With three races remaining, round 14 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season heads to Lexington, Ohio at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200.
|2015 IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio|
|Date||31 Jul – 02 Aug 2015||Lap Length||2.25 mi / 3.634km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:45-12:00||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 15:15-16:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:45-11:30||Qualifying||Sat 15:00-16:15|
|Warm-Up Session||Sun 09:45-10:15||Race (90 laps)||Sun 14:07-16:15|
Session times quoted in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT – 04:00)
Located just outside the village of Lexington, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was opened in 1962 as a location for weekend sports car driving for well-heeled businessmen and amateur racers.
It took a another twenty years – and a change of ownership – before the venue was upgraded for spectator viewing, and it became a mainstay on the CART calendar from 1983-2003 before returning in 2007 when the Indy Racing League (the forebear of today’s IndyCar Series) started branching away from an almost exclusively oval-racing championship.
Until 1989, the cars ran on the original 2.4-mile layout, which featured a rather pointless chicane just before the Keyhole hairpin. The racing was traditionally rather ‘follow my leader’ until the circuit’s owners elected to bypass the chicane and offer drivers a shorter 2.25-mile configuration and a proper passing spot at what is now the track’s second corner.
The circuit is rather unique on the IndyCar calendar in that its start line is placed on the kinked back ‘straight’ between Turns 2 and 4, offset with the finish line that follows Turn 13.
Rewind to 2014
Scott Dixon won at Mid-Ohio for the fifth time in eight seasons. Dixon became the tenth winner in the 2014 season, and was the first win of the season for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Polesitter for KV Racing Sébastien Bourdais led the early stages of the race, and Dixon, who started last after spinning out during qualifying, worked his way to the front when the leaders came in for their pit stops. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver capitalized on an error made by Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden during his final pit stop, where Newgarden ran over an air hose and tripped a crew member. He was subsequently penalized, handing Dixon one of the finest and most remarkable wins of his career.
The race was marred by an opening-lap accident triggered by Tony Kanaan, who spun trying to avoid other cars and was collected by former teammate Marco Andretti. In what was a poor outing for the Andretti team, Ryan Hunter-Reay saw his slim hopes of clinching a second Drivers’ Championship title evaporate when he was penalised for speeding in the pits and then spun into the tyre wall.
Then-championship leader Hélio Castroneves suffered a disastrous race that would ultimately derail his championship challenge and give Penske teammate Will Power a long overdue maiden title. The Brazilian suffered throttle problems on the grid and rejoined the race four laps down to finish a lowly 19th. His poor points’ score gave Power a four-point lead heading into the final rounds of the season.
Mid-Ohio Facts & Stats
- Last year’s winner Scott Dixon is the most successful driver at Mid-Ohio with five victories to his name (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and a further three top-five finished. Other multiple winners include Emerson Fittipaldi (three wins), along with Michael Andretti, Hélio Castroneves, Teo Fabi, Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr. (two apiece).
- The Chip Ganassi Racing team has enjoyed an unbeaten streak at this circuit that extends back to 2009. Dixon and Kimball aside, past Ganassi winners include Alex Zanardi (1996-7), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999) and Dario Franchitti (2010). Should the team make it seven in a row this weekend, it will also mark the 100th race win for the team.
- Aside from Dixon and Castroneves (who won here in 2000 and 2001), other past winners in this year’s field include Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Ryan Briscoe (2008) and Charlie Kimball (2013).
- Other drivers with strong records at Mid-Ohio include Will Power (four top-five finishes in his last six outings), Simon Pagenaud (two podiums in four starts) and Sébastien Bourdais (three top-five finishes in five starts).
The Form Guide
Despite notching up his first retirement of the season with an early DNF last time out at Iowa Speedway, Juan Pablo Montoya still holds a 42-point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship standings, which he has led since the start of the season.
The 2015 IndyCar Series season has had nine different winners in its thirteen races to-date and with three rounds (including this weekend) to go, there are still thirteen drivers in mathematical contention for this year’s Drivers’ Championship title.
In reality, the Colombian’s greatest threat – aside from himself! – will come from within the top-five in the points’ standings. Iowa winner Graham Rahal continues to enjoy a red-hot run of form and has moved to second place in the standings, ahead of Dixon, Castroneves, Power and Bourdais. The only other possible threat – purely by dint of his sparkling road and street course form – is CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden, who sits seventh in the standings and could be a real threat this weekend.
Series tyre supplier Firestone has announced that it will debut a new rain tyre compound this weekend after criticism of the grip levels offered by its incumbent rubber. The key feature is a completely reprofiled tread design to help improve water dispersion, although it is likely to be kept on the sidelines given hot and dry weather is forecast for the entire weekend.
The 24-car field sees one change from the previous round at Iowa, and it predictably comes from Dale Coyne Racing, which has run a succession of rent-a-drivers this season.
Back for his fifth outing behind the wheel of the team’s #18 Honda-powered runner is former Marussia F1 reserve driver Rodolfo González, who has delivered little more than a succession of spins and accidents while running well off the pace. He replaces oval racer Pippa Mann, who retired the car from the last two short-track oval rounds in Milwaukee and Iowa due to concerns over her car’s lurid handling.
Images via Distritomotor
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