The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is ready for a Fourth of July Weekend celebration like no other: Racing at the iconic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
These athletes are in store for a challenging day on track. The 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course requires the best from those who dare take a turn on this roller coaster of a circuit. The undulating path with high-speed, flowing corners, tight turns, a 40-foot racing ribbon and challenging pit lane entry will make for a tough 80 laps around this circuit. But if anyone can handle this drive, it’s these NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes.
Added to the challenges of Mid-Ohio will be weather. While the forecast looks relatively clear of rain, it is expected to be a warm one in Lexington, Ohio. The weather forecast predicts it will be 80 degrees at the drop of the green flag and 82 degrees by the time the checkered flag falls.
But don’t forget about that Midwestern humidity, which is expected to be around 40 percent throughout the race. Already over the weekend, two-time Mid-Ohio winner Josef Newgarden said Friday’s practice alone was some of the hottest temperatures he’s ever experienced in a race car.
It’s going to be exciting to watch, and you can catch The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R at 12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES action comes after Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires hits the track for Indy Lights at Mid-Ohio at 10:35 a.m. ET, live on Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network.
You can listen to broadcasts live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, INDYCAR.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.
Here’s what you need to know to get ready for today’s action:
To Win, You Must Start Up Front
In 38 INDYCAR SERIES races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, only twice has the winner started outside the top 10. Scott Dixon did it in 2014 from the 22nd starting position, and Graham Rahal won from 13th in 2015.
Additionally, only five other times in history has the race winner started outside the top five: Emerson Fittipaldi: sixth (1988), Al Unser Jr.: eighth (1995), Juan Pablo Montoya: eighth (1999), Dixon: sixth (2007) and eighth (2019).
What’s more, 15 drivers have won at Mid-Ohio from the pole position: Mario Andretti (1984), Bobby Rahal (1985), Roberto Guerrero (1987), Teo Fabi (1989), Michael Andretti (1990, 1991), Unser Jr. (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Patrick Carpentier (2002), Paul Tracy (2003), Dixon (2011), Simon Pagenaud (2016), Alexander Rossi (2018), Will Power (2020-Race 1), Colton Herta (2020-Race 2), and Josef Newgarden (2021).
Did you notice that the last three, and five of the last seven, NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Mid-Ohio were won from the pole?
What we’re trying to say is that qualifying at Mid-Ohio is extremely important. If drivers want to win, they must start up front. Certainly, NTT P1 Award winner Pato O’Ward likes his chances of scoring his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES win of the year.
But, if you like odd stats, consider sixth place starter Simon Pagenaud and eighth place starter David Malukas for your Fantasy Challenge Driven by Firestone team. Malukas continued his strong weekend by posting the fastest lap in Sunday morning's warmup session.
It’s a Tricky Start
The start line for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R is not the traditional start/finish line heading into Turn 1.
Instead, the race will start coming out of Turn 2, also known as The Keyhole. This allows the drivers to start on the longest straightway on the course as opposed to the shorter straightaway where the finish line is. The Turn 12-13 complex just before the finish line makes it too hard to get up to speed double file safely.
This line just past Turn 3 still makes for an intriguing start as the field heads double file into Turn 4. We saw in last year’s race how treacherous it can be when Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist collided in Turn 4 at the start.
That came after a front row battle in Race 2 of 2020’s doubleheader when polesitter Colton Herta and second place starter Santino Ferrucci went into the corner side-by-side. Ferrucci went off course and collected Alex Palou and Rosenqvist when he re-entered the track.
But keep in mind, upon restarts, the race will resume at the traditional start/finish line coming out of Turn 13, which means drivers will have to navigate that tricky Turn 12-13 complex getting up to speed while also keeping the challengers in their tire tracks at bay.
Two Stops, or Three?
That is the question drivers and teams are mulling over this morning as they get ready for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R.
This year’s race in an 80-lap event, which is a change from many years ago. Historically, the Mid-Ohio race has been 85 or 90 laps, but starting in 2021 the race was changed to an 80-lap show. This forces teams to play strategy differently and decide if they want to execute a two pit stop strategy or a three-stop one.
If teams go for a three-stop race, you could see them hit pit road between Laps 20-25. However, if teams are going for a two stop race, they will need to hold out longer, waiting to as long as Lap 30 before stopping for fresh Firestone tires and Speedway fuel.
Last year, a two-stop strategy was the winning call for two-time NTTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden, who pitted on Lap 30 and Lap 53. The top-10 finishers all utilized a two-stop strategy.
Firestone is supplying more than 1,500 tires for their home race (Bridgestone America’s new Advance Tire Production Center, a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, is located just 75 miles up the road in Akron, Ohio). Teams have six sets of primary (black) tires, four sets of alternate (red) tires and five sets of rain (gray) tires.
Firestone has brought a new primary and alternate tire compound to Mid-Ohio compared to in years past. This new tire is designed to provide improved lap-to-lap consistency.