Lock: Dario Franchitti
This is a track where the Ganassi boys have won three of the last four races. Dario’s one of the best at running in the lead, which should serve him well in the normally difficult-to-pass contours of Mid-Ohio.
Drop: Ed Carpenter
Sarah Fisher’s team is potential dynamite on ovals, but road courses are a different animal altogether. We didn’t hear anything from the Mid-Ohio test that makes it sound like they’ll do much here. Save Carp for a late season oval like Kentucky and look elsewhere to stretch your roster this week.
Sleeper: Graham Rahal
Granted, Rahal hasn’t done much in his previous visits to Mid-Ohio, but this is his home track, which is perhaps the wild card in the occasion. Look for him to make a strong rebound from Edmonton’s DNF, especially with Ganassi’s overall prevalence on this track the last few years. With the premium on passing here, though, he will need to step it up in qualifying to maximize his potential on this course.
----Zachary Houghton’s picks
Lock: Will Power
Power needs to carry on the momentum from Edmonton. His victory two weeks ago put him 38 points behind Dario Franchitti. He needs to keep chipping away at the Scotsman in order to stay in the hunt, with Franchitti unlikely to make mistakes. Power's speed is unquestionable and, if the bad luck from earlier this season has lifted, he'll be in position again to lead the way.
Drop: Martin Plowman
Even though Plowman has win here his days in Firestone Indy Lights, to expect him to repeat that in his Izod IndyCar debut is unfair to him. The goal should be to run all the laps and keep the nose clean. If he happens to finish well, great! But, don't expect to see much of him near the front of the field. A good, mistake-free weekend is all he needs.
Sleeper: Graham Rahal
His record at Mid-Ohio doesn't leap off the page, but there had always been the potential for a good run...with it being interrupted by a few bad breaks. In 2009, while running in the top five, Rahal misjudged his entrance into the keyhole and speared off the track, falling to eighth. Last year, he led the opening practice session before a differential problem placed him back in 25th on the grid.
The 2011 showing should be a different story, though. He and the Service Central appear to get better with every race (though they'll need to sake the dark cloud that has hovered over them since Iowa). The speed is there, so don't be surprised if Rahal finds himself in a position to win.
----Kyle Lavigne’s picks
Lock: Will Power
Passing is at a premium at Mid-Ohio, and as such, you have to qualify well to contend here. When it comes to road/street circuits, nobody’s done qualifying better lately than Power with five poles in the last six RC/SC events. Pick him for a likely front row start and then, a duel with Franchitti before winning and hacking further into the Scot’s points lead.
Drop: E.J. Viso
The unicycling Venezuelan can be a decent qualifier, but his finishes at Mid-Ohio have left something to be desired (22nd in 2008, 15th in 2009, 26th in 2010). It’d be nice to see him hold it together, but history speaks loudly.
Sleeper: Oriol Servia
I know everybody and their mothers have Graham Rahal as this weekend’s dark horse considering that M-O’s his home track. But for the sake of changing it up, I’ll go with Servia. He’s fallen back to fifth in points and could use a strong finish; fortunately, the veteran knows this place well enough. Again, though, qualifying will be critical.
----Chris Estrada’s picks
Lock: Scott Dixon
I know, clearly I’m glutton for punishment. But I really have a good feeling about Dixie’s chances here this year. At this point in the series, Franchitti and Power are in a cutthroat race for the championship and neither can afford to take too many chances, even for the win. It’s better for both of them to race cleanly and just try to finish ahead of the other. Which creates the perfect opportunity for Dixon to swoop into victory lane.
Drop: Graham Rahal
Ahh! I know, Ohio is Graham’s home track; he has to perform well right? Right, unless there’s too much hype and too much pressure and he doesn’t. I don’t think Graham does well as the underdog, which is how he’s seen coming into this race with a couple of shaky performances the past few weeks. Graham does well when you least expect it and with all eyes on him this week, he just might fall short.
Sleeper: Alex Tagliani
I’ve developed quite the soft spot for Tags this season and I think Mid-Ohio is a perfect place for him to validate it. I remember being very impressed with his performance here last year, he led 30 laps and finished fourth. I think we can expect the same solid showing for him this week.
----Kristin Slevin’s picks