Random Thoughts On Mid-Ohio

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After watching the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, the racing purists will all exclaim that Sunday’s race was an outstanding race. They will look down their noses as they tell you that if you were bored, you just don’t understand what real road racing is all about, so you must be either very low-brow or a NASCAR fan at heart.

Well, I think I know a thing or two about racing and quite frankly – I was bored to death. Yes, I understand that there were some good battles going on mid-pack; but for the only pass for the lead to take place in the pits, tells me that this race lacked for excitement.

When Scott Dixon’s fueler did a better job of getting his fuel hose in than Will Power’s did on their final pit stop – that ended up being the pivotal moment in the race, as Dixon then cruised to victory. It really shouldn’t be this way, but it is a team sport and this is Mid-Ohio we are talking about. While I was beaming Friday about what a historic track this is, did I mention that most of the recent open-wheel races have been single-file processionals? Yesterday was no exception. Anyway, a job well-done for Dixon’s fuel man.

Most of the drama took place in the earlier part of the weekend. Helio Castroneves came to Mid-Ohio second in points, and left happy to be in third. He took a ten-spot penalty in order to get a new engine this weekend. Then he collided with Mike Conway on Saturday morning. He had feared a broken hand, but x-rays turned out negative. Although he swore that the hand was not a factor in his weekend, Helio was not a factor either. He started twenty-third and finished sixteenth. Although he dropped to third in the championship standings, Helio only fell three points further behind the leader.

Of course, the points leader changed this weekend. The most compelling story of the race was points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, dropping out of the race with three laps to go. He finished twenty-fourth and is now five points back of new points leader Will Power. And congratulations to Scott Dixon, who re-inserted himself into the points battle.

TV Coverage: Another indication that this race was a snoozer was the “Through the Field” segment. I once heard Kevin Lee say on Trackside, that if they go fairly deep into the field on “Through the Field”, you know it’s a boring race. On Sunday, I think they got up to around eighteenth place. The only reason they stopped short of going through the entire twenty-five car field, was because it was time for a commercial break.

Other than that, it wasn’t as strange as I thought it would be to see the NBC Sports Network crew doing the race over on ABC. I’m sure the pit guys were happy to ditch the hot firesuits for a race in order to don red ESPN polo’s. Why can’t they do that for every race? Besides that, I never gave it much thought that one network was covering a race for another network.

They didn’t do a great job, but there were no gaffes either. It was just there – sort of like the race. If I had to pick on something, it would be for the pit reporters to come up with another way to say a driver has plenty of fuel other than saying (repeatedly): “they’re good to go”. Please.

Let the silly season begin: We learned late last week that Graham Rahal was now considered a free-agent and is more than likely moving on from his spot on the satellite team of Chip Ganassi. Supposedly, many teams have contacted him including his fathers. Stay tuned.

It was also discussed on the broadcast that Josef Newgarden is on the short list for a lot of teams even though he is under contract to Sarah Fisher for another year. This could become interesting. By the time the series reconvenes in Sonoma in three weeks, it’ll be interesting to see who else’s name arises.

Staying out of trouble: For the second race in a row, there were no caution flags flown. That’s the first time that has happened in open-wheel racing since the final two races of the 1987 season.

Credit the drivers for keeping their noses clean for two straight races. While it made for some interesting strategy, it wore some drivers out to have no caution periods so they could breathe.

All in all: It was a very dull race, in my opinion. Still, for the second week in a row, I picked the eventual winner – Scott Dixon. With the history of little or no passing along with the fact that the track is extremely narrow, it was pretty much as I suspected. After a three week sabbatical, the IZOD IndyCar Series will invade Sonoma – at one of my least favorite tracks. That race always bores me to death. I may be wishing for the excitement of Mid-Ohio by then. But then, the racing snobs will tell us how great it was again.

George Phillips

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30 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Mid-Ohio”

  1. The race at Mid-Ohio was okay and do agree with those who are now singing the praises of the DW12 as a racy chassis. I’d also like to see more HP from the engines, at least at road shows. (And I want an aero program, but I’m not holding my breath.) But I do hope they make some needed adjustments to the track to allow for more passing zones. I read where someone called Mid-Ohio a great “driver’s track” but I’d rather it be a great “fan’s track.” A great driver’s track is nice for weekend sports car enthusiasts, but maybe not so great for a racing series that’s trying to attract a couple more viewers to the television broadcasts.

    I guess to be blunt, it was a nice race at a nice facility, but if every Indycar race, every week, looked just like that one, would I be an Indycar fan? I’d have to say “no.”

    • I agree with you that the parade looks like fun from a drivers perspective, but unfortunately its not much from the fan perspective. To me, the qualifying is the best part of the road courses. The race is usually anything but.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    I’m comfortable with the fact that not every IndyCar race is going to be a great one. Mid Ohio doesn’t lend itself to many great races, so I’ll take the compellingness of a little fuel strategy and pit passing. Would be nice if they’d widen the track a bit, though.

    I felt particularly bad for Hunter-Reay, I think that’s the third time this year that he’s lost power while running well in the top 10… not that Scott Dixon has any sympathy.
    Here’s hoping for a 4-way title fight going into Fontana.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    No need to resort to name calling George. Maybe one less bowl of grumpy flakes in the morning. There are changes coming for Mid-Ohio, but even if it were twice as wide yesterday, would anyone have been able to pass Dixon or Power? Probably not.

    More rain would have spiced things up a bit since the new “rain tires” seem more suited for just high humidity rather than real rain.

    Most drivers confirmed that the latest version of push to pass was pretty much useless so hopefully the gimmick department will stick a fork in that.

    Another twisty race without a yellow. What a difference a year makes regarding crash free races. Awesome, at least for this fan.

    Well, I’m off to order a few bottles of Andretti and Foyt grape juice and a little Gray Poupon for Sonoma. Three weeks is giving the gimmick department way too much time.

  4. Carburetor Says:

    It was not great, but perhaps not as bad as you describe. I would agree with comments about upping the horsepower or making the ‘push to pass’ more worthwhile. Most spectacular fact is that neither Sato or Viso have caused a caution in two consecutive races….. who’d ever imagined that happening? Also, if Tony K could ever qualify from mid-pack to the front, he might have a real chance of winning some day….

  5. I guess you would consider me a racing snob then, because I thought this race was VERY exciting. I thought there were so many underlying subplots with the tight points battle and race strategy that it made things fascinating. When things are so tight that the guy operating the fuel rig wins or loses a race, you’ve got an exciting duel on your hands. For somebody that always takes issue with the legions of the miserable, you sure did an awful lot of complaining yourself today.

  6. I just finished reading the Trackside Online reports from the various racing teams. I was struck by how many teams said “We were counting on some yellows”.

    Simona would have needed about 80 laps of yellow. Will somebody with a Honda or Chivy PLEEEEEEEZE hire her for 2013.

  7. Savage Henry Says:

    Indycar has to stop running on motorcycle tracks. I tried to keep an open mind of this one, but I ended up fast forwarding in the hopes of either rain or a yellow. Not only was there no passing at the front, there wasn’t even an attempt to get close enough to pass. This was a “points race” if there ever was one – even in the post-race interview Power acknowledged that after losing the lead in the pits he resigned himself to 2nd place.

    I understand that they come to mid-Ohio because it is a home race for Honda and Honda has been a terrific partner to Indycar during a period when Indycar has been a red-headed stepchild to pretty much everyone else. Honda deserves to be rewarded. Is there some way they can modify the track to improve the racing?

    • billytheskink Says:

      Hey, Mid Ohio is no motorcycle track. It sez so right in the title: “Mid Ohio Sports Car Course”… …

      • Somewhere among the usual suspects for good information I read that the Mid-Ohio track owners do indeed have plans to make changes to the track to improve passing for IndyCars. I don’t recall if those changes are to be implemented in 2013 or 2014.

    • Let’s not forget that Mid-Ohio is one of the most well attended races of the season. They are a great partner for Indycar.

  8. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was less than thrilled with the so called race from Mid Ohio. Really, Mid ohio just needs to be for sports cars and bikes. I guess if Indycar’s got to race there then they need to have a lighter, narrower, faster car or p2p with a 100HP boost. I do think the race would have been better with a couple cautions and maybe it would have let Bourdais catch the leaders. Or done something to make it more interesting.

    • I agree that all the possibities you suggest would have made the race more interesting. On the other hand, one could argue that Bourdais wound up exactly where he deserved to wind up.

  9. Reminded me of a slow motion F1 race. Without the great TV production. Please give us more ovals!

  10. Helio should know that people who show up in Ohio wearing winged yellow and blue helmets have their weekends end in a very disappointing way. Perhaps he will think to wear his normal red helmet when he comes back next year.

    I am as big a NASCAR fan as anyone who visits this site (I watched the 500 from the infield in Charlotte), and I LOVED the way this race developed. I am also a very big F1 fan and thought it played out very much like one. I view this as a good thing, while clearly others did not. The only thing this was missing was a standing start.

    Dixon made the pass for the lead in the pits, but it was won with his in and out laps on both pit stops. He went from 4th to Powers gear box in one lap as Dario and Simon pitted on the first pit stop. He opened up a 2 second lead within a lap or two after taking the lead on the second stop. This is the type of statistics I want from TV that I do not get. Give me the lap times. This was a very Scott Dixon race. Not flashy, lots of fuel saving, pouncing on opportunity, and leaving with the big trophy.

    This is the third race in a row I have attended that Dixon has won. When is he going to ask me where I want next year’s 500 tickets to be? (Full disclosure: Dixon is my driver)

    The crowd was very good. I think it was less than last year but the weather looked dicey and the TV did not do that justice. It was much darker. I arrived at the track at 10am and was never rained on.

    Of the top four Power is my fourth pick. He will not win the championship if it hinges on him winning a 500 mile oval. He best win Sonoma and Baltimore and make it so he just has to finish in the teens in Fontana.

    • I agree about Dixon. A good guy and a great race car driver. Good lookin’ wife & cute kids. I don’t think he gets the ink he deserves. Wonder why?

  11. Dixon has the personality of a dead fish and is from New Zealand.

    That’s why.

    And every year we keep hearing about “so-and-so track is going to make improvements for next year…or this new car will make the racing better at such-and-such track…” blah blah blah…

    You know what would make the racing better? Racing at more actual race tracks built for race cars. That’s what. Want to make the racing at Mid-Ohio better? Get the hell out of there and go to Richmond or Phoenix instead.

  12. I attended the race for the first time. TV does not do the elevation change at this place justice, I was wore out after walking from the Esses to Thunder Valley during the ALMS race.

    Rant time: Why the hell was Ed Carpenter Vision Racing allowed to cause 3 red flags in the very short morning warmup? Does Boiuaiuieoeoix Barfield not have the attachments to park the grandson of his boss’ boss?

    First, he caused a red flag because he got himself high centered in the keyhole area trying to get back on track after an innocent off.

    Then, this guy who has zero business being on anything but a NASCAR track in a low HP high downforce car pack racing, comes out again a few minuets later and locks his wheels at 500 feet from Turn 4. It took a freakin dragline to excavate him.

    Finally, he does one more out lap, with Dario and I believe Hinchcliff right behind him, makes it barely through Turn 4 and then throws in sideways at about 10 mph in the Esses.

    Go Away Ed Carpenter Vison, after hearing your whining during your 36 show about the loss of the only formula you were competitive in, I see no reason for you to stick around.

    We get it, you think pack racing is what fans want, but you seem to ignore the fact that most of us can’t believe it ONLY killed ONE person during all those years.

    • I have to more or less agree. Milka Carpenter would probably be better off doing what Sarah Fisher does. Owning and not driving. Just run a second car for himself at Indy.

  13. The race was decent by M-O standards but not exactly thrilling. Still, that’s a place IndyCar needs to be. Its a Honda home race, the fans there get the sport, and the place has good history.

    They simply need to upgrade the track, and and make it a little more racy.

  14. Sorry, George, but I’m gonna be one of those pesky guys who writes in to say that he enjoyed Mid-Ohio.

    It is true that the race was missing an actual wheel to wheel battle for the lead (though we’d have had exactly that, even if only briefly, had Power not hesitated when leaving his pitbox; that was just as much a factor in his losing the lead as his fueller taking two stabs at connecting the buckeye), but really, that was about all the race was really missing. There was a ton of passing, with basically the entire field from 3rd on back up in the air for most of the duration. Multiple strategies allowed some folks in the back make a run toward the front. Folks went 2-wide through corners all day, and 3-wide down the backstraight multiple times. Contact? Yep, there was some of that as well. Points intrigue? Ditto, and you’d have to say that this thing is wide open among the top-4 now. What else was missing? Yes, the two fastest guys ran away and hid, but, well, that’s racing. It happens at all levels of the sport, at all types of tracks, fenders or no. If the fast guys are ahead of the slow guys and don’t make mistakes, the fast guys aren’t going to get passed.

    Was it Talladega? Lord, no. Was it a Monaco-esque parade? Also, no. It was a pretty solid motor race. If we could get Jon Beekhius to do his best Steve Matchett impersonation and get excited over lap times and sector splits (like, say, when Will Power semi-inexplicably lost a 3 second lead in about 2 laps just before the first round of stops, which Jon did touch on, but nothing like Matchett would have spazzed out over…which I’d have enjoyed), I’d wager that more people might have upped their letter grade by at least a half a letter. I guess I can’t get everything I want, though.

    • “Lap times and sector splits?” Really, Geek? That’s like getting excited about calculus. If I have to work that hard to be entertained, fuggitaboutit.

      • billytheskink Says:

        Heh, you know, I can picture Jon Beekhuis getting excited about calculus.

      • The Speedgeek Says:

        Yeah, really, red. Have you watched the Speed F1 coverage? Talking about who is faster over what part of the track is telling the story of the race. This is what I’ve learned to do over the years by myself, sitting trackside with a stopwatch. Proportionally, passing is a small percentage of any race, NASCAR included. On the other hand, gaps between cars, all cars, fluctuate at all times, for the duration of the race. If you monitor those gaps effectively, you can often foresee battles and/or passes and/or major race developments laps before even the TV guys pick up on it. Steve Matchett has mastered the art of monitoring Timing & Scoring to let us know what’s happening off the screen. It’s something that costs the TV crew literally nothing, but adds all manner of color to the race. The NBCSN guys are miles better than the ABC crew, but this is one area where they still need some work.

        • Ron Ford Says:

          I’m with you Geekster. I always have my stopwatch at the Milwaukee Mile and I watch the gap times closely on Timing and Scoring for other races.

      • Agreed with Redcar 100%

        • Providing plenty of opportunity for overtaking (and the strategy leading to a pass) is maybe the most important thing in watching a race for the average fan. Speed used to be right up there with it, but you can only go so fast. So if they can’t go faster, let’s try to allow for as much passing as possible. And I’m talking about the average sports fan who might turn on a race by accident and be entertained by it, not diehard, educated racing guys who understand and appreciate every nuance. And I actually think INDYCAR is starting to get it right. But I think one thing they need to do is to tweak some of these tracks as well as cars in order to provide for competition and action. I’d like to see INDYCAR take the best from both NASCAR and F1 and create a unique and racy and action-filled series that is different than either of the other two, and maybe, in the future–better.

          • Woah, woah, woah. Let’s get one thing straight here. I am not in any saying that having Jon be able to zone in on a T&S monitor and bark sector times at us should take the place of passing opportunities. No way. I want there to be as many passing opportunities as possible, on every track, and I want IndyCar to go to as many tracks as possible where passing is totally conducive.

            However, a lack of passing opportunities was not what went “wrong” with Sunday’s race at Mid Ohio. The race that I watched had a bunch of passing, just none in the top-2. The way that race played out, we could have run 300 laps on a track with 17 different passing opportunities per lap, and we’d have wound up with the same top-2. Dixie and Power were on their own planet, and as it turned out, Power didn’t have anything for Dixie, either. The clear fastest car on the day was Dixon, and the clear second fastest was Power. Nothing was going to change that. What I’m saying is that if the TV guys can put some more emphasis on watcing gaps and laptimes along with tracking the actual back-in-the-pack passes (which we saw plenty of, anyway), we’d get an even better idea of the story of the race, which is not just good for us dyed in the wool types, it’s good for the neophyte, too. Anything that’s better for understanding what’s happening on the screen is better, period. That’s not in place of passing, it’s in addition to passing. That’s all.

  15. I follow ya, Geek. And I always think you make good sense.

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