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Five things to watch at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

Dixon could clinch sixth series title

Only five races remain in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, and the path to a sixth Astor Challenge Cup for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is clear.

Scott Dixon. Photo by Matt Fraver

Dixon, the winningest INDYCAR driver at Mid-Ohio with six wins, leads Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden by 96 points heading into the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio doubleheader this weekend. Newgarden or Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward (-119 points) will need to turn the tide if they want to take the title from Dixon.

Should Dixon leave Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a lead of 141 points or more, the New Zealand driver only needs to start the remaining races on the schedule to win a sixth championship. With a lead of more than 162 points or more, he can clinch the title.

“We’ve had success (at Mid-Ohio) in the past as a team,” Dixon said. “We hope to continue to build on that this weekend and carry that through to the remaining races on the schedule for 2020 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda.”

Penske vs. Ganassi at Mid-Ohio

Dixon is a big reason why Chip Ganassi Racing has enjoyed so much success at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The team has won 11 times at the track, with Dixon responsible for six of the victories, including last year’s 1-2 finish with teammate Felix Rosenqvist.

But if any team can put a stop to Dixon and Ganassi’s run at the 2.258-mile road course, it’s Team Penske, which has 10 wins at Mid-Ohio.

Both Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden have won at Mid-Ohio, but Will Power is winless at the track, despite claiming a record four poles at the track.

Chevy has won seven poles in eight races at Mid-Ohio since returning to INDYCAR racing in 2012.

Hometown hereos

A pair of NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams arrive at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course seeking to win on “home soil.”

Meyer Shank Racing is based in Pataskala, Ohio, and team co-owner Michael Shank is a native of the Columbus area who got hooked on racing while watching his dad compete at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He would like nothing more than to see his driver Jack Harvey score a podium at his home track.

“It’s the top-line priority, right?” Shank said “We’ve had what we feel is a pretty decent year this year, but we haven’t been able to finish like we think we deserve. Mid-Ohio would be my premium place to do it. It’s where I grew up.

“I can literally remember 1980 with my dad watching Johnny Rutherford run, I think they called it the Yellow Submarine Chaparral, around the track and win the race. That’s my first memory of the of Mid-Ohio INDYCAR race.

“From the first day I ever was around a race car, INDYCAR at Mid-Ohio is what I strive for. It took a long time to get there. Super grateful to Jack. Obviously, Jack and I worked on this for three or four years now. A lot of people that supported he and I, I think he would agree, to get us to this opportunity where we think we can actually put a podium effort together, which is where we’re at today.

“It’s a great story. I’m just super proud to be a part of it.”

Another pair of Columbus natives, Bobby Rahal and his son, Graham, have each visited Mid-Ohio’s victory lane. Rahal will wear a specially themed helmet this weekend based on the Ohio flag.

“We did a design contest earlier in the year for the first race,” Graham Rahal said. “We ended up going with another design for Texas, but the Ohio-themed one, right away, we thought it would be a great one to have when we do go to Mid-Ohio. It’s being worn a little later than we anticipated. Excited, nonetheless, that we had it. Had it for a long time, it’s been painted for a couple months. Just been hiding it all long.

“We hope it brings us a little bit of Ohio luck. Last time I wore a specialty helmet there (an Ohio State football-themed helmet in 2015) we did pretty good. Hopefully this time around we can, as well.

No longer a teenager

Rinus VeeKay turned 20 on Sept. 11, but the youngest driver in the field will still have plenty to celebrate this weekend at Mid-Ohio.

VeeKay, who never finished off the podium at Mid-Ohio in his Road to Indy career, impressed Ed Carpenter Racing in a pair of tests at Mid-Ohio, which helped secure his seat for 2020.

“I had a very important test with Ed Carpenter Racing at Mid-Ohio, so yeah, good memories.” VeeKay said. “It’s quite a track. I love it there, and, finally after a long time of ovals, we go to a road course racing again. I really enjoy the ovals, but yeah, I’m looking forward to turning right this weekend.”

Palou confident coming back to Mid-Ohio

For the first time this season, Alex Palou comes to a track where he won’t have to learn the layout and characteristics in the opening practice session.

Palou successfully tested with Dale Coyne Racing in August 2019 at Mid-Ohio. Combine that with his third- and seventh-place finishes at the most recent road course races at Road America, and he is confident heading into the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

‘It’s going to be the first track that I know from last year,” Palou said. ”It’s going to be a huge advantage. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to go there and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, look at this guy, now it’s quick.’ It’s not going to be like that. At least I’m not going to lose 15, 20 minutes trying to learn a new track.

“Mid-Ohio is a track I love. It’s a road course. It’s the same road courses as we have in Europe, in Japan, the things I know. So I expect that it’s going to be a good weekend for us.”

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