INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: Mid-Ohio Track Trends, favorites, sleepers, stats, etc

TRACK: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (2.258-mile, 13-turn road course), DISTANCE: 80 Laps (180.64 Miles)


TRACK HISTORY/TRENDS

For the second straight year, Mid-Ohio will host the NTT IndyCar Series on the Fourth of July weekend. While from 2016-2019 this race was held at the end of July, this weekend marks the second earliest INDYCAR race here since 1980 when Johnny Rutherford won on July 13. The other being last year.

  • 6 of the last 7 races were won by a front row starter including 5 of which from the pole. We’ve seen 3 straight winners here from the pole and 4 out of the last 5 at that.
  • Expect few cautions. There’s been two or fewer in 7 straight races now at Mid-Ohio including 10 of the last 11. Five of the last 11 went from green flag to checkered flag without a stoppage.
  • We’ve had 7 different winners in the last 8 races here (Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden (x2), Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, Will Power and Colton Herta).
  • Starting positions for natural road courses lately (since 2016) – 42 races (counting Barber, Indy, Road America this year)
  • 2016: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st
  • 2017: 7th, 1st, 5th, 2nd 1st, 3rd
  • 2018: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 20th, 1st
  • 2019: 4th, 1st, 8th, 2nd, 8th, 2nd, 1st
  • 2020: 7th, 9th, 7th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st
  • 2021: 3rd, 7th, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st
  • 2022: 2nd, 14th, 2nd
  • That’s 40 of the last 42 coming from the top 10 (95%)
  • That’s 21 of 42 from the pole (53%) and 28 of 42 from the front row (66%)
  • Also, that’s 33 of 42 (79%) from the Fast Six.

TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM

While a road course is a road course, Mid-Ohio is most comparable though to Barber, Mid-Road America, Indy, Portland and Laguna Seca. Toronto, Long Beach and St. Pete are street circuits run on city streets. These other road courses are all natural free flowing terrain with some elevation changes. If you’re good at one, you’re more than likely good at the others.

In 2020, Penske and Ganassi each won three times on these types of circuits including all three at IMS. Andretti Autosport won the other that year in Mid-Ohio.

In 2021, Ganassi won three times (Barber, Road America, Portland), Penske twice (Indy, Mid-Ohio), Ed Carpenter Racing once (Indy) and Andretti Autosport once (Laguna Seca) themselves.

So far this season, we’ve had three races on a natural road courses (Barber, Indy, Mid-Ohio) with 3 different organization winning (AMSP, Andretti, Penske).

That’s 17 natural road course races during this Aeroscreen era with Ganassi and Penske each winning 6 times on them, Andretti Autosport three times and ECR/AMSP once each.

The other part is who are the top qualifiers not only on natural road courses, but at Mid-Ohio too.

40 of the last 42 natural road course races were won by a top 10 starter. 6 of the last 7 races though were won by a front row starter including 5 of which from the pole. We’ve seen 3 straight winners here from the pole and 4 out of the last 5 at that.

So, in order to find Sunday’s winner, you first have to dissect who are the top qualifiers on these types of tracks to contend on Saturday.

Fast 6 Potential

  • Josef Newgarden – Won the pole last year and has 8 top 5 starts in his last 9 Mid-Ohio tries including his worst qualifying effort since 2014 being 9th in Race 2 of 2020. He also has 2 straight front row starts on the season and was 7th at Barber, 3rd at Indy and 2nd at Road America.
  • Will Power – Which one shows up? The one that qualified 17th in Race 2 of 2020 and has been 11th or worse in 4 out of his last 5 qualifying efforts on the season or the one who’s had 12 Fast 6 appearances in his last 13 Mid-Ohio tries including 10 of the 12 on the front row. He won the pole at Indy but was also 19th at Barber and 15th at Road America too.
  • Alex Palou – He’s qualified 20th, 4th and 7th at Mid-Ohio but 3rd, 2nd and 3rd on like tracks this season.
  • Marcus Ericsson – His 4 Mid-Ohio starting spots are 12th, 21st 15th and then 3rd. He was 4th last time out at Road America which to me, negates being 12th and 18th at Barber and Indy respectively. He has 3 straight top 8 starting spots on the season too.
  • Colton Herta – 3 of his 4 Mid-Ohio starts have been 7th or better including 2 straight on the front row. On like tracks, he was 10th in Barber, 14th in Indy and 5th in Road America.
  • Alexander Rossi – Has made it into the 2nd round in all 7 Mid-Ohio tries with 4 out of his last 5 landing in the Fast 6 and 2 out of the 3 natural road courses this season being in the final round too. He was 5th at Barber, 16th at Indy but on the pole in Road America.

Fringe Fast 6

  • Felix Rosenqvist – This may be your top sleeper. 3 of his 4 Road America starts have seen him qualify in the top 7. On natural road courses this year, he’s been 6th, 6th and 8th respectively with 6 of his last 7 starts overall being 8th or better.
  • Pato O’Ward – His 3 Mid-Ohio starts were 15th, 21st and 20th respectively. However, he’s made the Fast 6 in all 3 natural road courses this season (2nd, 5th, 6th) and will be in the hunt again this weekend.
  • Romain Grosjean – While he was 18th last year at Mid-Ohio, he’s qualified 8th at Barber, 10th at Indy and 7th in Road America. He’s a fringe Fast 6 guy.
  • Scott McLaughlin – He qualified 14th last year and was 4th in Barber, 11th in Indy and 9th in Road America. May not be a Fast 6 driver but definitely a 2nd round one.

Probably In The Middle

  • Scott Dixon – Weird having him on this list. While Dixon has 2 straight top 5 starting spots on a track he’s won 6 times on, those are also his only Fast 6 appearances here since 2016 too. 7 of his last 8 have been in the top 11 and that’s likely where he falls in the 2nd round. He was 13th at Barber, 21st at Indy and 10th last weekend in Road America.
  • Callum Ilott – These are his best tracks despite him being at rookie at Mid-Ohio. Ilott was in Row 6 at Barber (11th) and Road America (12th) as well as 7th at Indy.
  • Christian Lundgaard – Another rookie but one that qualifies well on like tracks. He was 14th in Barber, 8th in Indy and 13th in Road America.
  • Rinus VeeKay – He was 9th and 11th/11th respectively in his 3 Mid-Ohio qualifying efforts and on like tracks this season was 1st at Barber, 15th at Indy and 17th at Road America. 3 of his last 4 starts in 2022 have been 13th or worse.
  • Conor Daly – He was 24th last year but 11th, 14th, 4th and 16th prior. On like tracks this season, Daly has qualified 22nd (Barber), 4th (Indy RC) and 18th (Road America).
  • David Malukas – Yet another rookie who was 18th in Barber, 24th in Indy GP and 14th in Road America.
  • Simon Pagenaud – Weird to have him here when he has 5 top 10 starts in his last 7 at Mid-Ohio including 3 of the last 4 but on like tracks this season, Pagenaud has qualified 24th, 20th and 11th respectively.
  • Helio Castroneves – 3 straight top 7 starts at Mid-Ohio but those came in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He does have 7 top 7’s starting spots in 11 Mid-Ohio tries overall but on the season, he’s been 14th or worse in 6 of the 8 races run including being 16th, 19th and 16th at Barber, Indy RC and Road America respectively.

Be Wary

  • Graham Rahal – His last Mid-Ohio Fast 6 came in 2017. He does have 5 top 10 starting spots in his last 7 on the track and has at least made it past the opening round in 7 of his last 9 tries here overall. However, on the season, Rahal has made it to the 2nd round just twice with 4 of his last 7 being 21st or worse. He was 9th at Barber, 12th at the Indy GP and 22nd in Road America. His last 3 starts on the season were 21st, 23rd and 22nd respectively in general.
  • Jack Harvey – He was 9th in 2019 and 5th for Race 1 of 2020 but his other 3 Mid-Ohio starts were 20th, 19th and 23rd. On the season, he was 15th in Barber, 9th at Indy and 20th in Road America. 5 of his 7 starts have seen him come from 15th on back including his last 3 being 32nd, 20th and 20th respectively.
  • Takuma Sato – 9 out of his last 11 at Mid-Ohio have seen him eliminated in Round 1. He was bounced in the opening round in 2 of the 3 races run this season too on like tracks.
  • Devlin DeFrancesco – rookie at Mid-Ohio and has qualified 20th 17th and 21st on like tracks this season. He’s been Row 8 or further back in all 8 races run in 2022 including 4 of the last 5 20th or worse.
  • Kyle Kirkwood – A rookie at Mid-Ohio but Foyt struggles on these types of courses. Kirkwood started 21st in Barber, 22nd in Indy and 24th in Road America.
  • Dalton Kellett – His 3 Mid-Ohio starts have been 23rd, 20th and 21st respectively. On the season, he’s qualified 22nd or worse in 7 straight races now including being 23rd at Barber, 26th at Indy GP and 23rd in Road America.
  • Jimmie Johnson – He qualified 25th last year and was 26th in Barber, 27th in Indy and 26th at Road America this season. 7 of his 8 starts in 2022 have been 18th or worse.
  • Tatiana Calderon – rookie at Mid-Ohio and has qualified on like tracks this year – 26th, 15th and 25th respectively. 4 of her 6 starts in 2022 have been Row 12 on back.
Alex Palou during the 2021 INDYCAR race weekend at Mid-Ohio. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Favorites – Ganassi vs. Penske vs. Andretti?

Josef Newgarden

He won the last race on a like track (Road America) and won the last race here too. Newgarden has 2 top 2 finishes in his last 3 starts at Mid-Ohio. He’s qualified on the front row in each of the last 2 races run on the season and 4 top 4 starts in the last 6 races in general on the year. He also has 8 top 5 starting spot in his last 9 races at Mid-Ohio too.

Alex Palou

Palou won three times on natural road courses in his championship winning campaign a year ago and was third in this very race last July at that. He also needs a finish after being outside the top 5 in each of the last 4 races. He had 3 top 3’s in the 4 starts prior. For a track that rewards qualifying, Palou has a top 3 start in 5 of the last 6 races.

Will Power

He may only have one win but it’s hard to leave the guy with six top seven finishes in his last seven tries, five of which being in the top four off the favorites list. He’s qualified in the Fast 6 in 12 of his last 13 Mid-Ohio starts with 6 of the last 8 on the front row.

Alexander Rossi

He has six straight top six finishes on the track including three podiums in his last five overall there. He also has 3 straight top 5 finishes on the season as well including 2 straight podiums. In qualifying here, he’s made the Fast 6 in 4 of the last 6 tries.

Colton Herta

He won in 2020 and was eighth and ninth respectively prior. That’s why I don’t put a lot of stock in his 13th place run last July. Herta was 5th in Road America. He’s qualified 7th, 13th, 1st and 2nd respectively here.

Sleepers

Graham Rahal

The top sleeper here. He has nine straight top 10 finishes including seven of them being in the top six. He scored a pair of fourth place results in September 2020 on his home track and was sixth last July. He went from 22nd to 8th in Road America. He’s only made the Fast 6 just 3 times in the last 11 tries at his home track though but 7x since 2014 he’s at least made it out of the 1st round in quals too.

Romain Grosjean

These are his type of tracks and he was seventh last year here. Now, he has the car that Ryan Hunter-Reay had six top eight finishes in including three podiums over his final five races. He comes into this race after being 4th in Road America but only qualified 18th here last July.

Marcus Ericsson

Ganassi has been great in the past at Mid-Ohio including Ericsson finishing fifth in Sept. 2020 and runner-up last year. He was runner-up in Road America and has 3 top 4 finishes in his last 4 starts on the season with a worst result of 7th in that time frame. He qualified 3rd last year.

Rinus VeeKay

He scored a pair of top 11 results at the track in 2020 and was 16th last year. Can he get back into the thick of things with a win on Sunday? In USF2000 competition there, he was third and second respectively. He swept the weekend a year later in Indy Pro 2000 while scoring a pair of thirds a year after that in Indy Lights. He’s not made the Fast 6 yet here in INDYCAR but did at least make it out of the 1st round (9th, 11th, 11th) in 3 tries though too.

Jack Harvey

This could be his day. Harvey, now with the hometown team at RLL, has two top 10 finishes in his last four Mid-Ohio starts and hungry for a win. He also swept the weekend in Mid-Ohio in Indy Lights competition in 2014 too. His detriment is he’s only qualified 20th, 9th, 5th, 19th and 23rd respectively.

Simon Pagenaud

At one point, this was his playground. Pagenaud had five top four finishes in a six races span including 10 straight top 10’s before his 14th place run last year. Now, he’s in another home team at MSR who consistently put out good cars for Jack Harvey here.

Scott Dixon used to be the man at Mid-Ohio but his stats have declined. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Be Wary

Scott Dixon

He’s won six times on this track. He has 15 top 10’s in his last 16 starts here. However, 1 win in his last 30 starts, 1 podium in his last 8 tries on this track and only 1 on the year makes me nervous to pick him.

Felix Rosenqvist

He narrowly lost here as a rookie in 2019 in being runner-up to Dixon. He was sixth in Race 1 of the 2020 weekend. But, over his next two starts? 22nd and 23rd respectively. He does have 4 straight top 10’s on the season though including 3 of which being in the top 6.

Helio Castroneves

This hasn’t been a strong track for him lately. He’s not had a top five in any of his last 7 Mid-Ohio starts with 3 of his last 4 seeing him finish 15th or worse. On the season, Castroneves has been outside the top 20 in 4 of his last 7 starts.

Takuma Sato

His last 5 Mid-Ohio finishes have been 17th, 19th, 17th, 18th and 10th respectively including 9 of his last 10 being 10th or worse and 7 of his last 9 being 17th or worse at that.

Conor Daly

He had a pair of top 10’s in his first two Mid-Ohio starts but has only been 22nd, 13th, 16th and 15th respectively since.


Of Note

6 of the last 7 Mid-Ohio races have seen teammates on the podium.

2021: Penske-Ganassi-Ganassi

2020 Race 1: Penske-Penske-Andretti

2020 Race 2: Andretti-Andretti-Andretti

2019: Ganassi-Ganassi-Andretti

2018: Andretti-SPM-Penske *

2017: Penske-Penske-RLL

2016: Penske-Penske-Andretti


Key Stat

This race has seem some domination lately too. Josef Newgarden led 73 of 80 laps last year. Colton Herta led 57 of 75 in Race 2 of 2020. Will Power led 66 of 75 a day prior. Alexander Rossi led 66 of 90 in 2018 while Newgarden led 73 of 90 in 2017. Who’s next?

They Said It

“I think we’re getting better. Our car is better,” Pato O’Ward told me. “We made some changes in the offseason and into making our car just better. Not much faster but definitely easier to drive in a way. We haven’t really hammered it everywhere but we’ve been quick. We’ve been qualifying in the Fast 6 ever since Barber. That’s huge for us. I told the team pole is cool but I don’t really care about the pole I care about Fast 6’s. As long as you’re in the Fast 6, you always have a chance.”

5 comments

  1. […] Before we get to Sunday, lets rewind back to Saturday. The Team Penske driver wasn’t told by his pit stand that Helio Castroneves was behind him on a hot lap. Without being aware of the situation behind, Power swerved his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet on track in the first qualifying round coming into the keyhole around the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. […]

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