LEXINGTON, OH – There are plenty of storylines to watch for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 (4 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network). But, one major one is can we see another pole sitter win?
So far this season, we’ve had four pole winners reach victory lane. At Mid-Ohio two of the last three race winners started from the pole too.
That’s good news for Will Power who earned his third pole of the season on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Power, has won 16 times from the pole which is tied with Bobby Unser for fourth most in the series – ever.
For whatever reason, while the competition is as close as its ever been in Indy Car, we’ve seen some downright blow outs this year. The last time Power started on the pole, he led the first 45 laps in COTA only to see an issue on his final pit stop. If that untimely caution never comes out, Power likely leads flag-to-flag that day. But, Colton Herta was the only other driver to lead and he led the final 15 laps en route to his first career Indy Car win.
The third race of the season in Barber, Takuma Sato led 74 of 90 laps en route to a win.
The fourth race in Long Beach, Alexander Rossi led 80 of 85 laps in his win by 20.2395-seconds.
The sixth race in the Indy 500, Simon Pagenaud led 116 of 200 laps in his victory.
In Belle Isle 1, Josef Newgarden led 25 of 43 laps in his win. Rossi, was the only other driver to lead and he finished second.
In Road America, Rossi led 54 of 55 laps en route to a dominating win by 28.4391-seconds.
At Toronto, Pagenaud led 80 of 85 laps in his victory.
Last weekend in Iowa, Newgarden led 245 of 300 laps in his fourth win of the season.
See a theme? That’s eight of 12 races run that we’ve seen one driver dominate. Last year, Rossi led 66 of 90 laps in his win at Mid-Ohio. Will we see that happen again on Sunday?
Part of the reason for this is track position. These drivers are just so good nowadays and with few cautions flying, track position to key. They’re qualifying up front and the drivers on track are so talented, they’re just not making the mistakes we used to see to give up leads. The pit crews are so good they’re not having slow stops anymore. The strategists are so good, they’re not making wrong pit strategies anymore either.
Combined, all of that leads to four pole winners reaching victory lane this season, all in dominating fashion with seven winners coming from the front row and nine from the first 2 Rows. The furthest back someone has won from in 2019 was eighth in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
That’s also good news for Rossi too. He starts second in his No. 27 Honda. In Road America, he started second that day. In 2017, the race winner at Mid-Ohio started second too. But, can Rossi hold off the Penske’s.
Three of the top four starters on Sunday are all from Team Penske. The only driver not?
“I think our car is really good,” said Rossi. “I think it’s probably the strongest car on the primary tire, which is obviously good for tomorrow. We’ll have to go out and try and get the lead early and see what we can do from there.”