It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in the world of the IZOD IndyCar Series since the circuit departed from Edmonton. But the news cycle hasn’t been a total snoozer. The biggest change heading into the race in Mid-Ohio is a rules adjustment being applied to the recently reintroduced “Push-to-Pass” system. According to technical bulletins released by series officials, there will now be a five-second delay from the time the Push-to-Pass button is depressed to the time that the boost is actually deployed. This ought to have all sorts of implications on strategy as teams scramble to figure out the best way to utilize the updated boost. Also of note, Chip Ganassi Racing driver Charlie Kimball will be absent from the race in Mid-Ohio, as he is still recovering from hand injuries sustained in a practice crash on July 26th. Former F-1 pilot Giorgio Pantano will step in to fill the void left by Kimball, with the hope that Kimball will be recovered in time to return to the No. 83 machine just before the race in Sonoma.
*Track Preview: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course*
Centrally located in the quaint town of Lexington, OH, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a 15-turn, 2.4-mile purpose-built road course that has been hosting auto races since 1962. Despite being renowned for its long history of Sports Car racing, Mid-Ohio has a colorful background of Championship-level American open-wheel racing as well. Scott Dixon took the checkers in last year’s event, and the Aussie is currently the winningest active driver at the winding and picturesque facility.
*What’s the Points (Driver Standings):*
Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves took a bite out of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s championship lead after delivering a convincing win in Edmonton two weeks ago. Castroneves sits only 23 points behind Hunter-Reay as the series heads to Mid-Ohio. Will Power is also well within striking distance of the two leaders, and he is only 25 points out of the top spot in third. Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe sit fourth and fifth in the series standings and are well within reach of the leaders, but with every race that passes, it is slowly becoming a three-horse race for the championship.
*What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers):*
The utter dominance of the Chevrolet-backed Team Penske and Andretti Autosport teams means that Chevrolet has a convincing lead in the Manufacturer’s championship. Chevrolet has a 15-point advantage over Honda, and that lead likely won’t be shrinking anytime soon. Lotus is so far off the mark that it is hardly even worth mentioning them anymore, but for the sake of consistency I suppose I’ll pass along that the maligned manufacturer is 46 points out of the lead and safely removed from championship discussion for 2012.
*Featured Driver: Helio Castroneves*
I usually like to focus on the less-heralded drivers for this section, but after Helio’s run last week I couldn’t help but shine the spotlight on him. Helio delivered an A+ performance in Edmonton two weeks ago, and this writer in particular was especially impressed with how well the Penske racer stayed patient and methodically made his way to the front when it counted. Helio has what it takes to win a championship (rather surprising that a driver of his stature hasn’t won one yet) and if he can continue to put up performances like the one in Edmonton, Helio could very well be the one who hoists the championship trophy at the end of the season in Fontana.
As mentioned earlier, Scott Dixon is the winningest active driver in the series at Mid-Ohio. I look for Dixon to bounce back from his nightmarish weekend in Edmonton and deliver a victory on Sunday.
The latest crazy rumor going the IndyCar community is that Nashville Superspeedway could be looking for some new owners in hopes of attracting an IndyCar race. Nashville is no stranger to this type of competition, as the track hosted an IRL event in July every year from 2001 to 2008. According to sources, there’s still a long way to go before a deal is done but a return to the Mid-South would be a welcome boon for the sport of IndyCar racing.
After the race in Mid-Ohio, the IZOD IndyCar Series’ next stop is the winding roads of the Sonoma Raceway for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on August 26th. The track configuration was altered slightly for this year’s event, so it remains to be seen how that will affect the quality of the race. Regardless, Sonoma stages a great race every year, and this time ought to be no different.