LEXINGTON — Turns out this year’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio was one for the ages.
For the first time in 27 years, a CART or IndyCar event went the distance without a yellow flag flying in Lexington, but we knew that already.
What made this year’s race special was the fact that 24 of the 25 cars in the field were still running with an extraordinary 21 on the lead lap.
That’s incredibly reliable and close racing.
In the prior event at Edmonton on a spacious temporary track set up on airport runways, the series also saw no yellows as 22 cars were running with 19 on the lead lap. It was the first time IndyCar saw back-to-back caution-free races since 1987.
All-green racing was the norm in the 1980s at Mid-Ohio when legends like Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi and Danny Sullivan were competing. In 1983, ’84 and ’85, no caution flags flew, but the results weren’t nearly as close.
In those three races, only two or three drivers ended on the lead lap. In 1983 and ’84, just 14 of 28 cars were running at the end. In 1985, it fell to 12.
For so many cars to finish the race, let alone on the lead lap, speaks to the quality of the new car Dallara makes and the improvement in engine technology by Chevrolet and Honda over the decades.
It also confirms what many drivers felt afterward — that the talent in the series has never been deeper.
With IndyCar veterans like four-time Mid-Ohio winner Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan to go with underrated performers like Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe, Alex Tagliani, Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay as well as younger talents like JR Hildebrand, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden and Mike Conway, plus established pros like Takuma Sato, Rubens Barrichello, Simon Pagenaud and Oriol Servia — IndyCar’s roster may be the best it’s been in a generation.
At least the Mid-Ohio results say so.
» A.J. Speaks: A.J. Foyt, IndyCar’s all-time winner, recently held court for a few minutes at Mid-Ohio and spoke on a few topics.
On safety today: “Today the boys don’t realize how much safer racing is then when I (raced). I’m crippled because of that and have a lot of scars and made it through where a lot of my friends didn’t make it through. They’re deceased. That’s what I love about race cars today. You could put somebody who don’t have the experience and they still survive, where in my day you didn’t survive. If you crashed, it was usually pretty fatal.”
On Mid-Ohio: “It’s a good race track here. It’s a hard track to get workin’.”
» On changes he would make to Mid-Ohio: “I don’t think they can do much more than they’ve got because of terrain. You’re up and down. That’s the biggest thing. You could, but it’s still a pretty good race.”
Foyt raced just four times at Mid-Ohio. In 1985, he competed in the IROC all-star series race, starting 10th and ending 10th. From 1988 to 1990, he never did better than 15th as the first two CART races were foiled by mechanical gremlins.
“It was a challenging track,” he said. “I was very fortunate. I never took all those sports drinks like they did, and I never fell out of the seat. The times I ran here I didn’t think it was that hard.”
» Night under the weather: Summit Raceway Park’s 35th annual Night Under Fire was curtailed by the weather Saturday. The jet dragsters and the Funny Cars led by John Force got qualifying runs in, and the Fireworks show went off, but they couldn’t dry the track enough for it to be safe for 300 mph passes.
Track owner Bill Bader Jr. said tickets for next year’s Night Under Fire show will be on sale soon and fans with tickets to this year’s event can get renewals for half price due to the weather.
» Next show: The next big event on the Norwalk drag strip’s calendar will be the Summit Racing Equipment Ohio Drags V for the American Drag Racing League that features doorslammers going 200 mph in 3.7 seconds. Tickets are $15 Friday and Saturday and parking is $10 each day.
» Points leader: Crestline’s Mike Laribee finished third at the Indy Super Pull at the Indiana State Fair competing in the hot rod semi class of the Pro Pulling League. He continues to lead the points despite posting no victories in 2012. Teammate Joe Metzger of Shelby was fifth in the pull.
Laribee picked up his first win of the season in the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association while competing in Gallipolis.
Mathew Metzger and Logan Henke have done most of the pulls on the OSTPA circuit this season, routinely placing in the top four for the team.
» Put-in-Bay races: The 2012 Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion will be Sept. 19 to 21, with vintage racing taking place at the island’s airport on Sept. 20. More information can be found at PIBRoadRace.com.
» Canceled: The card at NAPA Auto Parts Wayne County Speedway was rained out Friday. The Orrville dirt track will hold its season championships Friday for 410 sprints, super late models, modifieds and pure stocks. Gates open at 4 p.m. Racing at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $12 with kids 12 and younger getting in for free.
» Lee prevails: Ashland County’s George Lee earned his sixth win of the season in the late model feature at Hilltop Speedway in Millersburg. It is his 20th win at the Holmes County dirt oval.
Also on the card, Brandon Gardner won the Street Stock Grand with Norm Aronhalt winning the modifieds, Moose Workman in mini stocks, John Large in trucks, Brady Reed and Cody Stillion in wedges and Brian Stuhldreher in mod lites.
The season championships are Saturday for six classes.
Rob McCurdy covers motor sports for the News Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-521-7241. On Twitter follow him @McMotorsport.