Mid-Ohio: A haven for one-offs and random driver changes

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Oriol Servia will return to Panther Racing at Mid-Ohio for the first time since Iowa, while James Davison (Dale Coyne Racing) and Luca Filippi (Barracuda Racing/BHA) are set to make their IZOD IndyCar Series debuts this weekend at Mid-Ohio.

Par for the course, really, as the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has recently seemed a haven for driver swaps and one-off entries. With in-season testing fairly limited, teams have often used this race as a tryout for new drivers in preparation for the following year. There’s also been a higher than normal amount of injuries that have occurred heading into this race over the years.

Here’s a look back at some of the surprise entries the last few years, since IndyCar returned to the track in 2007:

  • 2012: Giorgio Pantano (pictured) substitutes for an injured Charlie Kimball at Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. Starts 24th, and finishes 14th.
  • 2011: Simon Pagenaud gets called in as a last-minute injury replacement for Justin Wilson at Dreyer & Reinbold. Starts 18th, finishes 13th. Martin Plowman makes his IndyCar debut in a jointly entered AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, starting 26th, finishing 18th.
  • 2010: Ex-Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand makes his IndyCar debut as a D&R injury replacement for Mike Conway, qualifying 18th and finishing 16th (Ed: thanks to DRR PR ace Brie Rentz for the catch, I didn’t have this initially). Former Honda F1 tester and A1GP champion Adam Carroll makes his second, and last, IndyCar start in an AFS/Andretti Autosport extra car. Starts 17th, finishes 19th. Englishman Jay Howard makes his fifth start of 2010 for Sarah Fisher Racing, starts 26th and finishes 24th. Conquest brings in unheralded Italian rookie Francesco Dracone for his IndyCar debut, starts 23rd, finishes 22nd in the memorable/infamous Halkin Jet/LaPasta.biz car. 
  • 2009: Servia, who like in 2013 did not have a ride for that full season, replaces Robert Doornbos at Newman/Haas Racing for his second of three eventual stints with the team (2005, 2011). He qualifies 14th, finishes 11th. Doornbos moves to a second HVM Racing car, qualifying 18th and finishing 14th. Richard Antinucci makes his fourth of five career IndyCar starts, qualifying 19th and finishing 18th for Team 3G. Paul Tracy is called in as a last-minute replacement for Mario Moraes at KV Racing, as the Brazilian lost his father. “PT” qualifies 10th and finishes seventh on short notice.
  • 2007: Ryan Hunter-Reay is plucked from career obscurity by Rahal Letterman Racing to replace the underperforming Jeff Simmons. He starts 10th and finishes seventh in his first open-wheel start in two years.