Graham Rahal

The ninth round of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is today's The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid.

The developing story at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course involves Meyer Shank Racing's No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda, where the team has Conor Daly driving in place of Simon Pagenaud, who endured a wild ride in Saturday morning's practice. Pagenaud went off the track in Turn 4 and rolled nearly seven times through the gravel trap. He was not injured, but he will be re-evaluated in advance of the next race, the Honda Indy Toronto on July 14-16.

The car Daly is driving was the team's backup for this race, but it is also the car Helio Castroneves has used in the past two Indianapolis 500s, including 2021 when he won his record-tying fourth "500." Daly has eight Mid-Ohio starts in this series, leading 22 laps and finishing sixth as a rookie in 2016. As a replacement driver, he will start at the rear of the 27-car field.

Daly got his first laps in the car during this morning's 30-minute warmup session, and he posted the 12th-fastest lap. Perhaps most beneficial was that he got to try both tire compounds.

"It's tough to jump into this series," said Daly, who last raced a month ago in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. "Honestly, that's probably the best warmup I've had all season, so it felt pretty good. It's something that I enjoy, but there is so much more to unlock when you get into a new package like this. That's what the race is for. It's a long race, so we'll just work on it."

SEE: Final Practice Results

Colton Herta rolled to a second consecutive pole-winning performance to capture the NTT P1 Award, which came after an impressive lap of 1 minute, 6.3096 seconds around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain circuit.

Overall, it was a jaw-dropping qualifying outing by Honda, which swept the entire Firestone Fast Six led by Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda for Andretti Autosport. Starting alongside Herta on the front row is Graham Rahal (pictured above) in the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda, which is his highest start since early in the 2019 season when he matched the same qualifying position at Barber Motorsports Park. Rahal turned the fastest lap of this morning's practice amid damp conditions at 1:1:08.4255.

There's an interesting connection to Herta and Rahal starting together on the front row. In 1998, their fathers, Bryan Herta and Bobby Rahal, shared the front row as Team Rahal teammates for the Long Beach Grand Prix. That was 25 years ago.

Honda-powered cars will start in the first six positions for the first time since the knockout qualifying format was implemented for road courses and street circuits.

This morning's practice saw one red flag as Will Power slid into the Turn 4 gravel trap and had to have the car extricated.

Coverage for the 80-lap contest will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Monitoring the Weather

The weather is something to watch throughout the day. The return of thunderstorms has a 50 percent chance by 11 a.m. ET with a possibility of worsening into the afternoon.

INDYCAR has mandated the use of the rain vanes new for the 2023 season to increase driver visibility through the aeroscreen.

Through all of this, temperatures are expected to be around 75 degrees at the start of the race, with humidity hanging around a muggy 85 percent.

Ending Another Kind of Drought

If there is a theme for the weekend thus far, it’s that droughts will not be a thing. In addition to Rahal having his best start in four years, he is eager to end another overdue statistic and that’s getting a win.

Although Rahal is a six-time winner in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he hasn’t seen victory lane since June 4, 2017, as part of a in a weekend sweep in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader.

Rahal, an Ohio native, scored a home win in the 2015 edition at Mid-Ohio.

“If I can get another win at home, it would mean a hell of a lot to me,” Rahal said. “So that's my focus.”

A “Mr. Mid-Ohio” Mid-Season Surge

Scott Dixon has a record six wins (2007, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’14, ’19) at Mid-Ohio.

Perhaps now more than ever, this race has come at the opportune time as the New Zealander stands fifth in the championship standings, 98 points behind Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and leader Alex Palou (324-226).

A six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion, Dixon has built a reputation on being a closer by building momentum in the summer. In fact, 31 of his 53 career victories have come after July 1. So, this year’s bout certainly falls in that category and Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda will roll off sixth – the exact same position he started when he won at the track in 2007.

Pole, the Prime Spot

In 39 previous NTT INDYCAR SERIES events at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 15 have been won from the pole.

Herta is among that list, winning the second race of doubleheader in 2020. And he has a chance to join an exclusive club if he can duplicate that feat and join his team owner, Michael Andretti, the only driver to win twice from the pole at Mid-Ohio (1990, ’91).

Mario Andretti started it all with his performance in 1984, with Bobby Rahal doing the same the following year in 1985. The rest of the list features Roberto Guerrero (1987), Teo Fabi (1989), Al Unser Jr. (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Patrick Carpentier (2002), Paul Tracy (2003), Scott Dixon (2011), Simon Pagenaud (2016), Alexander Rossi (2018), Will Power (2020, Race 1), and Josef Newgarden (2021).

Along those lines, six of the past seven Mid-Ohio races have been won by drivers starting on the front row, which bodes well for Herta and Rahal.

Previous Winners

There are eight active drivers among the 27 starting that have visited Victory Lane in series races at Mid-Ohio, with the previously mentioned Dixon among them. The other multi-time winners in the field are Helio Castroneves (2000, ’01) and Newgarden (2017, ’21).

In addition to defending race winner Scott McLaughlin, other drivers to have scored a single victory at the venue include Herta, Rahal, Rossi and Power.