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Mid-Ohio: A haven for one-offs and random driver changes

Jul 30, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio - Day 3 Getty Images

Oriol Servia will return to Panther Racing at Mid-Ohio for the first time since Iowa, while James Davison (Dale Coyne Racing) and Luca Filippi (Barracuda Racing/BHA) are set to make their IZOD IndyCar Series debuts this weekend at Mid-Ohio.

Par for the course, really, as the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has recently seemed a haven for driver swaps and one-off entries. With in-season testing fairly limited, teams have often used this race as a tryout for new drivers in preparation for the following year. There’s also been a higher than normal amount of injuries that have occurred heading into this race over the years.

Here’s a look back at some of the surprise entries the last few years, since IndyCar returned to the track in 2007:

  • 2012: Giorgio Pantano (pictured) substitutes for an injured Charlie Kimball at Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. Starts 24th, and finishes 14th.
  • 2011: Simon Pagenaud gets called in as a last-minute injury replacement for Justin Wilson at Dreyer & Reinbold. Starts 18th, finishes 13th. Martin Plowman makes his IndyCar debut in a jointly entered AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, starting 26th, finishing 18th.
  • 2010: Ex-Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand makes his IndyCar debut as a D&R injury replacement for Mike Conway, qualifying 18th and finishing 16th (Ed: thanks to DRR PR ace Brie Rentz for the catch, I didn’t have this initially). Former Honda F1 tester and A1GP champion Adam Carroll makes his second, and last, IndyCar start in an AFS/Andretti Autosport extra car. Starts 17th, finishes 19th. Englishman Jay Howard makes his fifth start of 2010 for Sarah Fisher Racing, starts 26th and finishes 24th. Conquest brings in unheralded Italian rookie Francesco Dracone for his IndyCar debut, starts 23rd, finishes 22nd in the memorable/infamous Halkin Jet/LaPasta.biz car. 
  • 2009: Servia, who like in 2013 did not have a ride for that full season, replaces Robert Doornbos at Newman/Haas Racing for his second of three eventual stints with the team (2005, 2011). He qualifies 14th, finishes 11th. Doornbos moves to a second HVM Racing car, qualifying 18th and finishing 14th. Richard Antinucci makes his fourth of five career IndyCar starts, qualifying 19th and finishing 18th for Team 3G. Paul Tracy is called in as a last-minute replacement for Mario Moraes at KV Racing, as the Brazilian lost his father. “PT” qualifies 10th and finishes seventh on short notice.
  • 2007: Ryan Hunter-Reay is plucked from career obscurity by Rahal Letterman Racing to replace the underperforming Jeff Simmons. He starts 10th and finishes seventh in his first open-wheel start in two years.
  1. bmcgrath2 - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Pretty pumped for this one. Love MOSCC. I don’t know jack about handicapping IndyCar, but isn’t the Kiwi just a beast at this place?

    Tony, could I be a guest blogger for MST and write a preview for the Nationwide race when it comes to Mid-Ohio in August?

    • Tony DiZinno - Jul 31, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      Yep, the Kiwi is a beast at this place! Going for his fifth win in seven races at Mid-Ohio this weekend.

      While we appreciate the interest and your comments, we haven’t had any guest bloggers on MotorSportsTalk to this point and don’t plan on having any anytime soon. That said, either I or one of my MST colleagues will be hitting up coverage of the Nationwide weekend at Mid-Ohio in mid-August.

      • bmcgrath2 - Jul 31, 2013 at 8:55 PM

        Thanks Tony! Looking forward to the entire Nationwide weekend at Mid Ohio!

  2. Keith Collantine - Jul 31, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    Curious to see how Filippi gets on, he had some very strong runs in GP2 but was racing in it for quite a while and didn’t get picked up by an F1 team. Though of course F1 being as it is at the moment that was probably as much down to other drivers bringing more money.

  3. kitnamania13 - Jul 31, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    Let’s not forget the great Charlie Nearburg, who showed up one year and gave King Hiro some pretty stiff competition for 25th place.

    • lesovuls - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:43 PM

      @kit wonder if King Hiro was still nursing his bad shoulder from waving at everyone to pass him?

  4. Matthew - Jul 31, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Reblogged this on The Open Wheel and commented:
    Quoting: “Par for the course, really, as the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has recently seemed a haven for driver swaps and one-off entries. With in-season testing fairly limited, teams have often used this race as a tryout for new drivers in preparation for the following year. There’s also been a higher than normal amount of injuries that have occurred heading into this race over the years.” This is true: as the schedule is currently set-up, Mid-Ohio is about in the best spot for the above….it’s far enough into the year to where a new driver can be tested on-track w/out worry for getting in the middle of a championship fight and it seems to garner drivers’ looking for a chance to restart their careers.

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