It's appropriate that Helio Castroneves' 199th start for Team Penske occurs at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he's played a role in the team's success: victories in 2000 and 2001 highlighting five podium finishes in eight starts, plus pole starts in 2007 and '08.
Overall, Team Penske has has seven victories in 26 Indy car races at the natural-terrain circuit since 1980 (including 1992-95 when Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. each won two races in a row). A Team Penske driver has started from the pole in each of the four IZOD IndyCar Series races (Will Power in 2010 and Ryan Brisoce in '09 in addition to Castroneves).
Following his season-high runner-up finish to Power on the City Centre Airport circuit, which bumped him three positions in the championship standings to ninth, Castroneves is aiming for another top finish (even earning a victory for the 12th consecutive season).
"We found some stuff in the car that we didn't have in the past," Castroneves said of the Edmonton Indy result. "I believe that helps a lot to be more consistent, especially with the braking points like Edmonton. So in the race I was able to be consistent, to be like I've always been.
"For the first time, a little bit of a double-car restart played in my favor. I've been the one that's in the middle or hit the car. I guess those are the factors that helped to put me right in front. Once you're in front, it was like the good old days."
Each entry receives six sets of primary Firestone Firehawks, three sets of alternate tires and five sets of rain tires for the race weekend.
The Mid-Ohio primary and alternate tire specifications are new this year, featuring updated tread compounds paired with the identical body construction used for both in 2010.
In addition, the Firestone alternates for Mid-Ohio are designed with different grip levels on the left- and right-side tires -- with the right-side Firehawk alternates even "softer" than the left sides to provide added grip on the undulating 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit.
This is the only race this season where these specs are being used. The new Firestone rain tire specification, first available last month at Toronto, will be supplied again this weekend should conditions necessitate its use.
Per series regulations, all cars must use at least one set of primary tires and one new alternate set during the race, each for a minimum of two green-flag laps.
In 2009, Graham Rahal’s helmet design reflected his father's, Bobby Rahal, for his first IZOD IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio.
The tradition continues as Rahal, a native of New Albany, Ohio, represents the family history at his hometown track.
“It’s such a fantastic track and has a lot of history with our family," Rahal said. "We tested here on July 28th and we improved the No. 38 Service Central car quite a lot, which I think is going to work to our advantage. It’s a big weekend for NTB and Service Central, so I hope we can make everyone proud and have a great result."