LEXINGTON, Ohio – The flowing road course that is the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course hosts the fifth-to-last round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season (2 p.m. ET, CNBC, with re-air at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
The Honda Indy 200 is generally known for pit strategy and a lack of yellows – there have only been eight full-course cautions in the last five years at Mid-Ohio – and the 2012 and 2013 races ran caution-free.
Here’s what to watch for in today’s 90-lap race.
LIVE BY THE YELLOW, DIE BY THE YELLOW
It’s become a tradition in IndyCar, seemingly, that you can either win or lose a race by depending when the last caution comes out.
Scott Dixon’s team missed the window by staying out a few laps later than he probably should have, and it bit him hard. Yes, he got over it later Sunday night once he got home, but it was another crushing blow to his title defense hopes.
Will Power, who benefited from it two weeks ago, noted he still wants to see the rule where the pits get closed immediately changed at some point.
“Obviously yellows play a big part,” he said. “If it goes yellow and you’re stuck out, you go to the back, which is one of the worst things about this series, and it has to change. I say it every week. But it won me a race in Toronto, and it probably won me a race in Detroit, and I still say it’s wrong.”
This is what changed the complexion of the race last year – it helped Graham Rahal win the race – and we’ll see if it plays a role today.
Per our NBCSN pit reporter Jon Beekhuis, “Professor B,” the last pit window opens at Lap 62 and runs until Lap 83. Watch around that Lap 62 mark to see who pits, and if it benefits them towards the end.
… IF THERE IS ANY YELLOW
There is a good chance today’s race could run caution-free. As noted, Mid-Ohio ran caution-free in 2012 and 2013.
And in the three permanent road course races this year (Barber, 1 for 1 lap, Indy GP, 2 for 10 laps, Road America, 1 for 4 laps), there have only been a total of four cautions.
So watch the race wind up having like five or six, or something…
One of two major stories this weekend has been the form of Scott Dixon and the bad luck that has come with him.
He’s had the pace, but he enters on the heels of his lost win opportunity at Toronto and now from 11th on the grid.
He’s won five times in nine years… but he might need a bit of good luck, a la two years ago when strategy helped propel him from 22nd and last to first, if he’s going to make it all up today.
HOMETOWN AND HONDA HEROES
Graham Rahal is one of Honda’s best shots at home win, starting P6, and Ryan Hunter-Reay also has a good shot from P4.
Meanwhile the surprise of the weekend – to some anyway – is rookie RC Enerson, who will roll off from P18 for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut.
Watch these three drivers today.
Here’s your pit windows as outlined by Beekhuis:
Window 1: 6-27
Window 2: 34-55
Window 3: 62-83
The life of the Firestone red alternate tires is expected to be 25 laps, which syncs up with the fuel window.
Who tries something off strategy to make it work? We shall see who does so.