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

Leave a comment

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…

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.