Thursday, August 1, 2013

Track Walk: Mid-Ohio 2013

After two weeks off, the Izod IndyCar Series returns to the track at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Scott Dixon is on a three race winning streak and looks to make it four in a row, three in a row at Mid-Ohio and fifth overall at the track. Dixon is twenty-nine points behind Helio Castroneves in the IndyCar championship standings. Ryan Hunter-Reay is third in points sixty-nine points back with Marco Andretti seventy back and Simon Pagenaud fifth in points, one hundred and sixteen points back.

Scott Dixon Is Going To Win This Race
Let's make this clear, Scott Dixon is going to win. He owns Mid-Ohio more than Green Savoree Racing Promotions. In eight career starts at Mid-Ohio, Dixon has four wins, seven top fives and has not started worse than sixth since the race returned to the schedule in 2007. He has only one career pole at the track but that doesn't matter. This guy is near unstoppable at Mid-Ohio. The only other drivers on the grid with an IndyCar win at Mid-Ohio is Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves and Castroneves wins came back in 2001 and 2002. Castroneves' last two starts and finishes have been less than impressive (started 15th, finished nineteenth in 2011, started 23rd, finished sixteenth last year) and should he repeat those results again this year and Dixon repeat his, we will have a new points leader heading to Wine Country, Sonoma, California, later this month. At this point, everyone should be racing for second.

First Career Starts
Two drivers will be making first career starts at Mid-Ohio. Australian James Davison will be driving for Dale Coyne Racing in the #18 Honda. Davison raced in Firestone Indy Lights for two seasons and has two career Indy Lights wins, both coming from pole position at Mid-Ohio. Davison finished second in the 2009 Indy Lights standings to American JR Hildebrand and finished ahead of current full-time IndyCar drivers Sebastián Saavedra, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball in the final standings. Davison's first career start will come at a bittersweet time for his as his step-grandfather, decorated World War II pilot and the first Australian to race in a Formula One event Tony Gaze passed away on Monday at the age of 93.

James comes from a long line of successful racers. His grandfather Lex Davison won the Australian Grand Prix four times, a record now shared with Michael Schumacher and was the Australian Drivers' Champion in 1957. James has two successful cousins in racing. Alex Davison is a Australian Carrera Cup champion and has finished in the top three in points of that championship three other times. Alex also has a win in Porsche Supercup at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. James' other cousin, Will Davison is a race winner in the V8 Supercars series and finished second in the V8 Supercar point standings in 2009. Will is current 3rd in this year's V8 Supercars point standings with two wins and Alex is fourteenth. Will Davison also defeated current IndyCar driver Will Power by fifty-six points to win the 2001 Australian Formula Ford championship.

The other driver making his first career start this weekend is Italian driver Luca Filippi. Filippi is driving in place of Alex Tagliani at Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport. Filippi has five career wins in GP2 including finishing second in the 2011 GP2 Championship standings to current Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean and finishing ahead of current Formula One drivers Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde, Esteban Gutiérrez and Max Chilton that season.

Filippi looks to join fellow Italians Alex Zanardi and Teo Fabi as a race winner at Mid-Ohio. Both Fabi and Zanardi won in their first career starts at Mid-Ohio in 1983 and 1996 respectively. Fabi won Porsche their only American open-wheel series race at the track in 1989 from pole position. Zanardi would go on to get a second win at Mid-Ohio in his championship season of 1997. Another famous Italian made their IndyCar debut at Mid-Ohio. Max Papis debuted at Mid-Ohio in 1996. He started nineteenth and finished twenty-fourth, retiring after forty laps due to an engine failure.

Birthday Race Winners
James Jakes could have a very special day on Sunday. Should he win, Jakes would be winning on his twenty-sixth birthday, joining the following drivers, (after hours of extensive research, made easier by to accomplish the feat of winning on their birthday:

Dario Resta: August 19, 1916. Turned thirty-four years old and won at Chicago's Speedway Park.
Joe Boyer: May 30, 1924. Turned thirty-five years old and won the Indianapolis 500, splitting the ride with L.L. Corum.
Lou Moore: September 12, 1931. Turned twenty-seven and won at Syracuse.
Tony Bettenhausen: September 12, 1953. Turned thirty-seven years old and won at Syracuse.
Al Unser: May 29, 1971. Turned thirty-two years old and won the Indianapolis 500.
Nigel Mansell: August 8, 1993. Turned forty years old and won at New Hampshire.
Sam Hornish, Jr.: July 2, 2006. Turned twenty-seven years old and won at Kansas Speedway.
Scott Dixon: July 22, 2007. Turned twenty-seven years old and won at Mid-Ohio.
Dan Wheldon: June 22, 2008. Turned thirty years old and won at Iowa.

Wednesday Testing
Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest in Wednesday's test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The defending IndyCar champion ran forty-nine laps, setting the fastest time of 1:05.6358. Simon Pagenaud was second with three Penske-owned Chevrolets of Will Power, Sébastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves behind the Frenchman. Scott Dixon was sixth with James Hinchcliffe seventh. Justin Wilson was eighth fastest on his thirty-fifth birthday with Marco Andretti and Charlie Kimball rounding out the top ten.

James Jakes was eleventh, just ahead of Oriol Servià who returns to IndyCar for the first time since finishing seventh at Iowa. He will drive in place of the injured Ryan Briscoe. Tony Kanaan was thirteenth with Takuma Sato and EJ Viso rounding out the top fifteen. Simona de Silvestro was sixteenth ahead of fellow Chevrolet driver Sebastián Saavedra. Luca Filippi was eighteenth in his first time in an IndyCar, completing fifty-six laps. Tristan Vautier was nineteenth ahead of Josef Newgarden and James Davison. Dario Franchitti, Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal rounded out the time sheet. Rahal completed a test-low three laps with Charlie Kimball completing the most laps at seventy-one.

Full House of Open-Wheel
IndyCar will be joined by the other three Mazda Road to Indy series this weekend at Mid-Ohio. Carlos Muñoz heads to Mid-Ohio as the Indy Lights points leader, eight ahead of Sage Karam. Gabby Chaves is third in points with most recent winner Jack Hawksworth fourth and Peter Dempsey fifth. The Indy Lights grid will have a double-digit car count this weekend as the regular eight car grid will be joined by Matthew Di Leo, who returns to Indy Lights for his third round of the season and by debutants Venezuelan Giancarlo Serenelli driving for Belardi Auto Racing and Zimbabwean Axcil Jefferies driving for Jeffery Marks Motorsports/Bryan Herta Autosport.

Pro Mazda returns after a week off. They last raced at Mosport with the American Le Mans Series where Matthew Brabham saw his seven race winning streak snapped by Spencer Pigot in race one and Shelby Blackstock taking his first career win in race two. Brabham still leads the points standings by fifty-one points over Diego Ferreira with Blackstock, Pigot and Scott Anderson rounding out the top five. There are six races remaining. Pro Mazda will run two races at Mid-Ohio, followed by two races at Trois-Rivières the August 10th and 11th and two races at the Grand Prix of Houston in October.

U.S. F2000 will compete a triple-header this weekend with two races Saturday and one Sunday. Canadian Scott Hargrove leads the points by thirty-seven over Brazilian Danilo Estrela who took race two at Toronto. American Neil Alberico is third in points, fifty-six back. Frenchman Florian Latorre is fourth in points ahead of Canadian Garrett Grist, American Wyatt Gooden, Canadians Jesse Lazare and Stefan Rzadzinski, Norwegian Henrik Furuseth and American Peter Portante. After the triple-header, U.S. F2000 will run two races at Laguna Seca in September during the Rolex Sports Car Series race weekend and two at the Grand Prix of Houston in October.

I think we all can agree Scott Dixon is going to win this weekend. Ryan Hunter-Reay will turn his results around after the poor weekend in Toronto. Helio Castroneves will finish outside the top ten, giving Dixon the points lead heading to Sonoma. James Jakes will get a top ten on his birthday and Luca Filippi will get a top ten on debut. Graham Rahal's struggles will continue. Sébastien Bourdais will continue his good run this season and get a top ten. Will Power will have a good day, if he was driving for anyone but Penske and many will still be wondering how he's yet to win a race in 2013. James Davison will finish every lap on debut. Sleepers: Charlie Kimball and Takuma Sato.