Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

TORRES: Instant Reaction on the Honda Indy 200 Doubleheader

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The race that literally got its race confirmed a week ago came and went with some captivating takeaways.

This weekend’s Honda Indy 200 doubleheader at Mid-Ohio saw guys getting their grips together that brought much needed positives to this rather topsy turvy NTT IndyCar Series season.

You saw Team Penske’s Will Power and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta setting the tone without any mistakes getting in the way. The latter team in particular, it was easily their best weekend they’ve had in a real long time and with Herta, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay sweeping the podium Sunday.

While that happened, Scott Dixon was almost an afterthought as mistakes bit him hard and its put a bit of pressure on his bid for a sixth championship.

Needless to say, it was quite the weekend and here’s some key moments of both races I found either satisfied for the drivers but also frustrated with IndyCar’s way of certain regulations.

Positive Weekend for the Turnaround Duo

Saturday’s portion of the 75-lap race wasn’t the greatest race the sport had to offer, but it was certainly a much needed day for Power and Rossi, who’ve had nothing but putrid luck.

Whether it’s on pit road or not having outright pace when it matters most, Power finally put on an excellent showing that we haven’t seen from the 60-time pole sitter in a real long time. As a result of such dominance, Power got his 38th career win and the first at Mid-Ohio.

Power hasn’t shy away from voicing his opinion and with reason because IndyCar can do better on its rules and regulations. So him winning was a breath of fresh air and no, I don’t agree with his concern that he’s lost his winning ways because he has plenty amount of fuel in his tank to dominate races. As you know, when that happens, best believe you can’t stop him.

While Power put on a dominant effort, the battle for the final spot of the podium got the folks excited. It’s no secret that Rossi, like all of us in the media circle, wants to forget about 2020. For once, the 2016 Indy 500 champion had a perfect race that wasn’t a victory as he held off Graham Rahal to get only his second podium of the year.

No question, it’s a result Rossi needed because my goodness, it has been horrible luck for the Californian. What really stood out from his afternoon compared to his other third-place finish at Road America is his consistency. Yes, the Penske duo of Power and Josef Newgarden smoked everyone, but give a hat to the lad for keeping himself out of trouble except for one moment.

Rossi wasn’t done on Sunday as he one-up his race result by finishing second, but just couldn’t catch his teammate Herta, who won his first IndyCar race of the season. Power on the other hand, had a salvageable seventh after an incident during qualifying prevented him from having another bid at the pole.

Overall, they can’t be terribly disappointed with their doubleheader weekend because it’s the much necessary results needed to uplift their rather miserable 2020 campaign.

Pit Road Consistency Isn’t A Hoot

The only way Rossi wouldn’t have gotten a great result was the close call with Herta. After sticking with the red Firestone compounds, Rossi got the clear to exit but Herta was about to enter his pits and honestly, it could’ve been an ugly situation.

Fortunately for Rossi, he didn’t got called for an unsafe release like last month’s Indy 500, but it made me wonder about the integrity of the rule. The consistency of what warrants a safe or an unsafe release has been a big flaw lately.

I thought Rossi was done for because that was very close, but that wasn’t the case. Probably for the best because had he gotten busted for such predicament again, steer clear at all costs because Power won’t be the only guy IndyCar Race Control would have to worry about.

No Crowning Moment for the Lexington Master

For awhile, I’ve came to the realization that even in IndyCar, track position and clean air is king. Yeah, road racing can be that way sometimes and that’s fine.

What led to me saying such obnoxious commentary? Look no further than points leader Scott Dixon, who had a forgettable weekend.

A 17th starting position on Saturday proved to be too back for him to really amount a positive day as he got 10th. Great points day for Newgarden, which reminds me about what Power said which I really don’t agree.

Power applied that if Newgarden had things fall his way, he would be ahead of Dixon in the championship trail. Whose to say that would’ve happened?

You can’t really have “what ifs” in racing and assume it’ll lead to the ideal outcome. Each race is their own and if things would’ve played different, then the drivers will pick up the ante, creating for another outcome.

I used to be one of those guys who felt “had XYZ happened, then XYZ would’ve been in a different spot,” but those days are long gone.

Anyways, the second race wasn’t necessarily better despite rolling off third. You saw a very rare Dixon error where he spun mid-race, changing his afternoon and all he had to show for is yet another 10th.

“I got a little aggressive and hit the overtake at the exit of (turn) 1 and way too much Honda power there and it spun the tires. Spun the car,” Dixon on the spin. “It totally caught me off guard. Total rookie mistake. I’m so bummed for the team because it was such a stupid mistake to make.

“Our car was fast. We were able to fight our way through back where we ended up, but it should’ve been an easy points day.”

Safe to say, the six-time Mid-Ohio winner would like to just fly back to Indianapolis and prepare for a possible title clinching scenario in next month’s Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader.

The Qualifying System Is Pathetic

I’m far from a fan of how IndyCar determines this weekend’s starting lineup. This was loud and clear when the shit show that was Sunday qualifying happened. Looking where the 23-car grid stacked up, I was completely baffled. It told me that even if you didn’t set a timed lap like Power and Jack Harvey, you won’t start at the back whatsoever.

No! If you didn’t set a lap, you should be at the back of the grid. It’s total crap how whoever ended up winning the pole (Herta), the group where the fastest overall guy occupies the odd numbered starting positions. In this case, Group 2 got the odd numbers while Group 1 got the even numbers.

As a result, guys that were quicker aren’t fully rewarded and that’s not how qualifying should be in any form of auto racing.

Easily, the biggest negative from the doubleheader because IndyCar should really keep it simple rather than this convoluted system.

What’s wrong with racking up the grid based on times rather than determine things based on how one guy does will define the rest? Give me a break.

Conclusion

Mid-Ohio will go down as a turning point of the season for several drivers and even if the race quality boiled down to strategies and starting positions, you can feel the sense of urgency but also drivers cracking under pressure.

That being said, I was content with what I saw except of course, it’s dumb qualifying format and the inconsistency of what warrants an “unsafe release.”

For now, a much needed break from the action will feel nice as the Harvest GP commences on October 2-3. Let’s hope the racing is better than it was in the GMR Grand Prix two months ago. It’s all I can ask.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.