INDYCAR continues our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas with 12 of the most memorable storylines from the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon stole the show at Mid-Ohio. He also stole speed, positions, and fuel conservation from the grips of reality as the 34-year-old New Zealander turned a last-place qualifying position into a surreal victory for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Looking back at his improbable march from P22 to P1 in the No. 9 Chevy, Dixon says he went into the 90-lap race undaunted. As IndyCar’s unrivaled king of fuel mileage, the Kiwi was prepared to race his way to the front--while using the throttle pedal only when necessary--after spinning out during qualifying.
“I think it’s just the sheer possibility of what we had to do and knew we could do that was crazy part,” he said. “And how the stars and the moon and everything had to align for it to happen. If you could have a crystal ball and see into the future, then it would be simple because you’d know exactly what strategy to use and what needed to happen. I think that was the hard part.”
A crash on the first lap took out some of the cars he needed to pass, and with an immediate switch to pitting off sequence, Dixon and his strategist, Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull, clawed back the grid positions that were surrendered in qualifying. By Lap 40, the No. 9 was leading, and except for briefly handing over the lead after his final stop, Dixon was never challenged.
“Obviously, getting the fuel mileage we did and the speed was something different,” Dixon admitted. “That point in the race where we were able to hold (pole sitter Sebastien) Bourdais and the rest behind us while saving so much fuel was the defining moment.”
Dixon needed to save garish amounts of fuel each lap while being chased by rivals who were running at maximum speed, yet by lifting early on the approach to Mid-Ohio’s major corners, and lightly brushing the brakes—or ignoring them altogether, he was able to carry momentum that often exceeded what his throttle-happy pursuers could accomplish.
“Mid-Ohio was tough because we had to get the fuel mileage and get the speed,” Dixon noted. “It’s awesome when you race like that because it’s the thing no one’s expecting. For me, it was more the fact that there was some fixing to do because I had been thrown off qualifying, even though every session prior to that we had a top two or three car and we were starting the race last. I couldn’t let it go down like that.”
When Dixon was finished, he went last to first, led 45 laps, earned Ganassi Racing’s first win of the year and claimed his fifth victory at Mid-Ohio. For everyone other than Scott Ronald Dixon, it was possibly the most demoralizing drive of the 2014 season.
“There was redemption to be had in the race,” he acknowledged. “It was last thing you thought was going to be possible, but we did it.”