The annual trip to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is one that teams, drivers, and fans look forward to. This event this weekend promises to deliver another exciting round of open-wheel racing.

Pato O'Ward became the ninth different pole sitter this season, which has not been done since 1961. The Arrow McLaren SP driver earned his 5th career pole on a day when several championship contenders had issues. It's a tremendous opportunity for the young driver to get back into the battle for the title as the second half of the season heats up.

Scott McLaughlin will start alongside O'Ward on the front row tomorrow. The Team Penske driver is aiming to get his season back on track after a sensational start in the first two races before cooling off. Lining up just behind them in Row 2 are Colton Herta and O'Ward's teammate Felix Rosenqvist. Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Firestone Fast Six and will start from Row 3 tomorrow afternoon.

Alex Palou starts from Row 4 tomorrow, alongside rookie David Malukas. Two more rookies start just behind them as Kyle Kirkwood and Callum Ilott rounded out the top ten in qualifying. Rinus VeeKay and Alexander Rossi line up in Row 6 for tomorrow's race.

Since O'Ward had his "mental reset" after Long Beach, he has qualified 2nd, 5th, 7th, 5th, 5th, and now 1st. He is the only driver inside the top five of the championship standings to start inside the top six, and six of the last seven winners this season have started from the front row. The stars seem to be aligning for the 23-year old.

Josef Newgarden led the way in practice yesterday, but he had some trouble finding a gap on the 2.258-mile road course. Getting stuck behind a couple of drivers in the closing minutes, he was bumped out of the top six and failed to advance. Newgarden is the hottest driver in the series, but starts 14th tomorrow.

"It's just IndyCar qualifying," Newgarden lamented. "Sometimes it's totally fine, and then sometimes, it's a tight track. We're not searching for answers, it's just traffic. The car is fine, just traffic. We're going out first and I catch the slowpokes. You're just in a bad spot. I know they're trying hard, but just needed to be behind some faster cars."

There are a few drivers that have always been strong at Mid-Ohio, beginning with Power. The Penske driver has started on the front row nine times and has six podium finishes here. He was dealt a major blow this afternoon in terms of his championship pursuit.

Power was on pace to advance through to the next round of qualifying but he was penalized for weaving in front of former teammate Helio Castroneves, which deleted his two best laps. That took him from the top of the chart all the way down to a 21st starting position. This is the first time in Power's career that he has qualified 15th or worse in three consecutive races.

"It’s totally on us," Power admitted. "I’ve got to know when somebody’s on a lap, when I’m on my out-lap. We can’t get one of these penalties, and we got one of those penalties. So, that’s just given away a chance at a top-six I feel like, maybe a pole. Anything can happen but you’re not going to get that lucky. You can’t start that far back that many times. You’re not going to win, put it that way. On weekends when we’ve got a car that can win, we cannot be doing this."

Dixon is another driver to pay close attention to as he has six wins and 12 top-fives here. He has struggled a bit this season and has just one victory in his last eight starts at Mid-Ohio. Still searching for his first win of the season, he carries a 21-race winless streak into tomorrow.

Despite qualifying in 12th, Rossi carries a ton of momentum into tomorrow. The Andretti Autosport driver finished 5th in the Indy 500, 2nd at Belle Isle, and earned another podium finish in the last race at Road America after qualifying on pole. His last six finishes at Mid-Ohio are 6th, 1st, 5th, 3rd, 2nd, and 5th, and has the best average finishing position among active drivers.

This race at Mid-Ohio has always been one of the more grueling for drivers. The 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural-terrain road course punishes shoulders and arms, while also taking a toll on drivers' hands and neck. They will have to navigate 80 laps around this circuit, which can be difficult to pass with only a few opportunities. That makes qualifying extremely important.

Four out of the last five races at Mid-Ohio have been won by the pole sitter, including the last three in a row. There are also several individuals with ties to the state of Ohio that are looking for a good result.

Meyer Shank Racing is based in Ohio, and they have a driver in Helio Castroneves that has won here twice (2000 and 2001 with Penske) before and has three other podium finishes. Pagenaud won here in 2016 from pole, also driving for Team Penske. He has four podium finishes at Mid-Ohio, and will aim to add to that total tomorrow.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has this event circled on the calendar each year, and a win here tomorrow would be monumental. The team has clearly struggled all season, and is desperate for a good finish from one of their three drivers. Christian Lundgaard has never raced at Mid-Ohio while Jack Harvey has two top-ten finishes here with a best finish of 7th in 2020.

Graham Rahal makes his 250th career start tomorrow. The veteran driver won this race in 2015 and has a 5.0 average finishing position in his last nine starts here. It has been 1,854 days since Rahal's last race win, and there would be no better place for him to snap that winless streak than his home track. That would be a tall task with all three drivers qualifying outside of the top 15 today.

Romain Grosjean loves free-flowing tracks, and Mid-Ohio certainly fits that description. "Mid-Ohio is like a mini roller coaster," said the Andretti Autosport driver. "I love the feeling and the elevation around the track. The tarmac is very challenging and getting the tires up to temperature is always a challenge but also offers some good chances in the race." Grosjean finished 7th here last season in his first trip to the facility but starts 17th tomorrow.

There will be a 30-minute warmup session tomorrow at 9:45 ET that will air on Peacock. Race coverage for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins at 12:30 on NBC.