Malukas leads warm-up, next race

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is ready for a 4th of July weekend celebration like no other: Races at the iconic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

These athletes are in reserve for a tough day on the track. The 2,258-mile, 13-turn road course demands the best of those who dare to take a turn on this roller coaster of a circuit. The hilly course with fast and flowing corners, tight corners, a 40ft racing tape and a challenging pit lane entry will make for a challenging 80 laps around this circuit. But if anyone can handle that record, it’s these NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes.

To the challenges of Mid-Ohio will be added the weather. Although the forecast appears relatively free of rain, it is expected to be warm in Lexington, Ohio. The weather forecast predicts it will be 80 degrees by the time the green flag drops and 82 degrees by the time the checkered flag drops.

But don’t forget that Midwestern humidity, which should be around 40% throughout the race. Already over the weekend, two-time Mid-Ohio winner Josef Newgarden said Friday’s practice was among the hottest temperatures he’s ever experienced in a race car.

It will be exciting to watch, and you can catch the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R at 12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES action comes after Indy Lights debuts presented by Cooper Tires for Indy Lights in Mid-Ohio at 10:35 a.m. ET, live on Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network.

You can listen to live broadcasts on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, and the INDYCAR app powered by NTT DATA.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for today’s action:

To win, you must start upstream

In 38 INDYCAR SERIES races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the winner has only started outside the top 10 twice. Scott Dixon did it in 2014 from the 22nd starting position and Graham Rahal won at from 13th place in 2015.

Moreover, only five other times in history has the winner of the race started outside the top five: Emerson Fittipaldi: sixth (1988), Al Unser Jr.: eighth (1995), Juan Pablo Montoya: eighth (1995). 1999), Dixon: sixth (2007) and eighth (2019).

In addition, 15 drivers have won at Mid-Ohio from pole position: Mario Andretti (1984), Bobby Rahal (1985), Roberto Guerrero (1987), Teo Fabi (1989), Michael Andretti (1990, 1991), Unser Jr (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Patrick Carpentier (2002), Paul Tracy (2003), Dixon (2011), Simon Pagenaud (2016), Alexander Rossi (2018), Will Power (2020-Race 1), Colton Herta (2020-Race 2) and Josef Newgarden (2021).

Have you noticed that the last three and five of the last seven NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Mid-Ohio have been won from pole?

What we’re trying to say is that qualifying at Mid-Ohio is extremely important. If the drivers want to win, they have to start in front. Certainly, Pato O’Ward, winner of the NTT P1 Award, likes his chances of taking his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory of the year.

But, if you like weird stats, consider starting sixth Simon Pagenaud and starting eighth David Malukas for your Fantasy Challenge Driven by Firestone team. Malukas continued his excellent weekend by setting the fastest lap in Sunday morning’s warm-up session.

It’s a tricky start

The start line for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio featured by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R is not the traditional start/finish line before Turn 1.

Instead, the race will start out of Turn 2, also known as The Keyhole. This allows riders to start on the longest straight of the course rather than the shorter straight where the finish line is. The complex of Turn 12-13 just before the finish line makes it too difficult to double up in speed safely.

This line just after Turn 3 always makes for an intriguing start as the peloton heads into Turn 4. We saw in last year’s race how dangerous it can be when Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist collided in Turn 4 at the start.

This came after a battle for the front row in the 2020 Race 2 doubleheader when pole sitter Colton Herta and second place starter Santino Ferrucci entered the corner side by side. Ferrucci leaves his trajectory and recovers Alex Palou and Rosenqvist when he returns to the track.

But keep in mind that on the restart the race will resume at the traditional start/finish line at the exit of Turn 13, meaning drivers will have to navigate this intricate complex of Turns 12-13 to upgrade while keeping challengers in their tire tracks at bay.

Two stops or three?

That’s the question drivers and teams are asking themselves this morning as they prepare for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R.

This year’s race in an 80-lap event, which is a change from many years ago. Historically, the Mid-Ohio race has been either 85 or 90 laps, but as of 2021 the race has been changed to an 80 lap spectacle. This forces teams to play their strategy differently and decide if they want to run a two-stop or three-stop strategy.

If teams go for a three-stop race, you might see them hitting pit road between laps 20 and 25. However, if teams go for a two-stop race, they’ll have to hold on longer, waiting until the 30th lap before stopping for new Firestone tires and Speedway fuel.

Last year, a two-stop strategy was the winning call for two-time NTTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden, who pitted on rounds 30 and 53. The top 10 all used a two-stop strategy.

Firestone supplies more than 1,500 tires for their home race (Bridgestone America’s new Advance Tire Production Center, a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, is located just 75 miles down the road in Akron, Ohio). Teams have six sets of primary tires (black), four sets of alternate tires (red) and five sets of rain tires (grey).

Firestone brought a new primary and alternate tire compound to Mid-Ohio compared to years past. This new tire is designed to deliver better consistency from lap to lap.

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