The Frontstretch: IndyCar Preview: Honda Mid-Ohio 200 by Huston Ladner -- Saturday August 3, 2013

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IndyCar Preview: Honda Mid-Ohio 200

Huston Ladner · Saturday August 3, 2013

 

It’s been a while since the IndyCars have been on track and racing. It seems like more time has passed than the three-week break in competition. Tony Kanaan was so bored during the break that he went out and raced the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at the Brickyard. But this weekend marks a return to racing, at the Mid-Ohio road course.

When we last saw IndyCar action, Scott Dixon cleaned up, sweeping the weekend at Toronto and supplanting the Andretti Racing drivers in second place. The Ganassi driver has won three races in a row, and the organization, who had a baffling start to the season, now looks like the formidable team that is expected.

With but six races to go, the tension between the drivers who have a legitimate chance at the big trophy should be increasing. It’s likely that only the top four drivers (points below) have a shot at the championship, and all drive for the big teams, meaning that they all should have cars worthy of keeping them in contention.

Luca Filippi will take over the seat in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing entry this week, replacing veteran driver Alex Tagliani.

What’s News

Sarah Fisher Racing has announced that it will field a car for American LeMans champion Lucas Luhr at Sonoma. The 34 year-old German driver has won championships in three divisions of ALMS racing, making him a formidable driver for a road course. While it is not known if Fisher is looking to hire Luhr full-time, the team did indicate that having a second car for the race will help the team determine whether they might be able to expand. That SFR is looking towards that prospect indicates that they feel they have a promising future – which doesn’t hurt the series.

The underperforming No. 98 Barracuda Racing car made a change from Alex Taglianai. Luca Filippi, will take over this weekend and J.R. Hildebrand is likely to have the ride for Sonoma as the team sorts out how to move forward.

About the Track

Located in Troy Township, Morrow County, Ohio, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is just what its name implies – in Mid Ohio. The closest city could probably be considered Cleveland. The 15-turn, 2.4 mile track opened in 1962. It was refurbished first in 1990, and again in 2006, and features a long, mostly-straight back straightaway that gives drivers the opportunity to open up the throttle. The grandstands hold 10,000, while if need be another 65,000 can find spots on the observation mounds surrounding the track.

What’s the Points? – Drivers

Helio Castroneves continues to hold down the top spot in the championship order. Though Dixon has made inroads with his three consecutive wins, he sits 29 points behind. In third is the defending series champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, 69 points back, followed by his teammate Marco Andretti, just one point behind him.

What’s the Standings? – Manufacturers

With Andretti and Penske both running Chevrolet engines, the title race seemed over. But Dixon’s recent win streak has brought Honda back into the fight. Honda seems like they’ve figure out something of late, which means it’s the Bowtie’s time to make changes.

Driver to Watch

It’s hard to pick the defending champion as the one to watch, but Ryan Hunter-Reay is the focus here. In tests this week he was consistently fast. In conjunction, he cannot fall any further behind Castroneves or Dixon if he has any chance of winning title number two. Hunter-Reay has endured a rough stretch of racing – getting plowed over at Pocono by Takuma Sato; and failing to finish well at the Toronto races – but has still had fast cars. There’s little reason to doubt that Hunter-Reay won’t be one of the drivers in position for victory at Mid-Ohio, unless he’s befallen by another baffling circumstance.

Oriol Servia returns to pilot the (Pink) Panther car this weekend.

Other News?

The tango between Ryan Briscoe and Oriol Servia continues this week. Servia will be steering the Panther Racing car this go round, his third time this season. The team seems reluctant to name any one as the regular driver. Does this mean that the seat will be open in the off-season, allowing for a surprise hire?

While not in the car, and still healing from his fractured thumb, Briscoe will be at the track and can be found on the NBCSN alongside Leigh Diffey.

Who Ya Got?

With at tight title fight, it’s likely that those up in the points will be the ones battling for the win. Toni Montgomery concurs, and thinks that Castroneves will take the trophy. Not to dash the idea of seeing the contenders take it, but Will Power is due, and he’s always excelled on road courses.

What’s Next?

Um, after this race, IndyCar competition again takes a three-week break. Seriously, someone has to figure out that if there needs to be gaps in the schedule that they are giant ones. Having two three-week breaks just seems silly. But hey, when competition resumes, it will be at Sonoma, a track that has brought solid racing the past couple years. The race will be on NBCSN, August 25th, at 4pm EST.

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