Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

Event Preview: The Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 continuing the 2016 season. The event is slated for July 29-31, 2016.

About the Race

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio is round twelve of sixteen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016. The event is held on a natural terrain road course, one of six such races on the schedule.

The defending champion is Graham Rahal, who drives the No. 15 Honda for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing. This will be the 33rd race for Indycars at Mid Ohio.

The race will consist of 90 laps for a total race distance of 203.20 miles. Standard road course qualifying procedures will apply.

Support races include Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, US F2000, and the Pirelli World Challenge.

About the Track

The Mid Ohio Sports Car Course is a multi-purpose racing facility located in Lexington, Ohio, situated between the large population centers of Columbus and Cleveland.

The track is paved with asphalt, and features 13 turns over 2.258 miles with a number of elevation changes. The layout features a combination of long straightaways and tight corners offering a true challenge to the drivers. The entry to pit lane comes in the center of the Carousel, a challenging right-hander, and exits into turn one setting up the hairpin turn known as the Keyhole.

The track width, at 40 feet, is actually quite narrow, but there is plenty of run-off area, both grass and gravel, that give a driver an opportunity to utilize all of the track.

The race course opened in 1962, and is currently owned by Green Savoree Racing Promotions, who purchased the property in 2011. In addition to hosting the Verizon IndyCar series, the venue also holds events for NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, the American Motorcycle Association and the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association.

The facility also hosts a year-round driving school that has won a number National accolades.

Event History

The CART series first raced at Mid-Ohio in 1980, as Johnny Rutherford took the win in Jim Hall’s Chaparral car. The facility was met with decidedly mixed reviews from the teams and the series, and did not return to the schedule the following season.

In 1982, road-racer and CART team owner, Jim Trueman, purchased the facility and invested several million dollars into improvements and upgrades to the aging race track. CART returned in 1983 with Teo Fabi taking the win, as the track became a regular stop on the schedule for years to come.

One of the more interesting statistics of Mid-Ohio is the proliferation of back-to-back winners it has produced. Bobby Rahal was the first to accomplish this feat in 1985-1986. He was followed by Michael Andretti (1990-91), Emerson Fittipaldi (1992-93), Al Unser Jr. (1994-95), Alex Zanardi (1996-97), Helio Castroneves (2000-01), and Scott Dixon (2011-12).

This statistic is certainly not lost on the 2015 winner, Graham Rahal, who was raised in Ohio and considers this his home race course.

In 2003, the CART Series ran at Mid Ohio for the final time before the sale of that series to OWRS/Champcar. After a three-year absence, open-wheeled Indy Cars returned in 2007 when the event was added to the Verizon IndyCar Schedule. The event remains as a popular race, among both fans and competitors, and draws a huge crowd to the scenic small-town race course.

About the Field

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed top-to-bottom lineups we have seen in years.

22 drivers will take the green flag in Mid Ohio. Of those, five are former winners at at the venue.  Scott Dixon has taken an astonishing five wins, Helio Castroneves has won twice, while Charlie Kimball, Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal have one win apiece.

There will be one new face in the field as RC Enerson will make his series debut driving the No. 19 Dale Coyne Honda. The former Indy Lights driver tested with the team last week at Mid Ohio, and was quite impressive, thus landing the ride.

The current season points leader is Simon Pagenaud, who drives the No. 22 Chevrolet for Team Penske. Pagenaud holds a 47 point lead over teammate Will Power, who is coming off of a win in Toronto.

Sixteen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, six have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champcar, and six are Indy 500 winners. Four of the drivers will be contending for rookie of the year honors: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, Max Chilton, and Spencer Pigot. Rossi currently leads that group by a decisive margin after taking a win in the Indianapolis 500, an event that paid double-points.

Drivers in the series represent eleven different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.

About the Series

The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen slow, but steady growth.

Over the past several seasons the racing produced by the series has been second to none, and the Championship battle has gone down to the final race.

Without the benefit of a gimmick like the Chase, the Verizon IndyCar Series has produced enough close racing and drama to satisfy the racing fan.

The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which celebrated its historic 100th running this season.

Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer.

Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.

Where and When to Watch

Tickets for the Honda Indy 200 can be purchased here. General Admission ticket pricing is set at $40.00 for a Friday/Saturday Ticket and $55.00-$65.00 for a race day ticket.

Television coverage will be provided by CNBC.  Race coverage will begin at 2:00 pm EST on Sunday July 31. Practice and qualifying will be broadcast on NBC-SN on both Friday and Saturday at 2:00 pm EST.

Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at www.indycar.com and fans can keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,

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