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13-turn Ohio benefits skidding Ganassi Racing

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jul 31 2014 02:09:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 01 2014 12:56:10 PM CDT
Racing generic, winners flag

Caren Firouz/Reuters

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Maybe this is the weekend Target/Chip Ganassi Racing finally gets back to victory lane in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The four drivers employed by Chip Ganassi (five counting rookie Sage Karam at the Indianapolis 500) are on a 16-race winless streak, and that's unusual for the Indianapolis-based organization that has won season championships in five of the past six seasons. Scott Dixon won last year's title for the team, his third championship since 2003.

Dixon was Ganassi's most recent race winner, Oct. 5 in the first race of the Houston doubleheader. There have been close calls for him and others, with Tony Kanaan finishing second in the most recent race in Toronto, but so far it's been a shutout.

This weekend is a good place for the drought to end if for no other reason than the team is riding a five-race winning streak at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course northeast of Columbus. Charlie Kimball won last year, Dixon won in '09, '11 and '12, and Dario Franchitti, who has since retired, won in '10.

The last non-Ganassi driver to win at this 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course was Ryan Briscoe, then of Team Penske. Coincidentally, Briscoe now drives for Ganassi.

Before Briscoe's win was Dixon's in '07, which means that Ganassi employs (or did employ) all the drivers who have won at Mid-Ohio since IndyCar began sanctioning these races after a four-year layoff from the CART regime.

Last year's win was the first and only IndyCar win of Kimball's career.

If Dixon isn't the best bet to win Sunday's race, Kanaan might be. He's finished third, third and second in the past three IndyCar races (at Iowa Speedway and two on Toronto's street circuit).

Team Penske doesn't need to break Ganassi's Mid-Ohio streak, it only needs to keep pace and preferably stay in front of Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

Roger Penske's duo of Helio Castroneves and Will Power hold the top two spots in the standings with four races to go. Neither has won an IndyCar championship, so the fight to the finish will be genuine. Castroneves currently leads by 13 points, which could be erased if Power wins and the race even as Castroneves finishes second.

Castroneves holds a 69-point lead over Hunter-Reay, the only driver among the top four with an IndyCar title to his name. He won in 2012. The most ground a driver can gain this weekend is 41 points, so one of the Penske's will take a lead to the Aug. 17 race at Milwaukee (an oval). Pagenaud is 72 points out of the lead.

Strange as it sounds, Castroneves could be the Ganassi spoiler this weekend. He won the CART races in 2000 and 2001.

"It's a course where I've always run well, and I'm looking forward to running there (again)," he said. "I'm confident we have a car that can win this race."

Castroneves has one win this season, Power two. Hunter-Reay leads the series with three; Pagenaud has won twice.

Winning races makes a driver a contender. Ganassi is 0-for-the-season, which explains why its top title contender is sixth, 146 points out of the lead.

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