Indianapolis, IN- After taking a three-week hiatus the Izod IndyCar Series returns to action at the 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The scenic course just 45 minutes north of Columbus, Ohio will play host to the 14th race of the 19 race IndyCar season.
Mid-Ohio is a very physically demanding track with the fast straights and the high g-forces pulled in the turns.
It also has some big time elevation changes which also creates for a demanding race. Asking the drivers to race 200-miles physically and mentally wears them out. That’s why the same drivers are usually seen up front there every year.
Leaving Toronto the series points championship got a lot better. Scott Dixon swept the two weekend races en route to his second and third straight win of the season. He moved all the way up to second in the championship and trails Helio Castroneves by 29-points entering this weekend’s race.
Castroneves has 12 top 10 finishes in the 13 races run this season and wants to keep Dixon at bay but he’s struggled the last two years in Mid-Ohio. Castroneves has finishes of 19th and 16th respectively the last two years while Dixon has won both of those races and three of the last four victories at the 2.258-mile track.
If that trend stays true we may be looking at a new points leader leaving Mid-Ohio this weekend.
Another thing to watch for is to see if the Andretti Autosport drivers can get back going again. After dominating the first half of the season they’ve dropped off a bit and now have third and fourth spots in the standings. The defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is third and still has an outside hope of repeating his title but he needs to have a good finish this weekend.
Hunter-Reay finished 24th last year but has six straight top 10′s prior to that. He was unlucky at Toronto and needs to break the recent string of bad luck to get back in the hunt. He trails Castroneves by 69 points.
Same is true with Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti. The third-generation driver has yet to win this year but has 11 top 10′s in 13 starts. He really needs to rattle off some wins and top fives to catch Helio and Dixie as he’s 70 points down. He’s finished in the top 10 the last four races at Mid-Ohio and is a good pick to finish there again this weekend but needs to improve on those finishes and get in the top five.
A couple of sleepers to watch for is Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud. Bourdais enters Mid-Ohio with finishing on the podium two straight races. He’s finished in the top 10 all three starts in Mid-Ohio with two top fives including a fourth last year while driving for the same team he drives for this year.
Pagenaud has had success there in ALMS and took that to help him in IndyCar competition. He finished an impressive 13th in his first ever IndyCar start filling in for Justin Wilson in 2011 and backed that up with a third place finish after starting there in 2012. Pagenaud is up to fifth in the season standings and too has a shot at the title but he knows he needs good finishes and reach victory lane a few times.
Honda has a good package at Mid-Ohio and with Pagneaud driving a Honda and being good there he’s going to be a threat.
Top 5 Predictions:
1. 9 Scott Dixon
2. 77 Simon Pagenaud
3. 10 Dario Franchitti
4. 27 James Hinchcliffe
5. 7 Sebastien Bourdais
Eric Smith is the Lead Motorsports Writer for Race Review Online. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru
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