Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

Mid-Ohio IndyCar Preview

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Ohio — The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 and if past performances are anything to go off of, the rest of the field should be afraid of Scott Dixon.

The current INDYCAR points leader has five victories at Mid-Ohio (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014) and currently leads Josef Newgarden by 62 points with five races to go including Mid-Ohio.

Behind Dixon and Newgarden in the standings are the top half of Andretti Autosport’s quartet. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both have victories this year on street circuits and have had mixed fortunes the last two races. Rossi is coming off a pair of top-10 finishes while Hunter-Reay has a pair of finishes of 16th and 19th.

Further down the field are welcome returns for three drivers, the first from injury and the other two from a limited schedule. Pietro Fittipaldi suffered tremendous injuries to his legs in a sports car crash in Belgium back in early May but has been cleared to race at Mid-Ohio following a test the previous week for Dale Coyne Racing.

Returning from the sidelines to start the second half of a limited schedule is Jack Harvey for Meyer-Shank Racing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The MSR/SPM partnership was for six races this season and with MSR team co-owner Michael Shank being based in Ohio, hopes are high for a good result.

Also returning to the field is Conor Daly. The Noblesville, IN native finished 13th at Toronto for Harding Racing, giving the team their best result of the season. With two top-10 finishes in his last two IndyCar starts at Mid-Ohio, Daly will be looking to repeat that effort this weekend.

The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires is also competing at Mid-Ohio and all three championships have vastly different storylines.

Indy Lights’s title chase is between three main drivers. Recent Toronto winner Santi Urrutia has six podiums in his six races at Mid-Ohio during his Mazda Road to Indy tenure and the Uruguayan driver currently sits third in points.

Second in points is second generation driver Colton Herta. The Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing driver sustained a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb at Toronto during qualifying and crashed during the Saturday race. Father Bryan Herta played the role and had his son sit out the race after turning a few laps for points, allowing the injury time to heal instead of risking hurting it further.

Points leader Pato O’Ward won the first Toronto race and is coming off of a run of five podiums in the last six races to lead Herta by 18 points. The 2016 Pro Mazda runner-up is looking to rebound at Mid-Ohio after losing the Pro Mazda points lead here in 2016.

Going down to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, Parker Thompson holds the points lead over Rinus VeeKay but both are looking at Mid-Ohio as a pivotal race weekend for different reasons.

For Thompson, Mid-Ohio is a chance to get back in victory circle after a disappointing home weekend in Toronto. The Canadian also lost his USF2000 points lead in 2016 at Mid-Ohio after a cut tire left his then-Cape Motorsports teammate Anthony Martin unchallenged for victory.

In VeeKay’s case, the Dutch driver is coming off of a pair of wins in Toronto and is trying to retake the points lead he had at the beginning of the season before Thompson starting winning races.

Going down to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Kyle Kirkwood has an absolute stranglehold on the championship. With a 131 point lead and five races to go, Kirkwood needs only to finish ahead of Kaylen Frederick in the first race of the weekend and he wins the championship.

The Honda Indy 200 broadcast begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The race is 90 laps.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.