning practice.  Colton Herta, who led the last two practices, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and James Hinchcliffe fell out in Round 2.

Power ran two laps at the end of the Fast Six on reds. He had a slower first lap, saving his tires for the  final circuit. He beat Rossi by 0.38 seconds.

Sebastien Bourdais made it to the Fast Six after flirting with it for the last few races. he has been a consistent Round 2 member this season.

DVR Reminder

The race is on NBC. You may need to set your DVR.

Back after the noon warmup and then after the race with Quick Thoughts. Look for a ful race report on Wildfire Sports.

Quick Thoughts- Mid Ohio Qualifying

I sure didn’t see this pole coming. Power’s season has been difficult, and he has been out of the conversation for most of the year.  He seemed almost as relieved after qualifying as he was after winning the 500 last year.

Rossi can take consolation that he is starting ahead of Newgarden this race. The first turn after the green will be interesting.

Power’s pole takes a point away from all the championship contenders.

Disappointing qualifying for Colton Herta and Spencer Pigot. Neither made the Fast Six. Herta led the last two practice sessions. Pigot was second quickest this morning.

A Ganassi car made the Fast Six, but not the one I expected. Felix Rosenqvist had decent times in practice, but was 11th overall. He had also had a couple off track excursions. Scott Dixon looked as if he had recovered from his early weekend struggles.

Rossi said he hasn’t had time to think about his renewal with Andretti yet. I still think he will win the race tomorrow.

Bourdais has been a regular in the Second Round of late. It would be great to see him get a pole this year.

All three Arrow Schmidt Peterson cars got to Round Two.  James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson, and Jack Harvey all advanced. This is Harvey’s first race since Road America, which makes his advancement more impressive.  I would love to see what that team can do full time. Harvey made the Fast Six at the Indycar Grand Prix and finished third.

Tomorrow looks to be the hottest day of the weekend with temperatures around 90 degrees at race time. It should make for an interesting race.

Power said his team is planning on three stops in the race.

Power felt that he would eventually get another pole. “It just got the point where God said, ‘Let him have it.’ ”

Back later with a full qualification report. Thanks for following along today.

 

Herta Fastest in Practice 3; Qualifying Next

Photo: Colton Herta exiting the keyhole in Practice 3. Photo: Mike Silver

 

Colton Herta picked up where he stopped yesterday afternoon, leading the NTT Indycar Series final practice session this morning. The results of this session determine the   groups for the 2:35 pm qualifying rounds.  Herta will lead Group 2 in Round 1. Group 2 will also include Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Sebastien Bourdais.

Herta’s time of 1:05.704 was 0,058 seconds better than Spencer Pigot. Alexander Rossi was third quickest. Rossi struggled in both sessions yesterday and early in today’s round. Graham Rahal ended Practice two slowest of the 23 cars, but finished sixth this morning. Felix Rosenqvist dropped to twenty in today’s practice after posting a top ten speed yesterday.  Scott Dixon, seventh yesterday, finished 15th today.

 

Qualifying Day at Mid Ohio

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Good morning. It’s qualifying day at Mid Ohio for the Honda Indy 200.

Today’s schedule:

10:30 Practice 3     NBC Gold

2:35  Qualifying     NBCSN

Andretti Autosport has announced a media availability at 12:30 today.  Could Silly Season come to an abrupt end?

Noticed some improvements at the track yesterday. The stairs leading up to the keyhole have been replaced with a new wooden staircase. It looks nice. A new grandstand is at the exit of turn 2. I understand it was put up for the ARX event earlier this year. I might check it out during this morning’s practice.

Some questions for today:

Can Colton Herta win his second pole of the year?

Will Simon Pagenaud continue his hot streak?

Will Alexander Rossi have a better day than yesterday?

Back with a post practice wrap-up.

Herta Leads Second Session with Day’s Quick Lap

Colton Herta led Practice 2 for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio with the day’s quickest lap, 1:05.729.  It was a session punctuated by spins and off course excursions. The mist severe came with about six minutes left when Josef Newgarden got off track in turn 9 and backed into the tire barrier. The rest of the field was allowed one more lap. No one got a clean lap as none of the cars could create a big enough gap to make a decent run.  e

Cars didn’t start using the red alternate tires until about 12 minutes remained in the practice period. I’m not sure anyone has a decent feel for how they will do in qualifying or the race.  Simon Pagenaud said in the press conference following practice, “We’ll find out in the warmup (Sunday morning).”

Pagenaud finished second after after posting the third place time this morning. Pagenaud was 0.202 seconds behind Herta. Will Power was third this afternoon. Points leader Newgarden finished the afternoon 11th after his crash. Alexander Rossi continued to struggle ending session two in 13th, which is the same position he finished this morning’s practice.

Felix Rosenqvist improved on his eighth place from the morning session to fourth quickest this afternoon. Jack Harvey was 11th this morning and improved to eighth in session two. Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe  switched fifth and sixth spots in the two sessions. Hinchcliffe was fifth this morning.

R. C. Enerson  (above photo) made great strides this afternoon in his Indycar return, going from 21st this morning to 15th this afternoon.

Tomorrow’s schedule calls for a 10:30 practice and qualifying at 2:35.

 

Dixon Fastest in Mid Ohio Practice 1

Scott Dixon led the opening practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio. The NTT Indycar Series session ended with a mix of Hondas and Chevys in the top ten. Dixon’s best lap was 1:06.097. Spencer Pigot finished second with a 1:06.245 circuit.  Points leader Josef Newgarden was fourth quick, 0.209 seconds behind. The other championship contenders had mixed results.  Simon Pagenaud was third, 0.169 behind Dixon. Alexander Rossi ended the session 13th, more than a second down to the leader.

Jack Harvey was 11th quick in his return to the series with Meyer Shank Racing. R. C. Enerson, driving his first Indycar race in three years for Carlin Racing, was 21st. Enerson completed a session  high 24 laps.  Felix Rosenqvist was the fastest rookie. He finished eighth, 0.508 seconds off Dixon’s lap.

The next Indycar practice is at 3:15 pm EDT.

A couple more photos from this morning:

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Felix Rosenqvist slides to a stop between turns 4 and 5
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Colton Herta leads Santino Ferrucci and Max Chilton into the esses.

Welcome to Mid Ohio

Greetings from Mid Ohio. As usual, the track has been busy since 8 am. The entire Road to Indy, Mazda MX5, and Stadium Super Trucks join the NTT Indycar Series this weekend.

MX5 Cup is on track now for practice.  I’m hearing that the campground is unusually full for the first day. I hope that’s a good sign for attendance.  It looks as if Sunday’s race will have the heat that Iowa’s race lost after the storm. The forecast high for race day is 90 degrees.

Today’s Indycar Schedule (All Times EDT):

Indycar Practice  1-  11;20 am

Indycar Practice 2-    3:15 pm

Both practices are on NBC Gold.

Mid Ohio is usually the weekend when some news about the next season begins trickling out. I will see what I can find out.  Back with a summary of Practice 1 sometime around 12:30.

Mid Ohio Preview- Pivotal Weekend for Contenders

Mid Ohio is arguably the most crucial race of the year for the championship contenders. The top four contenders each need a win to set up their run in the  final four races.  A  Josef Newgarden win can solidify his lead and make it very difficult on Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, and Scott Dixon to catch him. Rossi by repeating his victory last year can regain much of what he lost last last Saturday/Sunday in Iowa. Dixon and Pagenaud need to win just to stay within shouting distance.

Sunday will be the 35th Indycar race at Mid Ohio. the first race in 1980 was won by Johnny Rutherford under USAC sanction. The race didn’t return until 1983 and ran through 2003 as a CART event. It then fell off the schedule until the IRL brought it back in 2007. The race survived the merger and has become on of the staple events of the series.

While the track doesn’t always produce the best racing,  last year saw lots of action and passing in the esses. There have been fights for the lead in the last several years. Simon Pagenaud passed Will Power in 2016 in turn 13 with just a few laps to go after some wheel banging. Graham Rahal beat Justin Wilson to turn 5 after a restart in 2015 for an extremely popular victory.

Last year Alexander Rossi was firmly in control while there was was some great action behind him.  Sebastien Bourdais finished sixth after starting 24th, and Pagenaud moved to eighth from 17th on the grid. Rossi led 66 laps in 2018.

Good Pit Strategy and Stops Necessary

Last year was unusual in that pit stops or strategy didn’t ruin anyone’s race. Josef Newgarden was heading for his first win in 2014 when a late call to pit caught him and his team off guard. Newgarden got tangled up with the air hose. The penalty dropped him out of contention. In 2015 Mikhail Aleshin had the race firmly in control when a botched pit stop involving a collision with another car put him out of the running.

Team Penske in 2015 left  Juan Pablo Montoya out too long. He was caught out by a yellow flag, lost a chance to strengthen his points lead which eventually cost him the title. While the frequency of yellows has diminished the last couple years, pitting at the start of the pit window is critical at Mid Ohio.

Contenders Will be Strong

We’re at the time of the year when the contenders for the championship usually dominate.  It seems as if this season that has been the case since the Indycar Grand Prix. I don’t think that changes this weekend.   I look for Rossi to repeat as the winner on Sunday.  He won Mid Ohio and the next race at Pocono in 2018.  Rossi needs to repeat that feat to have a chance to win the title. As for Pagenaud and Dixon, they both almost need to win out and hope Newgarden and Rossi have some misfortune.

Others to Watch

R. C. Enerson returns to Indycar for the first time since 2016, driving the number 31 car for Carlin . His Indycar debut was at Mid Ohio for Dale Coyne Racing.  Enerson was impressive in practice that weekend, but struggled in the race.

Colton Herta looks to have a good race and avoid the bad luck that has plagued him too often this season. He should at least get a top 10 finish if the mechanical gremlins don’t get him again.

Can Zach Veach repeat his great showing at Iowa?  He seems to have his best runs in the latter part of the year. This is his home track, so the motivation is there.

Mid Ohio is also the home track for Michael Shank, who returns to the series this weekend with Jack Harvey.  This is the eighth race of the team’s 10 race schedule this season. Harvey did well early in the year when the team ran the first six races. After Mid Ohio, the team will be at Portland and Laguna Seca. There is optimism that they will be full time next season.

Channel Switch

Just a reminder that the race is on NBC Sunday. If you DVR is like mine, the series setting doesn’t carry over from channel to channel. Double check and set it if you need to. Broadcast time is 4 pm EDT.  There is no prerace. Cars will be rolling when the program begins.

Spotter’s Guide

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Mid Ohio Entry List; Notes

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Notes

Dragonspeed on Twitter today said some of their crew has visa issues and cannot enter the US at this time.  They plan to return to Indycar for the finale at Laguna Seca.

St. Petersburg officially announced a four year extension of the season opener through 2024. the current agreement expires after the race next March.