Over 30 years, Mid-Ohio has seen the best

By Dave Lewandowski

LEXINGTON, Ohio – There’s a framed photograph of his 2000 victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Helio Castroneves’ house.

“I see it every day; it was taken right over here,” Castroneves says, pointing to the cramped Victory Circle at the 2.258-mile road course.

A decade later, Castroneves will be seeking another victory at the facility (he also won in 2001 – both years getting past pole sitter Gil de Ferran) in the No. 3 Team Penske car. What’s it going to take?

“Hard work, a little bit of luck and a good strategy as we see that’s what seems to happen here, and I won two races here with a good strategy,” said Castroneves, who joined teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power on June 30 for a day of testing. “It’s a physically demanding track. It’s much more different than ovals. Ovals you have to be smooth and move just a tiny bit. Here you have to be more aggressive and bounce around.”

Over the course of 30 years of Indy car racing at Mid-Ohio, spectators have seen the best.

Four months after winning the 1980 Indianapolis 500, Johnny Rutherford won the inaugural Red Roof Inns 150 at Mid-Ohio in the No. 4 Chaparral. For Rutherford, who started fourth, it was his first road course victory. He also went on to earn the PPG Indy Car World Series Drivers’ Championship. Al Unser started from the pole, but ran into trouble on the first lap.

There’s a unique footnote to Indy car racing at Mid-Ohio: Races have been won consecutively six times, including four in a row from 1991-97. Multiple winners, aside from Castroneves, include Alex Zenardi, Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Mario Andretti, Teo Fabi and Scott Dixon.

In 1990 (Sept. 16 to be precise), Michael Andretti dominated the race from the pole with his father finishing second after starting eighth. It was the first of his two consecutive victories for the Newman/Haas Racing driver and three consecutive pole starts (Fittipaldi won the ’92 race) at the track. Mario won from the pole in ’84 and ’87.

In Indy Lights history at the track, VERSUS broadcaster Jon Beekhuis won the 1988 race; Paul Tracy, who won the Indy car race in 2003, won the 1990 race; Firestone Indy Lights team owner Bryan Herta won the 1993 race; and part-time IZOD IndyCar Series competitor Townsend Bell won the 2000 and ’01 races.

source http://www.indycar.com

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