The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Chip Ganassi’s back yard, otherwise known as Mid-Ohio. There have been eight IndyCar races run at the beautiful road course, and Ganassi’s team has won seven of them, including the last six in a row. Scott Dixon has five wins to his name here. If the Ganassi camp can keep their winning streak alive here, it would be win number 100 for Chip. There were sunny skies throughout both practice sessions today.
The first practice session had a few spins by Stefano Coletti, Luca Filippi, Tony Kanaan, and Simon Pagenaud. Nobody suffered any significant damage, but championship points leader Juan Montoya did have an alternator issue that cost him some track time early in the session. They made repairs and were able to get on track, but finished 21st overall in the first session. Sebastien Bourdais was fastest, followed by Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, and Jack Hawksworth.
Filippi had a couple more spins in the second practice session, and Dixon also misjudged a curb and lost the back end of his Ganassi Chevrolet. Pagenaud slid off into the grass towards the end of the second session, his second trip off-course of the day. There were more red flags in the second practice session, including one damaged race car after Tristan Vautier went off into the grass and lost the rear wheel guards after going through some bumpy terrain. Dixon topped the charts in the second session, followed by Bourdais, Power, Graham Rahal, and Sato. Dixon’s fastest time was 1:05.9645, which was the fastest lap of the day.
Combined practice results from both of today’s practice sessions can be found here.
Despite the stoppage in action, there was plenty of practice time available for the teams and drivers in preparation for qualifying tomorrow. Firestone has their new rain tire ready to go for this weekend, should they need it. The forecast looks dry for Saturday, but there is a slight chance of rain during the race on Sunday. The new tire has the same design, but a new compound. These new tires also have a grey-colored sidewall.
Today was also the debut of the LED scoring lights that will be present on every car. The panels, which are about $4,000 each, were paid for by IndyCar. The lights have different colors, which are used for different things. The red lights flash the running order of the car, and a green clock will display during pit stops, showing time on pit road. The light will display a green “PP” if the driver is on the push-to-pass button. The LED panels were tested earlier this year, but this will be the first time they will be used in a race. Curt Cavin has a good story posted with more information about the LED panels.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 10:45 AM, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy 200. Qualifications will air live on NBC Sports Network at 3 PM.
Below are highlights from Friday’s action at Mid-Ohio, courtesy of IndyCar.
Driver Quotes (pre-practice)
Will Power: “I really enjoy racing at Mid-Ohio. It’s another one of those beautiful road courses that uses the natural terrain really well. It’s a fast, technical circuit that requires a lot of attention to detail in terms of the setup. There has certainly been no lack for speed in the No. 1 Verizon Chevy this year, so I see no reason why we can’t be fighting for the win. We’ll have to put our heads down and push hard all weekend. I would really love to get a win at Mid-Ohio. It’s something I haven’t been able to do yet in my career and it would set us up well for the run to the end of the year at Sonoma. These final three tracks are all places where I know we can run well and allow us to make a championship push.”
Juan Montoya: Unfortunately we are coming off a disappointing result in Iowa as we get ready for the final three races of the year. But to expect that we would be able to go through the season without a bad race was unreasonable. Now, having said that, our day wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been at Iowa. We only lost 12 points to second place. We know we have our work cut out for us between now and Sonoma, but this Hawk Performance Chevy team has answered every challenge that we’ve been faced with this year. Mid-Ohio is a place where I’ve won before, so I know what it takes to be successful there. There are guys in the Verizon IndyCar Series that run really well at Mid-Ohio, so we need to bring our ‘A game’ this weekend.”
Helio Castroneves: “The Hitachi Chevy team has been very consistent this year and that has us in a decent position in the point standings. Juan Pablo (Montoya) is going to be tough to catch if he doesn’t have another bad race. So we need to really turn up our performance over these last three. Mid-Ohio was a place that was good to me early in my career, but we haven’t had those kind of results lately. I enjoy the challenge of the track. It’s a technical place that suits how I like to attack a road course circuit. We’ve run well at times this year on the road courses, so I’m confident in our ability to challenge for the win this weekend.”
Stefano Coletti: “I am very excited to be going back to a road course after the three ovals we just had. I had a lot of fun on them and learned a lot, but I much prefer road courses. We have shown that we have a lot of pace, but just haven’t been able to always produce the results, so hopefully we will have more luck this weekend and have a good result.”
Ryan Briscoe: “I’m really looking forward to the Mid-Ohio race weekend. I’ve always been a big fan of the track but this weekend is also my first chance to drive the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car on a road course this season. We’ve been able to make some really big gains as a team over the last several weeks and I’m confident that the SPM team will bring home some solid results.”
James Jakes: “Mid-Ohio is always a fun weekend for me and, this time, it’s my birthday there as well (Aug. 4). It’s a great track for INDYCAR, fast and flowing. It’s really fun to drive these cars around there. It’s been a tough couple of weekends for us in the No. 7 SPM MediaTech Oculus car. Not always our own fault, but we’ll be looking forward to getting a good result this weekend and getting things back on track. It’s always a fun weekend. Great atmosphere, great crowd and obviously Honda is the title sponsor of the event, so it should be fun.”
Sage Karam: “Our last three races in the Verizon IndyCar Series have been strong. Coming off my first-ever podium finish (July 18 at Iowa Speedway) gives me confidence. The team is performing great and we are starting to get the results we were hoping for this year. The team has been really strong at Mid-Ohio over the years. I think they’ve won almost 10 races there, which is the most of any track we’ve raced at. I think we’re starting to show we can be contenders with the No. 8 team in the series, and I hope to continue that this weekend. (Scott) Dixon is obviously the master here at Mid-Ohio so I’m going to be picking his brain every step of the way. He and TK (Tony Kanaan) and Charlie (Kimball) are great resources and they help me improve every week.”
Scott Dixon: “Mid-Ohio is definitely a big shift from what we’re typically used to atmosphere-wise, compared to a street circuit in a downtown situation. It’s kind of a family camping ground situation which is very laid back and relaxing. Last year for us, I messed up big time in qualifying and had to start last, coming from the back of the grid and ended up winning the race. It’s tough to pass there but we had great strategy and a lot of help from Ryan Hunter-Reay, who spun out at the right time and caused the caution that we needed to switch our strategy and go on to win the race. I think the team has 10 wins now there so it’s quite a milestone and obviously a place that I really enjoy.”
Tony Kanaan: “Coming off of such a disappointing end to our race in Iowa, we really need a good result at Mid-Ohio. I’ve had some solid finishes at Mid-Ohio, but I’ve never been able to come through with a win. (Scott) Dixon is so good here and Charlie (Kimball) has had success here as well, so we’ll definitely be getting as much from my teammates as we can. It’s a difficult road course with limited passing opportunities, but with the right strategy and a strong qualifying effort, I know we can get it done.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “I am looking forward to going back to Mid-Ohio. Last year we had a really good car. We qualified on the pole and put ourselves in a position to win, but Scott (Dixon) was just too strong. I like the Mid-Ohio circuit, but it is not a place that has been very good for me. Last year was the first time in five races there that I finished on the podium. Qualifying is key to having a good race at Mid-Ohio because it is difficult to overtake. There are a couple of places you can do it, Turn 3 in the backstretch and Turn 2, but being up front, like anywhere, always makes things easier. This is my second year with KVSH Racing and I think we have really come together as a group. We are more consistent and the Chevy engine and aero kit have been great. The Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team has to keep working hard and put up a good result this weekend if we are going to stay in contention for a top-five finish in the championship.”
Takuma Sato: “I like Mid-Ohio because it’s a nice technical track with some fun elevation changes. It’s not one of the biggest tracks but it reminds me of a British country-like track and I love it. Also, the fans are really enthusiastic, true race fans; sometimes they even bring pictures from my British Formula 3 days. I like the atmosphere a lot. The track itself is quite tricky because the track conditions can be very different from time to time. The track evolution is enormous, so at the beginning of the session there is extremely low grip, but it gets better and better as the track rubbers down. We have to be careful to not chase the track conditions, but still you need to know where the car setup needs to be. Hopefully we can make the car faster with the right setup at the right time. We haven’t run the road course tires with this aero kit since the front wing modification in June. So that should be interesting. It’s been nearly three months since our last road course race, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Graham Rahal: “A lot of people have asked me about our win in Fontana and other things, but truthfully I just haven’t really thought about the fact that we are second in the championship. I have just been focused on keeping the team pointed in the right direction and keeping my mindset and everything sharp and ready for whatever may come. I think we have some great opportunities with the three races ahead of us and I hope we can catch up to (Juan Pablo) Montoya a little bit, if nothing else. But, for sure, being in second place is cool for me, but I haven’t really thought about it too much. I am thrilled to be going home (for the Mid-Ohio race near where he grew up in Columbus). It’s obviously always a big race and weekend for me. Now with everything that has gone on with the championship, I think that friends and fans are definitely excited and that’s been a lot of fun for me to see people support us in the championship and obviously at my home race. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be in this position but I’m looking forward to it. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a big part of why I am now racing Indy cars. I went there as a kid, camped out, ran around causing trouble and just had a great time. It helped create a bond for me with racing in a family atmosphere and I’m thrilled to be back. Last year was a great finish for us (fifth place) and obviously I am hoping that we can do a lot better this time around. All those (road course) tracks, we ran pretty close setup-wise to each other so I do feel really good about where we stand with our road course setup heading into the Honda Indy 200. I feel like we should be pretty strong. We have been one of the more competitive cars on all tracks, but what gives me confidence is knowing that at Mid-Ohio last year we did as well as we did and I don’t think our car was nearly as good then as it is now. I’m definitely excited to get out there and get running in my Steak ‘n Shake Honda because I do think we have a chance to win this thing. The guys have been absolutely excellent in the pits. What may hurt us a little bit is we have a bad pit position being towards the back, but I really feel like we’re in a pretty good spot going into this race and it’s a great opportunity for us to gain some points. I don’t want to change our mentality. I want the guys and I want myself to stay focused on what we’ve been doing – trying to do the absolute best that we can, but as I’ve always felt, we can’t over think this, either. So with that mindset, I’m taking the approach of ‘business as usual, carry on like we have all year.’ If we do that, just like we did in Iowa, things are going to take care of themselves. That’s my focus, that’s my plan. It’s a big week for us, our family, the Rally for the Ranch (charity event in Columbus on July 31) and everything else that we do. I hope everything goes really smoothly.”
Tristan Vautier: “I’m really excited to be back on a road course after we finished the string of ovals with a solid race in Iowa. It feels great to get that continuity with the team and I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”
Luca Filippi: “In the last two races, CFH Racing has been very strong and we have good momentum behind us. After our 1-2 in Toronto and the team’s strong finish in Iowa, I expect that we will be strong from the start of the weekend. My learning process so far this season has been gradual but always improving race by race. I’ve raced this circuit previously, like Toronto, so it will be an advantage for me to go there and start on the same level as everyone else. I know the team is capable of fighting for the podium in Mid-Ohio, but the ultimate goal is the best result possible. I want to win that race. I am really looking forward to it and I am really motivated. My family is growing and I really want to bring my newborn (daughter Mia) home her first trophy!”
Simon Pagenaud: I’ve been fortunate to have some really good runs at Mid-Ohio in my career, whether it was in the Verizon IndyCar Series or in sports car competition. While I’ve won in sports cars at the circuit, I’ve been agonizingly close to winning in INDYCAR with a couple of podium finishes. We have had lots of speed in our PPG Chevrolet this year. This gives me a great level of confidence for the weekend. Ben (Bretzman, engineer) and I have worked to develop a good package for Mid-Ohio and we’ve been competitive on the road courses throughout the year. Mid-Ohio is a classic and I look forward to tackling this fun and challenging racetrack.”
Justin Wilson: “Mid-Ohio is a fun track to drive. It’s very challenging – you have some elevation change and it’s a high-grip surface. The speed we can carry in an Indy car is pretty challenging and so much fun. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel on a road course. We have a lot of things to test and try out, but looking for a strong weekend for the No. 25 Honda.”
Carlos Munoz: “So we only have three races left in the championship. We needed to get past the last two races – Milwaukee and Iowa – and now we are heading to Mid-Ohio. I really like the track and last year I finished fourth. I really enjoy driving there. We’ll see how the car behaves this year and how competitive we are.”
Marco Andretti: “This weekend in Mid-Ohio should be fun with the added downforce – especially in Turn 1; it’s going to be physical. We are really looking to keep up with the consistency for the No. 27, but a win is a must if we want to climb in the championship. Hoping for a good weekend.”
Jack Hawksworth: “Mid-Ohio is one of my favorite races on the schedule. The circuit is tricky and challenging but it also has a very nice flow to it. I especially like the section from Turn 4 to Turn 9. The series always gets a great turnout here and the atmosphere is fantastic.”
Josef Newgarden: “Mid-Ohio is going to be a fun weekend to get back in the mix. It’s been a little while since we have been on a road course track. Mid-Ohio is one of the best; it’s truly one of the greatest tracks in North America. We had a strong event there last year so we should be able to put really good race cars on the track this year. It will be interesting to see who gets up to speed quickest after coming off such a long stretch of oval races. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our group and we should be able to hit the ground running.”
Charlie Kimball: “I can’t wait to get to Mid-Ohio for the race this weekend. The Chip Ganassi Racing team as a whole is always competitive, but the course is so challenging, you just never know what to expect. We’ll be focusing a lot on our qualifying; we didn’t start up where we wanted to last year but managed a top-10 finish with smart strategy and quick work in the pits. With a better grid position and some time studying the tricky corners, I think the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet will be in a good position for a strong result.”
Gabby Chaves: “Although I’ve stayed pretty busy on our break here, I never stopped thinking about the next race at Mid-Ohio. I need to capitalize on my experience there from previous years. Mid-Ohio was where I won my first Indy Lights race. So I’ll feel pretty confident here and the Bowers & Wilkins team has given me some pretty strong cars on the road courses. I’m really looking forward to it and hope we can keep improving on our consistent solid finishes while we work towards our goal of having a top five or podium finish before the year is over.”
Practice Photos via IndyCar