IndyCar setup sheet: Mid-Ohio

IndyCar setup sheet: Mid-Ohio
IndyCar setup sheet: Mid-Ohio

What: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio / Race 9 of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series

Where: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Ohio – natural-terrain road course

When: Sunday, July 2, 1:30pm ET (green flag 1:53pm ET)

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which hosts Sunday’s Honda Indy 200, provides a thorough workout for the drivers and cars of the NTT IndyCar Series, with several turns that rely heavily on showing the kind of commitment that only comes from huge amounts of bravery and intricate track knowledge. 

Turn 1, for instance, requires absolute precision on turn-in. Come from too wide on the front-straight slice toward the apex, and your right-hand wheels will pick up enough track dust that you skitter wide on exit, find more dust, lose momentum and find yourself a sitting duck for your closest pursuer on the long run down to Turn 2. Turn in too early and clip the inside curb, and the car will again be nudged out wide on exit, possibly sending you out beyond the exit curbs. 

Retaining maximum velocity through the dip then climb toward the second-gear hairpin of Turn 2 — also known as the Keyhole — is crucial because it’s a heavy braking zone, and there are a variety of lines one can take through there. The asphalt at the apex isn’t always in the rudest of health, and because the Firestone rubber has barely recovered from the longitudinal forces under braking, it can be a real tire shredder when it’s forced to deal with the lateral loads of a hairpin. 

If you try and pass the car ahead on the outside, they’re going to leave you in the boonies for as long as possible before turning in, and even then they can run you out of road at the exit. If you dive down the inside, they can pinch you tight to the entry curb, costing you speed…and there’s a very long straight (incorporating the slight kink of Turn 3) that follows immediately afterward.

That second straight is where the race starts (below), and it’s ample for 27 Indy cars — although you wouldn’t guess that when you see the pack brake, change down to second gear, condense, compress and run three-wide into right-hand, 100-degree Turn 4. Oftentimes, some unfortunate souls fall off the edge, right and left.

As IndyCar has proven in recent years, it’s possible to then run two-wide through the uphill left-hand switchback of Turn 5, and downhill right-hand Turn 6 — which you have to get right or the blind turn-in for Turn 7 will be wrong. It’s a similar tale at Turn 8: get it right or it will leave you all wrong for the blind turn-in for Turn 9, where the car goes light and your momentum tries to drag you left and into the dirt. Then it’s the high-speed kink of Turn 10, climbing to the high-commitment, left-hand Turn 11, which will determine if you have it right into the long, neck-pulling right-hand Carousel, Turn 12, from which you can duck into the pitlane or commit to the dash downhill and hard left onto the pit straight.

In short, Mid-Ohio packs a lot into its 13-turn, 2.258-mile course, and the grandstand seating and grass banks offer thrilling viewing spots, whether you want to see Indy cars at maximum velocity, or braking hard and making passes.

Last year at Mid-Ohio, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet looked the most likely winners after qualifying, with Pato O’Ward on pole and Felix Rosenqvist lining up fourth. But both would suffer mechanical failures — Rosenqvist’s early and sudden while running third; O’Ward’s gradually debilitating — which left the door open for front-row starter Scott McLaughlin to claim his second win of the year for Team Penske (below).

The Kiwi was chased home by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who’d raced his way from seventh on the grid. But the biggest climber was Will Power. He and the No. 12 Penske had looked the fastest combination until qualifying, when he was docked his two fastest laps for inadvertently blocking his former teammate Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing-Honda. That consigned Power to 21st on the grid, and he compounded his issue by spinning to the back of the field on the opening lap after backing out of a maneuver he realized was overambitious. From the very back of the field, he climbed all the way to third, giving the lie to those who claim it’s too hard to pass at Mid-Ohio… 

You can follow all the practice and qualifying action on Peacock on Friday, June 30, and Saturday, July 1, and the warmup on the morning of Sunday, July 2. Then the 80-lap/180.64-mile race will be carried on the USA Network and streamed on Peacock. And to get even closer to it all, grab the best seat in the house with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA and its 14 race day live onboard cameras.   

TUNE IN

Friday, June 30 / 3:05pm – 4:20pm ET – Practice 1 – Peacock

Saturday, July 1 / 9:45am – 10:45am ET – Practice 2 – Peacock

Saturday, July 1 / 2:45pm – 4:15pm ET – Qualifying – Peacock

Sunday, July 2 / 10:30am – 11:00am ET – Warmup – Peacock

Sunday, July 2 / 1:30pm – 4:00pm ET – RACE – USA Network, Peacock

* All sessions and the race are also available as audio commentary on SiriusXM and INDYCAR Radio.  

Ride along with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA

Taking you inside the action, 14 drivers will be carrying in-car cameras in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. During the race, you can live-stream every one of them with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA. You choose who you ride along with, and you can switch drivers at any time. The App’s free to download for fans worldwide and you can find out more HERE. If you’re not already onboard, take your viewing experience to a whole new level HERE.

Bringing you the onboard action from Mid-Ohio are…

Scott McLaughlin / No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet
The defending Mid-Ohio race winner seems able to dig deep and shine on any road course, matching the pace of his Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden. McLaughlin’s triumph at Barber Motorsports Park this season — the track which most closely resembles Mid-Ohio — is another indicator that he’ll be a threat in the Buckeye State. Generally wise in attack, solid in defense, he’s the complete driver. And he started on the front row here last year. You wouldn’t bet against him.

Pato O’Ward / No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Knocked sideways at Turn 3 at Road America, O’Ward lost some hard-earned spots from his front row grid slot, and then some more as punishment for blocking on the run down to Turn 5. Yet despite this, and a malfunctioning weight jacker, he pressed on to finish an impressive third, ahead of Scott Dixon. At Mid-Ohio, O’Ward (below, in 2022) is always spectacular to ride onboard with, such is the swiftness with which he reacts when the car goes light and sideways over the crests, and his pole position last year was impressive. Keeping the tires alive is a bigger ask — for everyone — but Arrow McLaren appears to be on top of that in 2023. 

Josef Newgarden / No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet
Mid-Ohio is a track that Newgarden’s conquered twice, in 2017 and ’21, the latter from pole position. So while we’ve yet to see Team Penske enjoy an outright speed advantage at any tracks this year, in the way that we saw occasionally in ’21 and ’22, you can expect the two-time IndyCar champ and newly crowned Indy 500 winner to make the most of what he’s got on any given race day. It’s never a surprise to see Newgarden in victory lane, so watch for fireworks this weekend.

Colton Herta / No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda 

Herta would have made a worthy winner of the last NTT IndyCar Series round at Road America, but the pole winner made his final stop a lap earlier than his fastest pursuers, obliging him to make judicious use of his fuel in the final stint and leaving him defenseless in the closing stages as he fell to fifth. Still, he can take heart from the knowledge that Andretti Autosport has retained its road course pace, and from the fact that he won here at Mid-Ohio in 2020. 

Romain Grosjean / No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

For a driver who’s scored two second-place finishes and twice started from pole this year, Grosjean’s Road America performance was a messy one, producing his third-straight result outside the top 20. However, having dropped to 13th in the championship, the former Formula 1 ace has nothing to lose now. Combine that attitude with his talent and a dexterous Andretti Autosport car, and he could very well be in the thick of the fight this weekend.

Alexander Rossi / No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Rossi continues to build momentum with Arrow McLaren, and topped two practice sessions at Road America. He shines on natural-terrain road courses, and took a superb win from pole position at Mid-Ohio back in 2018 and second place in 2020. What he needs to show now are a few weekends of supremacy over teammate Pato O’Ward — no easy matter, especially at this track. But Rossi is resilient as well as quick and it would be no surprise to see him scoop the team’s first win of the season.

Felix Rosenqvist / No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Rosenqvist’s Scandinavian politeness and civility were stretched to their limits at Mid-Ohio last year, when an unexpected engine failure put him out while running third — the leading driver on the harder compound Firestones, yet able to keep up with the alternate compound cars. Tactically, it had looked like the Swede was going to see his luck turn around. As it is, he still seeks his second IndyCar career win, but if Arrow McLaren finds its Mid-Ohio sweet spot, so can he.

Kyle Kirkwood / No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

However strong we expect Herta and Grosjean will be this weekend, it’s entirely plauisble that neither of them will be Andretti Autosport’s pacesetter. In the ladder series, Kirkwood owned Mid-Ohio — three wins in USF2000, two in Indy Pro 2000, and three in Indy Lights (now Indy NXT). After a Lap 1/Turn 1 faux pas at Road America and after seeing himself slip to 10th in points, there could be no better time for the Long Beach winner to reboot his season.

Helio Castroneves / No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda

The four-time Indy 500 winner has a strong record at Mid-Ohio, having won in 2001 and ’02, and taken pole in ’07 and ’08. Even in IMSA sports cars, Castroneves’ affinity for the place shone through with victories in 2018 and ’20, while last year he enjoyed one of his best IndyCar races of the season with an eighth place. With both Meyer Shank Racing entries on the fringes of the top 20 in points, this isn’t a stellar year for the Ohio-based squad, but there could be no better place to turn things around.

Graham Rahal / No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

If New Albany, Ohio-born Rahal feels pressure at his home race, he hides it well, making himself available to the public, soaking up the atmosphere, and rarely making mistakes on track. He won here in 2015, on his way to fifth in the championship, but such results must seem an eternity ago right now, to all at a struggling RLL. But Graham has taken it upon himself to help rally the troops and, with the right calls on Sunday, could pull off a home-state surprise.

Christian Lundgaard / No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

You definitely get the impression that Lundgaard’s first IndyCar win is most likely to come at a road course. This year he’s qualified and finished sixth at Barber, took pole and finished fourth at the Indy Grand Prix — on a track where he scored his first podium in 2022 — and two weeks ago qualified and finished seventh at Road America. RLL is not totally out of the woods yet, but isn’t way off the pace on road courses, either. If it homes in on a decent setup this weekend, Lundgaard could just score himself another podium.

Ryan Hunter-Reay / No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet 

The 2012 champ and 2014 Indy 500 winner endured a tough return to IndyCar road racing at Road America after a 20-month absence, spinning into a gravel trap during qualifying and therefore having to fight from the back row. He did this, finishing 17th on his ECR debut. Now Hunter-Reay (below) returns to a track at which he has a pole position and several podium finishes, but where he’s still seeking his first win. A top-10 at Mid-Ohio would be stout enough, but if he can help guide ECR into the top five, he should consider it some kind of victory. 

Callum Ilott / No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

The former Formula 2 ace has endured a tough season since starting with a fifth-place result in St. Petersburg and ninth at Texas Motor Speedway. Considering he regards qualifying as something of a specialty, an average grid position of 20th suggests the innate pace of the car needs improving or better tailoring to his preferences. In a field as competitive as IndyCar, starting on the 10th row leaves you with way too much work to do, especially if the race doesn’t deliver a bunch of caution periods. 

Jack Harvey / No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Much of what is said of Ilott can be applied to fellow Brit Harvey, too, although for him the situation is compounded by an average finish of 19.75 in 2023. RLL is seeking consistency rather than occasional bouts of competitiveness, and so is Harvey, a two-time runner-up in the Indy Lights category. Just one strong weekend, one where he outraces his teammates, would be a huge confidence booster.

The INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA is free to download and access, so don’t miss out – CLICK HERE to get started.


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