Scott Dixon exits the third turn during practice for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 16. Dixon and the Chip Ganassi IndyCar racing team will soon be without Target as a sponsor. File photo by Bill Coons/UPI | License Photo
Lexington, Ohio (UPI) – Excuse the pun, but Chip Ganassi's IndyCar team now has a Target on its back, at least for the time being.
Ganassi has leaned on the financial support of Target, the Minneapolis-based retail giant, since founding its organization in 1990, and the red livery has been a part of 101 race wins, 11 season championships and four Indianapolis 500 victories. Confirmation came this week that Target will cease its involvement with the IndyCar team at the end of the season.
Which means, Ganassi's team has five races left to show its Target strength, and that makes this weekend's Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course all the more important.
The good news is, no track has been better to Ganassi drivers over the years than this one located between Columbus and Cleveland.
As with most things associated with Ganassi's IndyCar team over the past 15 years, Scott Dixon is at the center of the attention. He is the driver carrying the primary Target livery, and this happens to be his best track. Five of the past nine IndyCar races have been won by the driver of the No. 9 car, and he won the pole last year.
Add in Dario Franchitti's 2010 victory at the 2.258-mile road course and Charlie Kimball's in 2013 and it's been quite a Ganassi show over the years. Do the math: That's seven recent wins for Ganassi entries and the two other race winners - Ryan Briscoe in 2008 and Graham Rahal last year - are former Ganassi drivers.
Alex Zanardi (1996 and '97) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999) also won Mid-Ohio races for Ganassi, giving his organization a record 10 wins here.
Dixon rolls into this weekend needed to keep his magic rolling in order to remain in title contention. Last year's series winner has fallen to fourth in the standings, 83 points behind leader Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske, and while there are still 319 points to be won, time is running out.
Dixon won the pole for the most recent race, held in Toronto, but he finished eighth as a result of having not pitted before a late caution flag came out. Will Power, meanwhile, was on pit road at that time, allowing him to cycle to the front when the race resumed. Power went to victory lane for the third time in four races.
Power enters this weekend 47 points in arrears of Pagenaud, one of his teammates. Power has won 26 races in his IndyCar career, but this is one of the tracks where he has not won. He finished second in 2010 and '12.
Pagenaud also has never won here, although he was third behind Rahal and Justin Wilson last year. Pagenud finished second to Kimball in '13.
Rahal is another driver to watch in Sunday's race (green flag at 2:45 p.m., NBCSN). Last year, the second of his season's two wins came at the track nearest his home, but this year has been much more of a struggle for him and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He has led only 11 laps in the 13 races since this one last year, and he doesn't have a win.
However, Rahal's performance last year figures to again have a positive impact on the attendance. His strong runs leading up to last year's race helped Mid-Ohio have one of its largest crowds in two decades.
On this weekend's schedule are a pair of Friday practices. Qualifying is Saturday at 2 p.m.