LEXINGTON, Ohio (July 31, 2015) – Scott Dixon, who has won five of the past eight Verizon IndyCar Series races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, recorded the quickest lap through two practice sessions for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Dixon’s lap of 1 minute, 5.9645 seconds on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in the 75-minute afternoon session was six-tenths of a second off the track qualifying record set by Dario Franchitti in 1999 and matched by Gil de Ferran in 2000.
“We went through a few different setup changes just to try to find our groove, but overall the car was pretty quick,” said Dixon, who is driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “We’ll hopefully carry some speed into (qualifying) and try to start up front.”
Sebastien Bourdais, the pole sitter for the 2014 race at Mid-Ohio, was quickest in the late-morning practice (1:06.2034) and second in the afternoon (1:06.0190) in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet.
Five different teams were represented in the top five of the lap time chart, and the top 20 cars were separated by less than a second in afternoon practice.
Three rounds of knockout qualifying will be held at 3 p.m. ET Aug. 1 (NBCSN). The green flag for the 90-lap race flies at 2:05 p.m. ET Aug. 2 (CNBC).
Dixon is third in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings entering Round 14 of 16. Front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya of Team Penske has a 42-point advantage over Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dixon is 48 points out of first.
Reigning series champion Will Power, who is fifth in the standings, was third quick in the second practice (1:06.0781) in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Rahal (1:06.1049) was fourth in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda. Takuma Sato, who this weekend will mark his 100th Indy car start, was fifth (1:06.1361) in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda for AJ Foyt Racing.
Montoya, who was limited to 12 laps in the morning practice because of an alternator issue, had a best lap of 1:06.9930 among 21 laps in the afternoon for 22nd on the combined time chart.
LED Panels Make Verizon IndyCar Series Debut
The light-emitting diode (LED) panels displaying a car’s real-time running position on track made their Verizon IndyCar Series debut in today’s practice sessions. They were an immediate hit with fans and an accepted addition with crews for the good of the sport.
The LED panels are attached to both sides of the cars’ airbox, below the camera mount and roll hoop. The current running position of each car is displayed in red numbers and updated multiple times each lap as cars cross the many timing lines embedded in every series track. A running clock will time a car’s pit stop in green lights on the panel and a flashing green “PP” will indicate when a driver activates the push-to-pass button on the car at road- and street-course events.
Fan reaction was typified by Lance Fulks, a Mid-Ohio race attendee for a dozen years stationed at his normal spot along the fence in the last turn of the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“I think it’s a really nice addition,” said Fulks, from Coshocton, Ohio. “Year after year, watching, it was hard to tell who’s leading the race, what position (a car is running) because you can’t see much of the track from any one position. You don’t see the passes, that type of thing, so it’s really nice to have (the LED panels). Even with all the sunlight, it’s easy to see them.”
Michael Cannon, race strategist for Tristan Vautier in the Dale Coyne Racing No. 19 Honda, looked at it – typically – as an engineer.
“For the show, I think it’s beneficial,” Cannon said. “From a team perspective, we just look at it being more weight on the car and go, ‘Oh, great, just what we needed.’
“You get some places like Indy – 500 miles, people on different strategies, etc. – sometimes it gets a little tricky for people to keep track,” Cannon added. “I know I’ve sat in the grandstands during the Indy 500 and even I have a hard time following it sometimes. I’m a believer in it.”
Honda Drivers Make a Nice ‘Fit’ in HPD Car
When all 6 feet, 3 1/2 inches of Andretti Autosport driver Justin Wilson arrived at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, cramming into a race-modified Honda Fit with his fellow competitors wasn’t exactly what he had in mind for a birthday celebration.
Wilson, who turned 37 today, and 10 other Verizon IndyCar Series Honda drivers squirmed their way into Honda Performance Development’s SEMA automotive specialty products trade show display car, outfitted to compete in the upcoming Pirelli World Challenge TCB class race later in August.
“We all got pretty cozy in there,” Wilson said. “I’m glad I had my seat and not where Jack Hawksworth was sitting because he was basically underneath me and I was on his head. I was on top, sat on the wall hoop, so he was underneath the wall hoop and he had a pretty tight squeeze in there.
“I just wanted to get somewhere where no one could sit on top of me. That was my strategy.”
Rahal’s Helmet Displays His Buckeye Love
An ardent fan of Ohio State University athletic programs, Graham Rahal will show his support for the Buckeyes on the racetrack this weekend. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, who enters the 90-lap race second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, requested Polen Designs to create an Ohio State football-themed helmet design. It features Rahal’s car number 15 and 18 buckeye leaves on the rear — representing his podium finishes in Indy car competition.
Rahal, a native of New Albany, Ohio, also has special scarlet and gray driving gloves to complete the ensemble honoring the reigning national collegiate football champions.
“I had this concept that, with Ohio State having won the national championship and us being in the championship battle here, it would be fun to come home and do something I haven’t done before,” said Rahal.
Rahal formally unveiled the special helmet during a “meet and eat” fan event July 30 at the Steak ‘n Shake at Easton Town Center in Columbus. Steak ‘n Shake is the primary sponsor this weekend of the No. 15 Honda and will donate $1 from every Graham Rahal milkshake (chocolate ice cream mixed with M&Ms) sold in Ohio in August to the Graham Rahal Foundation to benefit FightSMA (spinal muscular atrophy) and support research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
Honda Closer to Finalizing Contract Extension with INDYCAR
Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr said a contract extension with INDYCAR to supply engines and aerodynamic bodywork packages to the Verizon IndyCar Series past 2015 is close to being finalized.
“Back when we started this, we had a lot of discussion about some of the technical issues and the technical vision moving forward,” said St. Cyr. “I’m happy to say that we have a written resolution on a lot of those technical issues. Some of them, we have verbal agreement. There’s still one or two issues that we’re still trying to work through.
“Like any company, we want to make sure that we have all of the Is dotted and Ts crossed before we move forward. But our intent and our wish is to resolve those issues obviously before the end of this season so we can move forward with an extension.”
HONDA INDY 200 PRACTICE QUOTES:
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “It’s a very cool track. First time I have been to Mid-Ohio and haven’t done any simulation so it’s all totally new. The track was very dirty to start off with this morning and it was very complicated and hard conditions so I had to adapt a lot to the car and try to get used to the track at the same time. We are going faster and faster and getting closer and closer to the top all the time, so that’s good and we will try and improve some more for tomorrow.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “This morning we just went out and tried to get comfortable with the track really. I talked to Dixon and my teammates a lot after the first session. We didn’t run an extra set of tires like the others did in the first session so we felt good about the afternoon practice. The second session was a bit of a struggle for us so we need to work hard tonight to figure out what we need to do to move up the speed charts.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Obviously a good start today for the Target team in P1. I don’t know what it is about this track, but I like to drive this circuit and it seems to suit my style. When the car is loose it’s at its best for me and the more laps you put in here the faster it goes. The team has had a tremendous amount of success here over the years and I hope we can continue the momentum tomorrow for qualifying.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Mid-Ohio is just a really tough track and you have to get so many things right all at the same time. We struggled in the first session and I had a small spin that took away some track time, but we made some changes between practices that helped us out. We got caught out in a lot of traffic during the second session and we weren’t able to put up the lap times we should’ve had early on. The car is good and you could see how fast it was at the end of the second session when we put on new tires and I had some open track in front of me.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “A very good day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team, first and second in both practices. It is the same old Mid-Ohio, just massive improvement in lap times throughout the sessions. It is always very tricky at the beginning of the session, but the Hydroxycut machine seems to be strong whether it’s early, late, new tires, old tires. We just have to find a little bit of front grip. One thing that has developed for us this year is we never seem to have issues making the car work on the black (primary tires), but we have a problem on the red (alternate) tires. If the Firestone reds behave for us tomorrow, I think we will have a shot at the pole.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “Today was good. The Steak ‘n Shake car is a bit of a handful for sure but if we can be as close as we are with it like it is I feel good about where we can be, going forward. We’ve just got to keep working hard, keep our heads down and we’ll be just fine. For sure we have a little bit of work to do tonight, but being the top Honda in fourth feels good but I want to be P1. This is the home race and there are only three races to go so I want to be up there.”
RODOLFO GONZALEZ (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The morning session was pretty good. I had to learn the track quickly and shake off the rust a bit. We seemed to be making some good progress for the second session but something strange happened and I lost lap time to myself compared to the morning. I think we had an issue with a damper. It seemed to lose compression or something and it hurt our whole afternoon practice. We will get it worked out and be ready for tomorrow.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I had a pretty good pace today, but it is so tight. The little things make a big difference. If we fix a few things in a few areas, I think we will be really quick. It is so hard if all those little details aren’t perfect, you are halfway down the field. That second session was a bit bumpy, I think it is safe to say. Overall, it was a good day and we will do some work for tomorrow.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Our times were not as great as expected, but as we know Mid-Ohio is very close in terms of lap times. I made a couple of mistakes and because of that we weren’t able to capitalize on our new tires at the right time. However today was productive and will help us get ready for tomorrow. We are very consistent. Now we need a little bit better performance for qualifying. Tomorrow will be very tight and we will have to do everything right, as well as having the right amount of luck.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Tough session – we weren’t as quick as we’d like, but we’re trying lots of different things. Hopefully we can put it all together and be quick tomorrow. Lot of data to go over tonight, a lot of work to do, but hopefully we’ll be there.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “In today’s second session we tried a few things, but I don’t think it worked out for us; we have to go back to see what works best. Today is just practice. Everyone is really close to each other (in times), and tomorrow we have to be perfect to be in the top 10. We still have one more practice to get it right before qualifying.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I’d say this is the closest we’ve rolled off (the trucks) pretty much anywhere this year. Normally we’ve had to reinvent the wheel, but I think we’re a few tenths (of a second) off of being really good. We think we have a direction, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll be even closer.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It’s been a bit of a struggle today trying to get the exact balance that we know we can have here and that we’ve had in years past. We have such a high bar to set from the cars we’ve had here where we’ve qualified on pole, we finished on the podium with. We still have quite a bit of work to do to get it sorted. We finished 10th at the end of the day in practice, and hopefully we can better that tomorrow. Ultimately Sunday is the big payday, so we’ve got a short amount of time to get it right but we still have a chance.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a decent day. It was productive. We got through a lot of items on our list. I was happy we had a clean day. We have good ideas between the No. 67 and the No. 20 cars. It’s good that we have overnight to work on things and we’ll make sure to capitalize tomorrow and do well in qualifying.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLeg FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We covered a lot of things today in both practices. I think we found some stuff that worked and some stuff that would take us in the wrong direction. We’ll put it all together and make the car better overnight. I think on older tires we’re really competitive, but we’re still just searching for good lap times on newer tires. We’ll figure it out and we’ll be better tomorrow.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “I think we had a decent day in the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins car. I think we are finding our way here. We finished the day, but we didn’t end up where we could have. We had a lot of traffic out there, but we’re making improvements with the car and I feel more comfortable every time I’m out there as well. Hopefully when it all counts, we’ll have it all together.”