Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: 2023 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Preview

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Four races at three different venues in July symbolizes INDYCAR’s unique portion of the championship trail. Each venue has its characteristics as the 27-car field will tackle a road course, a street course and finally an oval doubleheader to cap off the month.

It kicks off with another INDYCAR classic venue in Mid-Ohio, where Alex Palou hopes to continue his superb campaign.

Following a win at Road America, he leads his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson by 74 points. All signs could possibly lead to the title being clinched early, something that hasn’t happened since Dan Wheldon in 2005.

Confidence has been key for Palou compared to last year and it could spell trouble for the rest of the field as he’ll look for his fourth win this Sunday.

What part of his confidence has progressed for the 2021 champion?

Palou’s comprehension of how the No. 10 Honda will fare and what he seeks for on a race-by-race basis. Not only he realizes this, but also his crew are locked into their confident zone.

“They know what I need. They know what works for me, what doesn’t,” said Palou.

“In 2021 we were just guessing and trying stuff. Sometimes works, sometimes it didn’t. ’22 we understood a little bit more.

“This year I just have more confidence with myself, with the car, obviously with the team. It’s tough to say. I don’t think it’s one thing. I would say it’s a little bit of a lot of things that are helping us be more consistent.”

To conquer Mid-Ohio, Palou will look to once again dethrone Penske as they’ve won three out of the last four races with a win by Colton Herta in Race No. 2 three years ago being the last non-Penske triumph. Ganassi’s last win in Lexington was in 2019 in a thrilling battle for the win against his then-teammate Felix Rosenqvist.

It’s anyone’s ball game, but everyone are chasing Palou. In the case for this weekend, chasing the Penske organization.

By the Numbers

What: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 9 of 17

Where: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Lexington, Ohio (Opened: 1962, first INDYCAR event was 1980)

When: Sunday, July 2

TV/Radio: USA Network & Peacock 1:30 p.m. ET / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channels 85 & 160)

Track Size: 2.258-mile road course

Race Length: 80 laps, 180.64 miles

2022 Winner: Scott McLaughlin – No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet (Started 2nd, 45 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Simon Pagenaud – No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet (63.8700 seconds, 127.271 mph – July 30, 2016)

From the Driver’s Seat

Alex Palou – No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

“The issue at Mid-Ohio is that you have corners that are back to back, really tight, really high speed, and you don’t really have too much time to breathe.

“It’s very physical for everybody. Especially the race, we expect it’s going to be quite humid and very warm.

“It’s physical, but I think it’s good. If you’re in a good shape, maybe you can make a bigger difference by the end of the race.”

Last Time in Mid-Ohio

Two men were at the forefront of last year’s race and those were front row starters Pato O’Ward and Scott McLaughlin. Both racers led a combined total 73 of 80 laps with Colton Herta leading the remaining seven.

Herta was the lone highlight of positivity for Andretti Autosport as everyone felt like wanting to yank each other’s hair following of litany of drama. Most notably, Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean tangling that led to anger on both ends. A day to forget indeed when teammates clash and affect their afternoons.

For a majority of the 80-lap contest, it appeared it was going to come down to O’Ward and McLaughlin. However, such compelling duel came to an end on Lap 54. O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren stopped running at the end of pit lane as power failure derailed his chance of winning.

Afterwards, McLaughlin was able to lead 21 out of the last 28 laps, but lurking in the shadows was Alex Palou in the final green flag run (19 laps long). Palou was never able to catch McLaughlin as he went on to score is second of three INDYCAR wins that year.

Unlike McLaughlin’s maiden win at St. Petersburg, no botch during his celebration. Instead, he did a little roll in victory lane and enjoyed the victory with his parents, who were there in Ohio.

“It was nerve-racking, but at the same time I’ve been working for this. I’ve been studying this trying to get better and better on restarts,” said McLaughlin. “My cold tire pace is a lot better than it used to be, feel a lot more comfortable with the car and being able to maximize the car and cold out laps, cold restarts.

“It was difficult when Alex was on red tires behind me, but thankfully held on there, and then we were able to build a gap similar to what we did on the black tires.

“I feel really, really proud. We’re learning — I’m still building, still soaking everything up like a sponge, but really proud of where we’re at right now in my development.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, June 30

  • NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 1 (3:05 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. – Peacock)

Sunday, July 1

  • NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 2 (8:35 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. – Peacock)
  • NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. – Peacock)

Sunday, July 2

  • NTT IndyCar Series Warmup (10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – Peacock)
  • Indy NXT Race (11:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. – Peacock)
  • Honda Indy 200 (1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – USA Network & Peacock)

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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 and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. 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 with ambitions of having his work recognized.