By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
The rest of 2019 NTT IndyCar Series is a numbers game. Five races left with four drivers realistically in the title hunt contesting races over three time zones for two manufacturers with one champion to be crowned.
The first of those five races is this weekend with the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Since Long Beach in April, every race has been won by one of the top four drivers in the championship standings and all four have won at Mid-Ohio before.
Josef Newgarden is the current championship leader and has four victories on the season so far. He won at Mid-Ohio in 2017 when he won the Indy car championship and has momentum riding with him as we head through the final third of the season.
“There is a lot of momentum on the side the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet team right now, but we need to focus on this weekend,” said Newgarden. “I’m definitely a fan of road courses like Mid-Ohio, especially because of all of the fans that show up there. There’s always a really great crowd that gets us all really pumped up for the race. Mid-Ohio is a place we’ve had some success at including a win a couple of years ago, which was the last time we raced the PPG livery there. We’re hoping it brings us luck again.”
However, Alexander Rossi has plans of his own to interfere with Newgarden.
The Californian is second in the championship as he was last year but the Andretti Autosport racer dominated Mid-Ohio in 2018. In fact, Rossi’s two wins this year at Long Beach and Road America were extremely dominating so if Rossi gets out to an early lead Sunday, it might be over sooner than we expect.
“Mid-Ohio is one of the best races on the schedule and I can’t wait to get back,” said Rossi. “The vibe from the fans is always amazing and we will draw energy from them as we look to repeat on the success of last year and go into the summer break with a win.”
Third in the championship standings is 2016 Mid-Ohio winner Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud also won the championship that season and has three wins of his own. However, two four-race stints outside of the top five have slightly derailed the Frenchman’s championship charge.
“I’m super excited about Mid-Ohio,” said Pagenaud. “We’ve got five races left and we’re right in the mix of it. Chevy has done a tremendous job lately giving us a bit more horsepower, so I feel really in the game. We tested there awhile back, and the car was good. We’re going to do everything we can to catch Josef (Newgarden) and plan to make the Menards Chevy shine in Mid-Ohio. I can’t wait for the weekend to come.”
The final of the four championship contenders is Mr. Mid-Ohio himself, Scott Dixon. Dixon has five wins at the 2.258 mile road course and is currently fourth in points, 98 back from Newgarden. The No. 9 PNC Bank Honda has finished second in the last two races and has five runner-up finishes this year. Four finishes of 13th or worse, however, have thrown away many points from the 45-race winner in Indy car competition.
“Mid-Ohio is a place that we as a team have always felt that all of our cars have a shot at winning,” said Dixon. “There aren’t many tracks out there where your confidence level is that high as a team. It’s a track that really feels like home to me. I’ve said over the years that it’s a rhythm track, and it’s very technical. You have to get a lot of things right to go to victory lane there. We need a big finish for the championship with five to go starting this weekend in the PNC Bank car. Mid-Ohio would be a great place to start a run of strong results.”
The Honda Indy 200 is Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC.