Mid-Ohio: Honda surges, Ganassi streak continues as Dixon’s ends

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Four races ago, Chevrolet had a 12-point lead in the IndyCar Manufacturer’s Championship and Chip Ganassi Racing was winless.

After Sunday’s aptly named Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, Honda has evened the score in the Manufacturer’s Championship and CGR is batting a perfect four-for-its-last four.

Odds-on favorite heading into the weekend was Scott Dixon, who had won the last two Mid-Ohio races and the previous three races overall in a ridiculous stretch of eight days between Pocono and the doubleheader in Toronto.

And while it was a Ganassi driver that delivered the goods on Sunday, it wasn’t Dixon or his Target teammate Dario Franchitti. Charlie Kimball took home a somewhat surprising but popular first win in the Novo Nordisk camp.

It’s no coincidence that recent uptick in form these last four races has come after Ganassi spent a day testing at Sebring in late June, while other teams opted to test for Pocono at Pocono. The canny move to go to a track that most resembles the characteristics of the remaining circuits on the calendar has paid major dividends.

Honda, too, has found more pace to complement its already superior fuel mileage over Chevrolet. Believe it or not, it’s the first time since the reintroduction of the Manufacturer’s Championship that Honda is tied for the lead.

Chevrolet got out to a 4-0 advantage in wins and points in 2012 and never looked back, and won a total of 11 of 15 races to secure the crown.

But in 2013, the wins are level at seven apiece. Andretti Autosport has taken five of Chevrolet’s seven, with Ganassi winning four of the seven for Honda.

It was a big weekend for Honda at Mid-Ohio, the unofficial “summer picnic outing” for many of its employees at local plants.

This writer had the opportunity to experience what was a gripping and enjoyable hot lap in a pace car with Stefan Wilson, who will make his IndyCar debut at Baltimore later this year. Unfortunately, I had to miss out on seeing grand marshal “Jungle” Jack Hanna and his snow leopard in the press room due to another prior commitment.

It appeared the snow leopard had a better day than did Graham Rahal, though, who was with Hanna and the animal in the Mid-Ohio press room…

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.