Eric Mauk’s Mid-Ohio Notebook
Throwing caution to the wind
Overnight and morning rains, coupled with a narrow track surface and the ominous dark clouds floating over the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had teams expecting numerous cautions, so much so that a half-dozen drivers pitted within the first nine laps expecting the chance to make up ground under the yellow flags that were sure to come.
But no caution flags ever came as the race went the full 85-lap race distance. The swift track is considered one of the most physical on the circuit and to do it without the relative respite of a caution period had guys worn out at the end of the day.
“I have never been this tired at the end of an Indy Car race,” said fifth-place finisher James Hinchcliffe.
Simon Pagenaud seemed to have an answer as to why the series has had back-to-back caution-free races for the first time since 1987.
“The field is really strong, it’s so tight, everyone is at the top of their game,” Pagenaud said. “There’s not too many drivers that are out there making mistakes, so I thought if it didn’t rain, we might not have any yellows today.”
No passing fancy
In Saturday’s Firestone Fast Six press conference at the, nearly all of the six IZOD Indy Car drivers attended spoke glowingly about driving the race track, but none of them expected a great race today. Bemoaning the lack of passing zones and the narrow entries to what braking zones there were, the drivers were expecting a fairly processional event.
That went out the window on the first lap as drivers went two-by-two through the esses and were even three-wide on a couple of corners through the first two trips around the 2.25-mile course. And while there were no on-track passes for the lead, there were plenty of overtaking maneuvers behind them, including a great inside move by Tony Kanaan coming out of the keyhole where he passed three cars, including that of eventual podium finisher Simon Pagenaud.
“Tony came flying by me there when I was trying to get (Ryan) Briscoe,” Pagenaud marveled. “He does that all the time, he is the master of the restarts. That was a great move.”
Further failures for Franchitti after front-row start
Dario Franchitti said yesterday that he was happy to earn his sixth consecutive front-row starting spot, but that he needed to convert it into a good result.
Instead, Franchitti finished 17th on the day, marking the fifth finish of 14th or worse during his streak of front-row starts. Franchitti ran second up to the first round of pit stops, and was in the top five with 27 laps to go when he ran into James Hinchcliffe while trying to make a pass. The contact left him with a broken front wing, necessitating a nose change. Franchitti, who was sporting a blue and purple livery this weekend, went again all race-car fashion after the change as the replacement nose was Target red, which contrasted sharply with the light blue and purple on the #10.
Dragon Racing announced that it would go back to a two-car Indy Car entry at Sonoma, fielding a sister car for Katherine Legge. The British rookie had been running the oval while Sebastien Bourdais has carried the team on the road courses. The announcement came prior to the race, but today’s strong fourth-place result will give the team confidence heading to the road course in California’s Wine Country.
“Sonoma is our home track and we wanted to get back there with two cars,” said team owner Jay Penske. “The team has worked hard, Chevrolet has helped our program and we are excited to get Katherine back in the car.