IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.

Outside contenders at the IndyCar Bommarito Automotive 500

Following the dramatic conclusion of the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar relentlessly ploughs on with frightening momentum into a double header weekend at the World-Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Illinois.

Now two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato brings massive confidence to the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, a race he won last year after holding off a late-charging Ed Carpenter in the closing stages to win by a narrow lead of 0.0339 seconds. It was the closest finish in IndyCar history.

He will get the opportunity not once, but twice to win at Gateway again. It is a sight we have almost become accustomed to, with doubleheaders at Iowa, Road America and of course over in Formula 1 with double-headers at Austria and Silverstone.

Looking at the championship standings it is a grim picture for anyone who is not Scott Dixon. The New Zealander holds a commanding lead of 84 points over his next closest rival, Josef Newgarden. It paints a clearer picture of how dominant the five-time world champion has been this season when noticing third placed Patricio O’Ward is a further 33 points behind Newgarden. Can anyone stop the brilliance of Scott Dixon?

Frankly, outside Newgarden, O’Ward and Sato, you may think the chances are slim.

But alas, there are many other drivers looking to prove themselves at the famous ‘egg-shaped’ circuit. Here are my surprise candidates to achieve a good result this weekend:

James Black / IndyCar Media

Santino Ferrucci

However infamous this young driver may be, you can’t argue with the results he has been putting in this season.

A pair of sixth place finishes in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America road course doubleheader was certainly a standout. More recently, a fantastic fourth at the Indianapolis 500 following a late charge which saw him finish three tenths behind leader Takuma Sato and within touching distance of podium finisher Graham Rahal.

In three out of the last five races he has finished in the top six. You could therefore argue that the young gun is finding his feet comfortably in IndyCar, vehemently charged to change his reputation in global motorsport.

While the likes of VeeKay, Palou, Askew and O’Ward may be stealing most of the headlines, Santino will be looking to upset the status-quo. You only have to look back a year when he finished fourth at Gateway after leading almost one hundred laps of the famous egg-shaped circuit.

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media

Conor Daly

Weeks have elapsed since a hilarious prank war between Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi, where the Andretti driver awoke to find his golf cart dismantled and relieved of its wheels. Since then, you could say Daly would have gladly swapped that same golf cart in place of his actual IndyCar over the last few races.

He has not finished in the top ten since the first race at Iowa and will be looking to bounce back in spectacular fashion.

Luckily for Conor, it seems he has a knack at Gateway. In his two race starts at the Bommarito 500 he has never finished outside the top six, a statistic that may give him confidence going into the weekend.

Bouncing between Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing this year certainly will not have helped to form any sort of consistency needed for a title challenge. However, out of all his teammates he is currently tied with the most points alongside hotshot rookie Rinus VeeKay. If you were looking for a dramatic teammate battle, this one would be the one to watch.

Chris Owens / IndyCar Media

Colton Herta

The young American has had something of a roller-coaster of a season. While he is win-less this year, a seventh, fourth and a pair of fifths in the opening four rounds of the campaign proves he has consistency as well as raw speed. He comes radiating confidence after finishing a tremendous eight at the Brickyard.

What has been most impressive this year has been his qualifying form. Since the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway his qualifying results have been as follows: Indianapolis (3rd), Road America Race 1 (7th), Road America Race 2 (2nd), Iowa Speedway Race 1 (4th), Iowa Speedway Race 2 (5th). He only barely missed out on the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout at the Indy500. In such a competitive field, such consistent qualifying pace is a solid indicator that Colton has the speed to match anyone in the series. I expect a similar solid qualifying run to occur, and with that, a potential for a good result.

If you need any more evidence, the Californian has made two Indy Lights starts at Worldwide Technology Raceway leading 69 of 75 laps in 2018 before settling for second. Herta finished one spot lower in his first race at the 1.25-mile oval.

Dale Coyne sign Santino Ferrucci for 2019 season

One of IndyCar’s worst kept secrets is finally out; ex-F2 driver Santino Ferrucci will race for Dale Coyne in 2019, after competing for four events with the team in 2018. This announcement has been expected for some time, with the announcing of the deal seeming to be a mere formality.

The first three races of Ferrucci’s IndyCar career, held at Detroit and Portland, were all tough to say the least – with the rest of the weekend’s showing far more promise than the race result itself. Things turned around for the young American in his more recent IndyCar race at the season-ending Sonoma GP where he finished a respectable eleventh, ahead of teammate Pietro Fittipaldi, though still in the shadow of the vastly experienced Sebastien Bourdais.

2019 will see him partner Bourdais once again in the two-car Dale Coyne team, with Bourdais being one of the best on the grid to learn from, given his vast IndyCar success and experience.

Santino Ferrucci – Dale Coyne Racing. Image courtesy of Chris Jones/indycar

His IndyCar track record makes the move more than credible, but, unfortunately for Ferrucci, the 20-year old is much more well-known for his F2 misdemeanours than for his brief IndyCar career.

This was, of course, when he drove into then Trident teammate, Arjun Maini, on the cool down lap of the second race… but that was far from the only problem he created that weekend at Silverstone. Amongst other rule breaches, Ferrucci drove his F2 car between paddocks while on his mobile phone, something that the FIA did not take kindly to and thus dealt him a two-event ban. This became pretty irrelevant when his Trident team fired him, meanwhile court action surrounding unpaid bills is still going on in the background of all this.

But anyway, Dale Coyne have, wisely or not, given Ferrucci a lifeline in this IndyCar drive, and his addition to the field will be a welcome one after his performances earlier in the year. Certainly, the European media have been tough to handle for Ferrucci following that Silverstone weekend, so a move back to his home turf will help him get a fresh start to his racing career.

You don’t get many second chances in motorsport… Ferrucci will be wise to take this one with both hands and prove to the world why he is still worthy of such a drive.

Featured image courtesy of Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Santino Ferrucci returns to IndyCar for final rounds with Dale Coyne

Santino Ferrucci is set to return to the IndyCar paddock for the last two rounds of the season at Portland and Sonoma, four months after making his debut at the Duel in Detroit. This announcement has been met with a rather confused reaction, primarily because of the events of the British F2 races at Silverstone, but we’ll get onto that later…

Santino Ferrucci. Image courtesy of Haas f1

First things first, Dale Coyne turned to Ferrucci because of his performances at the two races in Detroit earlier in the season. On the face of it, the results don’t seem that great with 22nd and 20th place finishes in the respective races, but there’s more to it than that. In Race 1, the American was hit from behind by Charlie Kimball and ended in the barriers while, after initially running well in Race 2, he spun on pit exit and it was a recovery drive from there.

The impressive part of Ferrucci’s weekend was that he was often out-pacing his vastly experienced teammate, Sebastien Bourdais. After putting in strong performances in both practice sessions, Ferrucci qualified just behind his teammate for Race 1, starting eighteenth, but then went onto out-qualify Bourdais by three places for Race 2, starting thirteenth. So, while he failed to deliver in the races, Ferrucci showed excellent pace all weekend.

Judging by just this, there would be very little questioning of the decision by Dale Coyne – he has the pace, he just needs to string a race together. However, there’s a lot more to the Ferrucci case than just his performances at Detroit…

Many people, myself included, thought that Ferrucci had hit self-destruct for his racing career after his conduct during the F2 weekend at Silverstone earlier this year. He pushed his Trident teammate, Arjun Maini, off the track in Race 1 and received a 5-second penalty before deliberately crashing into Maini on the cool-down lap of Race 2. Subsequently, Ferrucci was called to the stewards to explain his actions but did not attend and was therefore excluded from the Race 2 results.

He ended up being banned for the following two F2 events – Hungary and Belgium – after driving his car between the paddock and pitlane while holding his phone, as well as for the previously mentioned incidents. There were also rumours of racist remarks towards Maini, but these reports are unconfirmed and were not addressed by the stewards.

Unsurprisingly, Trident fired Ferrucci and he seems to have been let go by Haas, who he was a junior driver for – or though there has been no official announcement.

This seemed to be game over for Ferrucci’s career, but Dale Coyne have thrown him a life-line by putting aside his actions at Silverstone – which were very briefly mentioned in the press release – and going on just his Detroit performances.

Ferrucci will pilot the #39 as a third car for Dale Coyne, alongside teammates Bourdais and Pietro Fittipaldi, for the last two IndyCar races of the 2018 season. He will also test at Portland during the open IndyCar test on the Thursday, a day before the weekend officially gets going.

This announcement has been met by various amusing GIFs from fellow drivers along with a lot of questioning from fans and journalists. The team know what went on at Silverstone but, for whatever reason, they have decided to give him another chance based on his performance at Detroit.

Ferrucci will take that chance with open arms, no matter what everyone else thinks, and his performances at Portland and Sonoma will decide whether he’s in the market for a 2019 IndyCar drive or not.

Haas juniors Maini and Ferrucci form Trident F2 lineup

Trident Motorsport will field an all-Haas junior F2 lineup in 2018, with Arjun Maini graduating from GP3 to partner Santino Ferrucci.

Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Maini finished ninth in the standings in his first full GP3 campaign last year, taking his first series win at the sprint race in Spain and a further podium in Abu Dhabi. He was signed to the Haas F1 junior ranks as the team’s test and development driver in May 2017.

At F2’s post-season test in Abu Dhabi, Maini drove for both Trident and Russian Time.

“I’m very excited to be competing in the FIA Formula 2 championship,” Maini said. “I felt we were very competitive during the post-season test and given the series is using all-new cars for the coming season, I’m quite excited for the year ahead.

“Trident is a very strong team and I’m sure if we work hard we’ll be in for some strong results during the course of the season.”

Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Maini’s new teammate Ferrucci will be contesting his first full F2 season in 2018. The 19-year-old American joined Trident for the final five races of 2017 after a mid-season move up from GP3, and scored points at Hungary and Spa.

Trident team owner Maurizio Salvadori praised Ferrucci and Maini as “two undoubtably valuable prospects who have all that it takes to be among the future stars of motorsports for the years to come.

“It is certainly not by chance that [Haas F1] selected them to join their junior development programme.”