IndyCar

PREVIEW: 2022 NTT IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

5 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

After a well-earned three week break, the NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Marcus Ericsson enjoyed his vacation time at the top of the points standings on 293 points, with a 27 point gap to Will Power in second. Josef Newgarden jumps to third after his win at the Sonsio Grand Prix on 261 points, five points behind his teammate Power. Fourth is Pato O’Ward with 248 points, while defending champion Alex Palou rounds out the top five with 246 points.

As the points standings show, this year has been dominated by Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. The two teams occupy six of the top ten spots in the points standings, and won six of the eight races run so far this season, five of which were won by Penske.

Now at the halfway point of the season, championship aspirations are going to be kicked into high gear, and it starts at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio circuit.

Will drivers carry their momentum through the summer break? Will anyone be able to catch up to Penske and Ganassi? Will there be a new name in the fight for the Astor Cup? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?

(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

What a difference a year makes.

With five wins already in 2022, it’s hard to believe that last year’s Honda Indy 200 was Penske’s first win of the season, as Newgarden dominated to take home the victory.

After two quick cautions at the start of the race as the field squeezed into turn four for the race start and subsequent restarts, Newgarden built a gap and controlled the race. Colton Herta, who started second, had a fuel probe issue on his first stint and fell down the order, ruining his race. Ericsson took advantage of Herta’s misfortune, and was now tasked with hunting down the leader.

The Swede came within striking distance with eight laps to go, as he closed within three seconds of Newgarden who had lap traffic ahead. By the end of the race Ericsson erased that gap to within a half of a second, but after being snubbed in the past two races, Newgarden would not be denied the victory, the one that made him the winningest American driver in the field. A number he continues to add to today.

You can read the full race report here.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?

(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Newgarden is the big name to watch, obviously coming off of not only a win here last year, but a win in the last race at Road America. He’s already won on all three different types of circuits that the series runs on this season, and is the hottest driver in the series right now. But will this three-week break reset that momentum? Thankfully for Newgarden fans, if you look at recent trends, that may not be the case.

Newgarden dominated the second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and REV Group Grand Prix, but a late pass by O’Ward and an engine failure respectively took those wins away from him. Coming out of the break, he got that win at Mid-Ohio and really began to make a push for the championship as he got more and more consistent finishes. If last year is anything to go off of, Newgarden seems to be even better coming out of the break, and with how good he’s already been this year? Look out.

Don’t count out the championship leader here, either. Remember that Ericsson took it to Newgarden at the end of last year’s race. In the form of his life like he is right now, he is a contender for the win.

Another driver with some momentum coming into this weekend is Alexander Rossi. Rossi has seen a career revival in the last three races, with three consecutive top five finishes after not having a top five since the 2021 Grand Prix of Portland. Andretti Autosport have had a mixed bag start to the year to say the least, with only one win this season provided by Herta, but have recent success at Mid-Ohio.

In 2020, Andretti swept the podium and Rossi finished on the podium in both races, while also finishing in the top five last year. Not to mention Herta qualifying on the front row. Will this be the race that Andretti is able to get a good run of form started?

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is another team that hasn’t lived up to their own expectations, languishing in the bottom half of the field on multiple occasions this season. A lot was expected of this group as they expanded to a three car team and brought in young talent in Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey. Road America seemed to be the breakthrough, with two cars in the top ten and all three in the top half of the field.

(Photo Credit: James Black / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Mid-Ohio is Graham Rahal‘s home track, and it’s a track he runs well at and has won at before. Another strong run could help push them back up the order and build some momentum.

This weekend is also the second of three races in Paretta Autosport‘s road course program this season, as the women-led team works towards a season-long road and street course program, or even a full season schedule in the future. Simona de Silvestro will be behind the wheel once again.

Which brings us to the matter of the entry list and some issues potentially with pit road. 27 cars are on the entry list this weekend, and Mid-Ohio is notorious for its already congested pit lane. Rahal told Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star that he believes “You cannot fit any more (cars) than what we had (in ‘21) at (Mid-Ohio).” That number was 26.

Maybe this will force some drivers to change their strategy to avoid a congested pit road? Will the overcut or the undercut be more beneficial to that thought process? How will pit stops under caution look (if there are any)? Will even one car make starts and restarts more chaotic? Mid-Ohio starts the race double-file on the backstretch, leading down to a heavy-braking sharp right turn four. This is a hotspot for accidents, especially at the start of races, will there be some good cars torn up before even turning a green flag lap?

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday 01 July

1230 PST / 1530 EST / 1930 GMT – Practice 1

Saturday 02 July

0630 PST / 0930 EST / 1330 GMT – Practice 2

1145 PST / 1445 EST / 1845 GMT – Qualifying

Sunday 03 July

0930 PST / 1230 EST / 1630 GMT – Race

WHERE CAN I WATCH?

Coverage in the UK for the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, coverage for the race will be on NBC, while practice and qualifying will be streamed on the Peacock streaming service.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?

You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice, qualifying, and race sessions.

You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.

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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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