The Honda Indy 200 afternoon practice session on Friday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course ended prematurely when the skies opened and huge rain drops began to scatter across pit lane and the entire 13-turn track. The drops came down in an individual fashion, almost as though they each had a purposeful destination and when one hit you, it felt like you were getting hit by a tiny water balloon. The field of 22 quickly made their way into the pits and after the big drops gave way to smaller but more frequent ones falling, one or two cars took to the wet course before the session ended.
Of those 22 cars, 19 of them clocked their best laps within a second of each other. In the morning session, the first 18 cars were within that same marker of one another. I had texts from people about this, exclaiming their excitement with the tightness of the field and how it reminded them of 2013 and 2014 when this occurrence was nearly weekly. I shared in their emotion, because that close competition is a bragging point for the Verizon IndyCar Series – seems like the teams are getting a handle on these aerokits, eh?
The fastest lap of the entire day was run by Team Penske driver, Will Power, with a 1:04.1962 in the afternoon session. Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver and 5-time winner at Mid-Ohio, Scott Dixon, ran the second fastest of the day with a 1:04.4491 lap. Speaking of Target, enjoy watching the red-and-white bullseye livery of the No. 9 cruise around the track this weekend, as it’s the last time you will see it in Lexington, OH. As reported by Ganassi Racing earlier this week, the longest-running sponsor in IndyCar, Target, is ending their 27 year relationship with racing series, at the end of 2016. They will finish out their sponsorship with Ganassi’s Kyle Larson in NASCAR through the end of 2017.
Rest assured that Dixon will have sponsorship for 2017 and going forward, as Chip mentioned in an interview that he would have a sponsor announcement for the No. 9 Chevy in the next couple months.
There were two other drivers who clocked laps faster than the official track record during Friday practices as well – Tony Kanaan (Ganassi, No. 10) and points leader, Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske, No. 22) ran 1:04.4663 and 1:04.5353, respectively. Both drivers achieved those times in the afternoon session, prior to the inclement weather.
Pagenaud is reported as stating that he feels his biggest concern in losing the points lead, lies in Scott Dixon. Dixon is 83 points behind Pagenaud and when asked how he felt about the Frenchman’s comments, he replied,
“He should probably be a little more worried about his teammate (Will Power). He’s on a pretty good roll there… But yeah, obviously we want to come on strong. We’ve got five races to go and a lot of points on the table, and it’s still possible, it’s just whether we have enough time left.”
Dixon and Power are each ready to battle for their third pole position at Mid-Ohio, this afternoon. Don’t forget to tune in to NBCSN at 2:00 p.m. ET for live coverage of qualifying. The format will be the same as all road courses and street circuits with three rounds of knock-outs, the last being the Firestone Fast 6 when the remaining drivers will fight for the Verizon P1 Award. That award has been won by Team Penske drivers for all the road and street courses in 2016, except one – and that was on the Streets of Toronto when Scott Dixon claimed the prize.
Power is confident that the track record will be broken during qualifying today, if we stay dry. The factor however, remains to be seen. The current record is held by Scott Dixon with a 1:04.5814 lap, ran during qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 in 2015.
Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio:
Friday, July 29:
Practice #1 – 10:00 – 11:15 a.m. ET
Practice #2 – 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 30:
Practice #3 – 9:45 – 10:30 a.m. ET
Quals – 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 17:
Warm Up – 10:15 – 10:45 a.m. ET
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race – 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. E.T.
The Honda Indy 200 Practice #2 and Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The race will be broadcast live on CNBC. Practice sessions #1 & #3 will be livestreamed via IndyCar. All links to livestream, plus information on radio coverage is available here.
Feature Image: Chris Owens / IndyCar