The Verizon IndyCar Series is back in action this weekend, in Lexington, Ohio. The scenic 2.258-mile road course at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is the spot this weekend, with all eyes on the championship contenders. Scott Dixon needs a solid performance to get back into the mix, and odds are he’ll get it. Dixon has five wins at Mid-Ohio, and has finished in the top-five in 8 of the 9 races here. The one race where he missed the top-five, he finished in 7th place. He was second fastest in practice today, trailing the hottest driver in the series at the moment.
Will Power has won 3 of the last 4 races, and the one he didn’t win he finished in 2nd. He comes into this weekend with all of the momentum, and trails his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud by just 47 points in the championship standings. He is right there, even with having missed the season-opening race in St Petersburg. Power’s best time on Friday was a lap at 1:04.1962 seconds. There were four drivers that had faster laps than the current track record here, set by Dixon last year. Penske and Ganassi cars had the top four fastest times during Friday’s practice, with Tony Kanaan and Pagenaud trailing Power and Dixon. Last year’s winner, Graham Rahal, had the 5th fastest time of the day.
Friday Combined Practice Results
The biggest surprise of the day was RC Enerson, who was making his IndyCar debut behind the wheel of the No. 19 car for Dale Coyne Racing. He was 10th in the combined practice sessions on Friday, but was 7th in the afternoon session. He has adapted very quickly, but noted that the track helped him a little. “Every time I come here I tend to do all right and it’s one of my favorite tracks. It’s just got this thing about it that suits my driving style really well and I’m just excited to be here. This is probably the best track to make my debut at.”
More than 1,000 laps were turned on Friday, with no serious incidents. Conor Daly and Will Power both found themselves going off course, and Mikhail Aleshin had a couple of spins, but the real focus was on a trio of drivers that seemed to have a disagreement about something. James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais apparently took issue with the way Pagenaud was positioning himself on the course. In the end, cooler heads prevailed.
It will be interesting to see if Power can keep his incredible hot streak going, or if Dixon can capture victory at Mid-Ohio yet again. Dixon has led the most (223) laps here, with Power a distant (87) second. Power does have a 6.6 average finish here too. Pagenaud will look to pad his lead in the standings, and he too knows his way around this course. He has finished on the podium in 3 of the last 4 races at Mid-Ohio.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 9:45 AM, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, which begins at 2 PM on NBCSN.
Practice Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “The Hawk Performance Chevy was pretty quick today. It was not as good at the test so we made some changes to the car and as a result, we gained on those changes a lot during practice. This is a tough racetrack and so the more changes we make, the better we can adjust here. Hopefully, we’ll get some dry weather tomorrow for qualifying. Either way, we’ll be ready.”
Helio Castroneves: “The Hitachi Chevrolet is really good. We tried a lot of different combinations and really learned a lot. Obviously, that was in dry conditions. Hopefully, it will be dry tomorrow. We’ll see how different the track is tomorrow after the rain today. Either way, we’ll learn more tomorrow and be ready for qualifying.”
Max Chilton: “Mid-Ohio is such a great track. I think it really suits my driving style. Getting on the podium in both races last year here in Indy Lights was a great start for me. It was a shame that the second practice session got cut short, as I was one of only a handful of drivers that didn’t get to test here recently. I’m looking forward to coming back tomorrow in the Gallagher car, as you always learn something and come back better than the first day.”
Scott Dixon: “The Target car felt good this morning. We were quick and even put on a set of tires at the end of the first session, but didn’t get to use them after the red flag came out. In the second session we didn’t take tires like some of the others. I got out when it started raining and we stopped for the rest of the session.” (On success at Mid-Ohio) “It’s always a place that the team loves coming to. It’s 10 victories for the team here so it’s definitely been a place that we’ve run well at throughout the generations. Today it rolled off the truck pretty well and the car was decent. I think the car is always competitive and hopefully we’ll see what tomorrow brings. Obviously weather conditions are going to be tricky I think throughout and will definitely dice up the field a bit. Always happy to be here at Mid-Ohio. It’s always a fun track.”
Tony Kanaan: “I can’t complain about how the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet ran today. We took new tires at the end of both practices and saw some jumps in lap times. We were hoping to get a little more time on track at the end of the second session with those new tires, but we got a lot of good data at the test last week so we aren’t too worried about the lost 15 or 20 minutes of track time.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously not happy with the classification, but I am not quite sure it’s very relevant. We didn’t get an opportunity to baseline the car on new tires when most guys did. I think the Hydroxycut car is pretty decent. We tried a couple of things that gave us direction, so if we can put it all together tomorrow and the weather doesn’t become too much of a factor. Fingers crossed that everything aligns and see what happens.”
Will Power: “It’s interesting this place. It’s funny, tracks that click with you, it’s me and Sonoma and Dixon and this track. Usually he clicks well around here. I think we’ve had a couple poles here. We finished second a couple times. It’s just about nailing it. Obviously yellows play a big part. If it goes yellow and you’re stuck out, you go to the back, which is one of the worst things about this series, and it has to change. I say it every week. But it won me a race in Toronto, and it probably won me a race in Detroit, and I still say it’s wrong. But hopefully it’s dry for qualifying. I think that’ll make it — I wouldn’t say more interesting. There’s a way to make it really interesting, but for us we’ve got a good car on the dry, so we’re open to that. So this way we’ll be ready.
Takuma Sato: “After the test we brought the car back here with some hope but the conditions today didn’t suit it so we had to change. We made small progress but it is not enough. In the second practice, we were trying something else but then the rain came and stopped the session. The lap time doesn’t look strong at all because we have a balance problem which hopefully we can sort out for tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “It was difficult to get the Steak ‘n Shake car to improve this morning. We tested here last week and came back and it was a whole different beast to drive. The track can change so much in a short amount of time and that’s why it’s hard to test here, and some teams don’t. With all the GT cars and other cars racing, there are a lot of different types of rubber on the track and on top of that, just a lot of cars, period. We definitely improved the Steak ‘n Shake car in the second practice. We got a decent lap in at the end. The rain did catch me on the last part of the lap but we were fourth fastest so we’ll take it. When you come here to test as a single-car team, it’s tough. It’s all on you as the lone individual, whereas Penske for instance has four cars to share the data with. It’s not easy but my guys have done an excellent job this year of keeping their heads down and fighting hard. Obviously we want to win here, we want to go back-to-back. It’s a big weekend for myself, for all of our sponsors like Steak ‘n Shake, PennGrade and everyone that is heavily involved and makes this happen. I hope we can have a solid weekend.”
Conor Daly: “It’s a shame that we were not able to run until the end of the session with the pouring rain coming with about 20 minutes to go. There was no point in going out in that weather. We would’ve liked to be able to continue improving and move up the time sheets, but that said, it was a good day overall. The car feels good and we kept on improving with every outing and that’s what we’re here to do. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully we can keep going in this direction.”
RC Enerson: “It was incredible. (Driving an Indy car) It’s completely different from anything I have driven. Every time I come here I tend to do all right and it’s one of my favorite tracks. It’s just got this thing about it that suits my driving style really well and I’m just excited to be here. This is probably the best track to make my debut at.”
Spencer Pigot: “We made a lot of progress from the first practice session to the second. We still had more potential for the second session if we’d been able to finish it out in the dry. We would have gone even quicker on our next set of tires but we’ll see what tomorrow brings. Might be wet, might be dry! I feel confident in what we have with the Fuzzy’s Vodka/Rising Star Racing/Mockett car.”
Josef Newgarden: “We’re moving along through our list of changes to get to. We’re on a good path, but I think it’s going to be tight. It’s always very close together here in Mid-Ohio. The field is generally quite tight. You have to get every little tenth of time. We’re going to be on the right end of it this year, the goal is to get into the Firestone Fast Six during qualifying and do work from there.”
Simon Pagenaud: “We were looking to build on what we learned at the test and were able to do that. The PPG Chevy is in a good place. I don’t know what the rain will do to the track, but we’ll find that out in practice tomorrow. I’m confident that we’ll perform well in qualifying and get a good starting position. I just hope we can get some dry weather for us and the fans.”
Carlos Munoz: “It’s a shame we couldn’t run until the end (of the second session). I think we improved the car compared to the first practice session. Everyone is really close from each other. One-tenth (of a second) would put us in the top 10 – it’s really, really, really close. Tomorrow we have to put everything together. I think we still have to do a lot of work together to do something, so let’s see.”
Marco Andretti: “We just never got to a point today that felt like the direction to head in. With the rain cutting the second session short, we’re kind of left trying to think through the weekend and what conditions might bring as well. We’ll regroup for tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We worked through a few changes today and never really felt like we found the balance where we need to be to be fighting for the (Firestone) Fast Six. We’ll put our heads together tonight and, as a team, try and come up with a setup that works. This has historically been a great track for us – we’ve been on the pole here and have a couple podiums, so hopefully we can get back to that for the DHL team.”
Jack Hawksworth: “Tricky day to start with. We progressed in the second session; the car felt reasonable in the infield section and the high-speed sections. We have to fix a couple things in Turns 2 and 12 (medium-low speed corners). If we do that I think we’ll be pretty decent.”
Charlie Kimball: “Today was a good day. It’s really nice coming back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – the track is a lot of fun to drive. I think you can see that with all of the drivers and the smiles on their faces. The track itself is a lot of fun. There are a few things that have changed from year to year – the sealing patches in some of the corners wearing differently and how they rubber up is quite interesting. It’s a shame we didn’t get to put new tires on the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet because of the rain – I think we would’ve been quite quick. Some of the guys up and down pit lane definitely put new tires on and took a big jump in lap times. I think the track is getting better. Obviously with the rain washing stuff away we’ll have to adapt to that tomorrow morning and keep an eye on the weather for qualifying. I feel really good about the No. 83 – it was quick straight out of the box. Even though we didn’t test here last week, I was comfortable and up to speed. It’s been a good day in the No. 83 camp.”
Alexander Rossi: “Certainly a better afternoon than this morning. I think we found a bit of direction. It’s really close to the top. Because of the rain we weren’t able to put everything together, so I think the potential is there for a good day tomorrow. I think we just need to dot our I’s and cross our T’s this evening to be fully prepared to attack for more tomorrow.”