Preview: 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Mid-Ohio

by Jordan Groves

The Verizon IndyCar Series is back in action this weekend, with the teams and drivers heading to the popular Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 2018 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Just five races remain until this year’s champion is decided, with Scott Dixon currently the firm favourite heading into an event where he has been so impressive in the past. Will he extend his lead with another win, or will another driver take the fight to him? Here is everything you need to know ahead of this Sunday’s crucial race.

What happened in 2017 at Mid-Ohio?

As was the case for much of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, it was Team Penske who was on top in qualifying on Saturday at Mid-OhioWill Power took his third-career Mid-Ohio pole position, continuing his run of front-row qualifications at the circuit into a sixth consecutive year. The Australian held an advantage of almost two-tenths of a second over team-mate Josef Newgarden, who joined him on the front row in second place.

The pair remained at the front of the field for the entirety of the race on Sunday, but by the time the chequered flag flew at the end of the race, Power and Newgarden had swapped places. Power led the opening stages of the race from pole position, but Newgarden remained right on his coat-tails before taking the lead just before the first pit-stops.

Once he had the lead, Josef never looked back. Despite a brief threat during a restart later in the race, Newgarden would rebuild an advantage over Power and would ultimately take the victory by over five seconds. The win was Josef’s third win of 2017 and his second consecutive victory, but more importantly, the win gave him the championship lead heading into the final few races of the season; a championship that he would go on to win at the final round at Sonoma Raceway.

Towards the end of the ninety-lap race, Power had to turn his attention to defending his second place from Graham Rahal. The American tried his hardest to get by Power’s Penske, but ultimately the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver would have to settle for the final spot on the podium. Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato would complete the top five.

Further back, it was an uncharacteristically poor performance by Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon, who usually thrives at Mid-Ohio. The New Zealander finished down in ninth place after complaining about the handling of his #9 Honda throughout the event.

You can read the reports from last year’s qualifying and race at Mid-Ohio by following the links below

What should I look out for this weekend?

As you would expect in the final few races of the season, much of the focus heading into the race weekend will be on the protagonists at the top of the tables. This weekend is especially interesting though, as both Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden – who sit first and second in the standings – have had great performances in the past at Mid-Ohio, which could lead to an enthralling battle between the two should things go their way.

Both Dixon and Newgarden are former race winners at Mid-Ohio, but the pre-event advantage must lie with Dixon, who has taken an incredible five victories at the venue during his career; the most of any driver in IndyCar history. What’s more, Dixon is the defending race winner after having put in a fantastic drive to extend his championship lead last time out in Toronto.

As a result, Scott currently holds an impressive sixty-two point lead over second-placed Newgarden. A sixth Mid-Ohio victory this weekend would mean that Dixon would pretty much have one hand on the trophy barring any issues in the remaining few races.

Of course, Newgarden will be hoping to bring the gap between him and Dixon down as much as possible. Josef is the most recent Mid-Ohio race winner after standing on the top step of the podium a year ago. As mentioned previously, Dixon had a tough race last year. If history were to repeat itself, a win for Newgarden would earn him a solid haul of points that could prove crucial as the championship winds down.

Of course, it’s not just Dixon and Newgarden in the hunt for the race win. Three other drivers in the field have also won at Mid-Ohio, including Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, RLLR’s Graham Rahal and Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball. Whilst it may be unlikely for Kimball to get back to victory circle, despite having taken a top five last time out in Toronto, Rahal and Pagenaud certainly have a strong chance of being in contention.

With just five races to go until the end of the season, a handful of drivers have an uphill battle ahead of them should they want to remain in the running for the title. Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power have fallen from grace after a tough few races over the last few weeks. Should their bad luck continue into this weekend, their hopes of a title could be dispelled completely. None of the three drivers have taken a win at Mid-Ohio before in IndyCar, but if that were to change on Sunday, it could be the start of an impressive comeback for any one of them.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 27 July

11:00 ET / 16:00 GMT – Practice one
14:35ET / 19:35 GMT – Practice two

Saturday 28 July

10:00 ET / 15:00 GMT – Practice three
13:35ET / 18:35 GMT – Qualifying

Sunday 29 July

15:30 ET / 20:30 GMT  – Race

Where can I watch the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the races only. Race day coverage will start at 20:00 on BT Sport ESPN.

In the United States, television coverage for the race at Mid-Ohio will be provided by CNBC.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided for all via IndyCar’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

If you cannot make it to Mid-Ohio for this weekend’s race, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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