Mid Ohio- Busy Day for Indycar

Good morning from the Mount Vernon media center annex. Six races are on tap today, four for the Road to Indy, one for Mazda MX5 Cup, and the first practice for Indycar, followed by qualifying for the first Indycar raceof the weekend. The 75 lap event is on NBCSN at 5 pm Eastern

Today’s schedule (All Times Eastern)

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Mid Ohio Preview- Fitness, Pit Stops, Position

Rounds 9 and 10 of the NTT Indycar Series are set for Mid Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. The races will be the fourth doubleheader weekend of this strange year. Just getting to 10 races in this season of postponements and cancellations is an accomplishment. The series has three more events left on its 2020 schedule.

The race will have an audience of up to 6,000 fans. The State of Ohio approved that number. The track requested the state to host a bit over 9,000 fans. The NFL Browns and Bengals were each allowed 6,000 fans for their first two games. 6,000 spectators should be able to distance easily at Mid Ohio if not everyone sits in the popular esses area.

The two 75 lap races will be on two different networks. Saturday’s 5 pm Eastern start is on NBCSN, and Sunday’s 1 pm Eastern green flag is on NBC. Here are some things to look for this weekend.

Physical Fitness

Mid Ohio is one the more physical tracks on the Indycar circuit. One 90 lap race, the usual distance, wears a driver out. Sunday’s race could come down to who is the most physically fit. The veterans know how to prepare for what is essentially and endurance weekend. Will the fittest driver win on Sunday? If fitness is the key for day two, look for Simon Pagenaud or Tony Kanaan to do well. The rookies have youth on their side, which should help them over the weekend.

Pit Stops

This has been a season of pit errors. No team has been immune. Mid Ohio has had some notorious pit mistakes that have cost drivers victories. Josef Newgarden was on his way to his first Indycar win when the crew called him at the last minute. The team was as shocked as Josef at the call. he pulled into an unprepared pit. the disastrous stop resulted in a drive through penalty which cost him the race.

Mikhail Aleshin had the race in hand until an unsafe pit release caused a collision with another car, ruining his day.

Pit and tire strategy nearly cost Scott Dixon the win last year. He barely hung on to beat teammate Felix Rosenqvist.

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Scott Dixon leads Felix Rosenqvist in the closing laps of the 2019 MidOhio Honda Indy 200.

Track Position

Mid Ohio is not known as a track where passing is easy. Qualifying and track position is key here. Pit strategy in what should be a two stop race each day will also play into who is at the front. If the second stop is late enough, a full fuel load may not be needed, which could help a driver pick up spots on track.

Passing has been difficult everywhere this season. The different starting times may also play a role in how much passing occurs. Will the late Saturday start and cooler track temperatures help the racing for Race 1?

Spotter’s Guides-

https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/09/09/mid-ohio-spotters-guides/

Dixon Takes Another Step Toward Title Number 6

I think Scott Dixon will win one of the races and leave mid Ohio just a short step away from his sixth Indycar title. A nother victory will put him within one of tying mario Andretti for second place on the career win list.

My prediction for the other race- Pato O’Ward will get his first Indycar victory from the pole. O’Ward has been knocking on the door of the top step of the podium and this weekend, this key finally opens the lock.

If you are going to Mid Ohio, please review the track’s protocols at

https://midohio.com/covid19.

History Made – Quick Thoughts on Race 1

Photo: James Black, Indycar

We were going to see history today. We just didn’t know what it would be. Was it going to be O’Ward’s first victory, Dixon’s 50th, or a repeat winner at this track?

50 Indycar wins for Scott Dixon. Nothing else to say. The way his season is going, he could catch and pass Mario Andretti this season for second place on the all time win list.

Asking for a friend- Is someone really old if they have seen all three Indycar drivers who have won 50 or more races drive and win?

Pato O’Ward will sometime soon get the last stint right and stand atop the podium. Maybe tomorrow.

What Indy 500 hangover? Takuma Sato finished a strong second today, starts on pole tomorrow, and moved up to fourth in points. This ranks as one the best next races after winning the 500 I remember.

Andretti Autosport has a lot of work to do tonight. Losing three cars before they even reach the starting line typifies the type of season the team is having.

I still need to see the replay of the start, but from what I have seen it looks like Power brought the field to the line too slow and drivers in the back got anxious. I’m not sure what Alex Palou was thinking being that far out of line.

Starts and restarts have been a problem this year. Road America race 2 also had a slow start. Colton Herta had the restart problem at Iowa.

Conor Daly earned another top ten finish for Carlin Racing. Daly has really helped that team. Sad that tomorrow is his final race with them this season.

Runus VeeKay’s sixth place finish is his best oval result this year. After a rough start at Texas, VeeKay has worked hard to improve on ovals.

Tony Kanaan’ s ninth place is a nice finish as he closes his season Sunday.

Herta had a quiet fourth place finish.

The points race is all but over. Dixon holds a 117 point lead over Newgarden, and O’Ward is another 13 behind. It has been a while since the pints leader has had such control of the championship. It’s been a long time since someone had won half of the races this deep into the year.

O’Ward Leads Practice

Photo: Indycar, James Black

Pato O’Ward lead the field in the only practice session for the Bommarito Autuomotive Group 500 this afternoon. O’Ward turned in a 181.532 mph lap on the 66th lap of his 75 circuits.  Qualifying is at noon Eastern time tomorrow, followed by Race 1 at 3:40 Eastern Sunday’s race is also at 3:40 eastern. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Santino Ferrucci lost the drive in his car and sat out most of the session, turning just 40 laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay also had issues and ran a session low 32 laps. Points leader Scott Dixon was third quickest. The entire field was within 1.1 seconds of the leader.

I will be traveling to Gateway very early tomorrow morning and should arrive in time for qualifying. Look for a brief qualifying report. my Quick Thoughts on Race 1 will post late Saturday evening.

The time sheet:

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Bommarito 500 Preview-A More Traditional Schedule

An oval the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t happened for at least seven years. Milwaukee traditionally followed Indianapolis  on the schedule. One good thing all the schedule changes did was bring this bit of nostalgia. It’s not Milwaukee, but world Wide Technology Raceway, still called Gateway by many, has a double header this weekend.

It will be a different Gateway weekend in keeping with the adjustments 2020 has forced upon everyone. Both races will run in the daytime instead of at night as they have the last three years. The scheduled distance is 200 laps per race. The single race was 248 laps. Like Iowa, the racing should be different in the daytime from what it was like at night.

Gateway has hosted Indycar races since 1997, when CART ran a race the day before the Indianapolis 500 for three years. The last CART race was  September of 2000, as CART teams decided they wanted to go back to Indianapolis. The IRL raced at Gateway from 2001-2003. Indycar returned in 2017.

There are some oddities in the history of the track and the series. Tony Kanaan is the only driver participating this weekend who has driven in every race here, regardless of which series sanctioned the event. No driver has won the race at Gateway more than once. The only times the pole winner won were in 2002, when Gil de Ferran took the checkered flag, and 2003, when Helio Castroneves pulled the double.

Six active drivers have finished in the top ten twice- Conor Daly, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato. Pagenaud has the best average finish of fourth.

The weekend schedule can be found here:

https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/08/25/world-wide-technology-schedule/

500 Hangover?

The winner of the Indianapolis 500 goes on a whirlwind media tour after the race and sometimes struggles the following weekend.  Sato is the defending winner of this race. I look for him to be better on Sunday than he is on Saturday. It has been a while since the winner of the 500 won the next race.

More Success for Daly and Carlin?

This weekend marks the last two races for Conor Daly and Carlin Racing on the ovals. The results to date have been pretty decent. Daly won the pole for Race 1 at Iowa. He has scored  a sixth at Texas, and an eighth  in Iowa race 1. 72 of Daly’s 121 points have come in the Carlin entry.  Daly also has earned a fifth place at gateway driving for Foyt Racing.  I see daly as having another good weekend. in the St. Louis area.

Chevy Comeback?

After Honda’s domination at Indianapolis, Chevrolet looks to rebound. This is a strong track for the bow tie. Chevy powered cars had won three races in a row before Honda’s win last year.  Chevy did win the pole in 2019 and Ed Carpenter came within 0,03 seconds of winning.  Chevy should again have a strong performance at a track that has seemed to favor their engines.

Clean Start?

Since Indycar’s return to Gateway, clean starts have been an issue. Last year there was an incident on lap 2 involving Marcus Ericsson. The previous two years, issues at the start caused yellows just after the green flag. Will a daytime race fix the problem?

Dixon’s Title March

Scott Dixon’s runner up finish last weekend in the Indianapolis 500 gives him an 84 point lead over Josef Newgarden. No one else is within 100 points of Dixon. A pair of good finishes this weekend could put the title virtually out of reach. Dixon won the first three races of the season and has two seconds and a fifth place as well. The second race at road america is his only finish outside the top ten this season.I don’t see Dixon losing ground here. he is having one of the strongest seasons we have seen from a driver in a while.

Notes

Kody Swanson, five time USAC Midget champion, will again drive for Legacy motorsport in the Indy Pro 2000 race at 1 pm Central time on Saturday. Swanson drove the car to victory in his debut at Lucas oil raceway on Carb Night. The deal was put together at the last minute, and the crew worked without pay to get the car ready. Sw2anson drove a great race after starting second. Once he got the lead he pulled away from the field. He is a driver that i hope gets a shot at Indycar in the next couple of years.

Mid Ohio will rune September 11-13 pending government approval. The track plans to allow 10,000 fans. The doubleheader was postponed from August 8 and 9. it will stay as a double header. I wonder if they have already sold more than 10,000 tickets. if so, how will they resolve the excess tickets?

Quick Thoughts- Iowa Race 2

Dr. Newgarden has reopened his Iowa clinic.  His 214 laps led tonight give him close to 1,000 laps led at Iowa Speedway.  Newgarden is the first driver to win at Iowa from the pole. His third victory at the track ties him with Ryan Hunter-Reay for most wins  here. Newgarden also joins Hunter-Reay as the only back to back winners.

Newer teams and drivers stood out this weekend. Carlin and Conor Daly had a pole and finished eighth Friday. On Saturday, Daly started third and was definitely  a contender until being caught out by the second yellow. His 13th place finish does not reflect the great race he ran tonight.  Sadly, Daly has only one more race scheduled with Carlin this season, August 30 at Gateway.

Arrow McLaren SP ‘s pair had two good races, contending at times both nights. oliver Askew was on the podium Friday, giving the team podiums two races in a row. Pato O’Ward’s disastrous pit stop probably cost him his second top 5 finish of the weekend. We have not heard the last from either of these teams.

Both yellows seemed to take a long time.  I’m surprised there weren’t more.  Both cautions played havoc with several teams pit strategies.

After a series of frustrating races, Graham Rahal finally gets a podium. He has been strong all year, but has had a difficult stretch of getting a good result.

Colton Herta’s repaired car was a handful tonight. I don’t know how he avoided hitting the turn 4 wall early in the race.

Two top 10s for Rossi  couple with his third at Road America should help his and the team’s morale. Like last year the team doesn’t seem to have the overall pace to contend. Rossi needs another strong Indianapolis 500.

If you are surprised that Team Penske suddenly came alive this weekend, don’t be. Some years it takes them a race or two to get going.  Penske usually gets to the top eventually.

Simon Pagenaud improved 41 spots from his starting position over the two races. He didn’t seem to have the pace he had on Friday, yet still managed a 4th place finish. He trails Scott Dixon by 49 points, gaining just 1 point on Dixon tonight.

Doubleheaders are great, but they shouldn’t be overdone in a normal year. As a fan I loved it, but the toll on the drivers and crews has to be heavy. I realize this is not a normal year. I could live with another double header at Iowa.

I’ll be back Monday with a report on how Iowa Speedway handled its COVID plan. Wednesday a story on my visit to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Thank you for following along this weekend.