With only three rounds left in the 2015 Verizon Indycar series season, the natural terrain Mid-Ohio Sports Car course, in Lexington, Ohio marks a pivotal point in the championship, this weekend with the Honda Indy 200 scheduled, over a race distance of 90 laps.
With the way the INDYCAR points structure works, technically speaking at this stage in the season, the top thirteen drivers are in mathematical contention for the series title, however realistically it is likely to be between the top seven contenders.
Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya continues to lead in the standings, with 445 points. Graham Rahal racing for the family run Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing is Montoya’s closest rival going into Mid Ohio, as well as Honda’s best chance at a championship, currently with 403 points. Scott Dixon sits third, with 397 points, and with Dixon having won five times previously at Mid-Ohio, this weekend could well be the one that favours Dixon’s Championship hopes over Montoya or Rahal.
Dixon also needs to capitalise over Helio Castroneves (4th – 391 points) and Will Power (5th – 390 points) this weekend, because Pocono is likely going to swing in the favour again of the Penske pilots. Making the Sonoma season finale, an interesting showdown between the two rival teams.
Further back, though with an increasingly outside chance to upset the championship are Sebastien Bourdais (366) Marco Andretti (358) and Josef Newgarden (352), whilst Tony Kanaan sits 9th with 324 points.
Changes this weekend
Entering Mid-Ohio, Indycar has made two technical changes. The first of these is a concept Indycar has adopted from Sportscar racing, having seen the system being displayed in the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship and the Blancpain Endurance Series among others for the past couple of seasons. Indycar is now adding LED position displays to its competitors cars this weekend, after substantial testing with the system prior to implementation throughout this season.
The LED displays in Indycar, will display position (Red) Pit stop time (Green) in addition to a Push-to-pass indicator. I personally think this is a nice idea from Indycar to introduce, especially on ovals to help understand car positions trackside, later in the race. I’m not sure it is entirely needed on road courses, with the smaller fields compared to Sportscar racing, but it could play a part, as cars become lapped later in the race.
Given Indycar has tried to limit the knowledge between teams, regarding how many Push-to-Pass options an entrant had left during the race, having a huge indicator which says it’s active on the side for everyone to see, does seem to go against this logic a little, however I suppose Indycar isn’t technically saying how many more times, a specific car can access P2P, short of someone actually counting the number of times the indicator flashes on opponents cars.
The idea of not telling the viewers how many P2P options remained, was slightly flawed for myself anyway, watching the international feeds broadcast graphics, still tells you the number, as it appears on screen! Oops.
The other change this weekend, is the introduction of a new wet weather tyre to INDYCAR competition, which given it is Mid Ohio, is likely to be demonstrated at some stage over the weekend.
The tyre replaces the previous wet weather tyre option, which Firestone developed for Indycar in July last year, rather than complementing it. Effectively the primary difference between the two, is this will use a softer compound than the previous version. The tread pattern and depth remaining identical to the previous wet weather option.
Personally I would of liked to have seen an intermediate tyre introduced, rather than simply replacing the previous wet tyre compound, however a higher grip wet weather tyre is a good option for Indycar right now. Indycar has also replaced the band on wet tyres, to be silver effectively for identification purposes.
The billing for this weekend’s race in addition to the Verizon Indycar Series, includes the entire Mazda Road to Indy (USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights) in addition to Pirelli World Challenge GT & GTS classes.
Finally this week’s Dale Coyne Racing drivers are Tristan Vautier and Rodolfo Gonzalez, whilst Luca Filippi continues his road-course duties for CFH Racing.
The 2015 Honda Indy 200 is live on CNBC at 130pm ET Sunday.