(image credit: Morgan Rhodes)
Mid-Ohio is a track that has had some standout performances from a handful of drivers in the past, which can help narrow down the best picks to make for your IndyCar Fantasy Challenge team. Barber Motorsports Park has a lot of similarities to Mid-Ohio, as both are close to 2.3 miles in length, and feature several flowing turns and varied terrain. I’ll consider the results from this year’s race at Barber in my picks, in addition to the results at the past three races at Mid-Ohio in the Stats Helper table:
Chevrolet vs. Honda
Chevy and Honda have been pretty even over the past few years at Mid-Ohio, with Honda winning in 2013 and 2015, and Chevy winning in 2016 and 2014. Chevys took the top two spots last year, but Hondas finished third through sixth. At the comparable track of Barber this year, Chevys had the edge, taking three of the top four spots and Will Power leading the most laps by far. Perhaps Chevy will have a slight edge again, but this year, Honda has Mid-Ohio master Scott Dixon on their side.
Top Tier Picks (>$27):
The most dominant active driver at Mid-Ohio by far has been Scott Dixon. He has won here five times in his career, the last coming in 2014 when he came from starting dead last on the grid to lead the most laps and win by over five seconds. His average finish on the Stats Helper table is brought down by last year, when he finished last due to a broken suspension after early contact with Helio. That was the only time he failed to finish in the top ten at this track. Factor in his second place finish as Barber this year, and he’s a no-brainer as a top tier pick.
Simon Pagenaud is the defending winner of this race, and this has been a track that he excels at throughout his career. He’s only finished outside the top ten once in his six career races here, and that was in his second IndyCar race in 2011. He’s finished on the podium four times. Consistency has been his strength this year, grabbing nine top five finishes (including a third place finish at Barber), and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t pick up a tenth at this race.
Mid Tier Picks (<$27 and >$20):
Graham Rahal is the best in the non-Penske/Dixon class. He has the best average finish of active drivers at Mid-Ohio over the past three years. He’s been on quite a good run of late, finishing in the top ten in every race after the Indy 500. I expect that he’ll keep that top ten streak alive this weekend at his home track, with a very good shot a a podium finish.
James Hinchliffe has had good results at Mid-Ohio through his career. He was fifth here last year, and third in 2014. His only finish outside the top ten was in his rookie season of 2011. Rahal is probably the better pick as both are priced at $27, but Hinch is a good pick for a solid result.
Low Budget Picks (<$20):
In three races at Mid-Ohio, Carlos Munoz has finished in the top ten in each of them, with two of those finishes in the top five. That’s pretty impressive for a low budget pick. The question is whether A.J. Foyt Racing will give him a car that is capable of a top ten finish. I believe the answer to that is yes, since an A.J. Foyt car has finished in the top ten at the past two Mid-Ohio races. He’s a risky pick and he’s a very long shot podium, but that’s why he’s only priced at $16.
Spencer Pigot has shown flashes of brilliance this year, but has had terrible luck. That could turn around for him at Mid-Ohio. It was the site of his best career IndyCar finish to date, a seventh place result last year. Driving for Juncos in Indy Lights, he finished third here in 2015. Ed Carpenter Racing has shown good pace here in the past with Josef Newgarden, but had his race spoiled by contact in 2016 and 2015 and by a penalty for a pit infraction in 2014. Priced at just $15, Pigot could top his best career finish this weekend.
Drivers to Avoid or Overpriced:
Helio Castroneves is priced at $30 this week, equal to Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden, but his results at Mid-Ohio in the past have been well below what those two have done. He has won here twice, but those wins were a long time ago – in 2000 and 2001. Since 2011, his best finish was sixth in 2013. Helio often qualifies great but fades to a mediocre finish, but at Mid-Ohio, he hasn’t even qualified very well. The last time I put Helio in the Avoid category (Iowa), he won the race, but I wouldn’t put $30 down that he’ll do that again.
None of the current Andretti Autosport drivers have crowned themselves with glory at Mid-Ohio, so my expectations for any of their drivers are pretty low. The team did have good results from drivers who are no longer with the team, as Munoz, Wilson, and Hinchcliffe have all been on the podium here in the past three years. But of the active Andretti drivers, their best finish during that time was a seventh by Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2015. I’ll choose Takuma Sato as my pick to avoid, as I doubt that his result will justify his $24 price tag.
Looking at the forecast from Racecast Weather, weather conditions should be perfect for racing on Sunday and for qualifying on Saturday. Mid-Ohio typically has very few caution periods. In last year’s race and in 2014, there were two. 2015 had four, while 2013 and 2012 were run caution-free. There were two cautions at Barber this year. Around two caution periods is the most likely scenario, so the average speed should be fairly close to last year’s 110.853.