Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mid-Ohio Race Preview

The IndyCar Series heads to Columbus, Ohio this weekend for the Honda 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Course. The last time we saw the IndyCar Series, they were finishing off the most exciting race of the 2009 season at the Kentucky Motor Speedway. IndyCarGarage breaks down five things to watch for at Mid-Ohio and for the remainder of the 2009 Season.

1. The Point’s Championship race is great battle to watch

Dixon, Franchitti, Briscoe, back to Dixon, then Briscoe, back to Franchitti, get the drift? The point’s championship leader has been changing race to race and that’s great for the fans and the series. The race remains between three drivers Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, and Dario Franchitti. Helio Castroneves needs a hail marry pass, and Danica Patrick is going to have to settle for fifth. It’s anybody game as we head into the last five races and the three extra bonus points, one for pole and two for most laps lead, will be very important in every race.

2. Driver Changes, Driver Changes, Driver Changes

WOW, a lot has happened in the last seven days. Let’s start at the beginning, first Nelson Phillipe signed with Conquest racing for two of the five races left in the 2009 season. Second, Robert Doornbos moves from N/H/L to HVM racing where had some success in 2007 with Champ Car. Third, Oriol Servia moves into Doornbos spot at N/H/L for the remainder of the 2009 season. Just recently, Mario Moraes will miss Mid-Ohio to attend his father’s funeral, who recently passed from cancer. Paul Tracy will fill in for Moraes and starts a respectable 10th. Kosuke Matsuura will drive for Conquest Racing at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. Stanton Barrett will be in the 3G car in Motegi. Jacque Lazier is expected to be at Chicagoland for 3G. All in all, a lot of shuffling in the cockpits for several drivers, the biggest of them all will come when Danica Patrick announces her fate after the season.

3. Two street courses and three ovals left

The schedule dynamical of the 2009 season leaves the IndyCar Series with two more road/street courses and three ovals to finish off the season. The IndyCar Series had its best race in a long time at Kentucky, in the form of a 1.5 oval. It would be great if they carry that over into another oval this weekend, but they are stuck with a road course. The strong four of Briscoe, Castroneves, Dixon and Franchitti should be a force at all five races, but don’t expect the Ed Carpenter stories to come out at the next two races. Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson have the best shot of unseating the Ganassi/Penske duos on the road courses. .

4. Where does the racing go from here?

The push to pass button will be in place for this weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio and for the remainder of the season as well. The device seemed to help the last 20 laps of the Kentucky race and it should be interesting to see how the device plays in the road courses. The aero changes, most notably the removal of the two inch wicker on the rear wing, along with the improved compound in the Firestone tires, gives the IRL the best package for the remainder of the season on the ovals. The push to pass along with the aero changes could provide for the best IndyCar Series racing we have seen in a few years.

5. The 2010 Schedule will be in headlines throughout the remainder of the season.

The 2010 schedule announcement last weekend at Kentucky as stirred a media frenzy among die-hard IRL fans and most motor sports fans. The schedule which favors more street/road courses than ovals is a far contrast from the 2003 schedule which featured 16 oval races. The IRL is striving for a balanced schedule, that was unsuccessful with the financial situation at Milwaukee. American open wheel racing was fairly popular back in the mid 1990’s with a similar schedule, until the spilt in 1996. It remains to be seen if the IRL can get back to that popularity with this type of schedule.

6. Ryan Briscoe on the Pole for Mid-Ohio

Ryan Briscoe earned one bonus point for his performance on Saturday, while earning the pole position and setting a new course record in the process. Briscoe is well on his way to earning his first series championship for Team Penske, something that his teammate Helio Castroneves has yet to accomplish in his lengthy tenure at Team Penske. Justin Wilson will seek win number two for Dale Coyne Racing by starting in position number two. Scott Dixon will be the first of the Ganassi cars, by starting in third position; Dixon is a very close second in the points behind Briscoe. Graham Rahal will start fourth along side Dixon and will seek his first win of the 2010 season at his home town track. Helio Castroneves, the pole sitter the last two years at Mid-Ohio will start fifth. Dario Franchitti rounds out the firestone fast six, by starting in position six.

Notables include, Ryan Hunter-Rhea in 7th, Paul Tracy in 10th, Danica Patrick in 12th, Marco Andretti in 14th, and Ed Carpenter fresh off his second place finish will round out the field in 21st position.

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