After a weekend off, the NTT IndyCar Series returns to action this weekend at Mid-Ohio. A full 26-car field will tackle the twists and turns around the scenic sportscar course in Lexington, Ohio. It all began today with the lone practice session ahead of a busy Saturday schedule. Josef Newgarden, winner of the 2017 race, was fastest in practice today with a best lap of 67.252 seconds around the 2.258-mile road course.
Rinus VeeKay and Felix Rosenqvist are both back in the cockpit after missing the last race at Road America with injuries. Santino Ferrucci returns in the RLL Racing No. 45 Honda machine as well. The newcomer in the Mid-Ohio field is Ryan Norman, a two-time race winner in Indy Lights who has been driving for Bryan Herta Autosport in IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge series. The Ohio-native is making his series debut in the No. 52 Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda.
Friday Combined Practice Results
This is the largest field at Mid-Ohio since the 2011 race when there were 27 cars. The driver that has had the most success here is Scott Dixon, who has won here six times. Despite his impressive statistics, Dixon has just one podium in the last seven races at Mid-Ohio. He has failed to lead a lap in five of the last six races here.
Alex Palou, Dixon’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, comes into the weekend with a 28-point lead over Pato O’Ward in the championship with just seven races remaining. The second-year driver has two wins and five podiums this season, which is the most in the series. Palou finished 12th and 23rd in the two races here last year with Dale Coyne Racing.
Will Power’s championship aspirations may be bleak, but his performances on this circuit may ultimately lead Team Penske to their first win of the season on Sunday. Power has nine front-row starts at Mid-Ohio, with six podium finishes. He has a 4.0 average starting position and a 5.0 average finishing position at Mid-Ohio, which are both tops in the series.
Another driver aiming to end a dry spell is Alexander Rossi. The Andretti Autosport driver has won here before and is always a threat to win this race. His last five finishes at Mid-Ohio are 6th, 1st, 5th, 3rd, and 2nd as he finished on the podium in both races in the doubleheader last year. It has been 30 races since his last win, which came in 2019 at Road America.
Colton Herta has been the lone bright spot for Andretti this season, but he finished 14th fastest on Friday. He had a close encounter with the wall as well, but came away clean.
“It was a good session,” Newgarden said. “The thing I noticed right was that the car felt phenomenal. When you get into a car and it feels that good, you’re like, ‘Man, we got something right here coming into it.’ “I think we’re on the right track. Getting into the reds (alternate Firestone tires) in qualifying is going to be the tricky bit, to keep the balance. You normally put a lot of understeer here on reds. So far, so happy.”
Last year’s two races at Mid-Ohio were 75 laps, lower than the standard 85 or 90 used since the resumption of IndyCar racing in 2007. For the first time in track history, IndyCar will stage an 80-lap race, the goal to force teams to decide between making the strategy based on two stops or three.
There will be another 45-minute practice session tomorrow morning at 9:05, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy 200, which begins at Noon. Live coverage of qualifying will air on Peacock with a replay at 11 PM on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar