LEXINGTON, Ohio – Scott Dixon wasn’t pleased with qualifying 22nd for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, but it didn’t matter 90 laps later at the checkered flag.
The “Master of Mid-Ohio” won for the fifth time in the past eight years on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course by employing a three-stop fuel and tire strategy that was aided by clear sailing after gaining the lead for good on Lap 68. Pumping his fist as he crossed the finish line, Dixon pulled the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car off to the left of the circuit in Turn 1.
“If we didn’t run out of fuel right there I think we would have run out on the back side of the circuit, so it would have been a long walk (to Victory Circle)," said Dixon, who pitted for the final time on Lap 62.
The victory by 5.3864 seconds over Verizon P1 Award winner Sebastien Bourdais was the 34th of Dixon’s career, tying Al Unser Jr. for sixth on the all-time list. Winning from the 22nd starting position is second on the Indy car list for furthest back on a road/street course. Max Papis won at Laguna Seca in 2001 from the 25th starting position. Eighth had been the lowest starting position for an Indy car race at Mid-Ohio by Unser in 1995 and Juan Pablo Montoya in '99.
"Truthfully, I didn't think it was possible," said Dixon, who has won in 10 consecutive seasons. "Great pit stops by everybody on Team Target and the strategy was spot on once we got that (Lap 37) yellow. Long, hard-fought day but huge thanks to Chevy and obviously we got fantastic fuel mileage there, too.”
Dixon, giving Chip Ganassi Racing its first victory of the season, is the 10th different driver representing seven teams to win this season.
“We had a couple close calls in Iowa (fourth place) and Pocono (fifth place) and finally came through,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, whose team has won the past six races at Mid-Ohio.
Hinchcliffe finished a season-high third in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data car and Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz placed fourth. Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio, earned his second top-five finish on a road/street course this season in the No. 15 National Guard Rahal Letterman Racing car.
Will Power finished sixth to wrest the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points lead from Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves. The door opened for Power before the green flag as Castroneves’ No. 3 Hitachi car pulled into its pit box with what was diagnosed as a stuck throttle. Castroneves joined the race five laps down and finished 19th.
"We didn't quite have the pace on the red tires that we wanted, but it was as good as we could do," said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. "As far as the standings go, we have a small lead but the key from here on out is to finish ahead of the other guys week in and week out. If we can do that, we will be in good shape to challenge for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship."
Castroneves, who entered Round 15 ahead of Power by 13 points, heads to the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest on Aug. 17 four points back (548-544).
“At first, I thought the throttle issue was a quick fix because as soon as they started the car for ‘gentlemen, start your engines’ I knew there was something wrong," Castroneves said. "Then, during the parade laps, I noticed that it was stuck. That could be a big problem and cause a big crash. When we came back down pit road we figured out it was a bigger problem. There was just a bit of a mistake in our fuel mapping. It was a tough race, knowing that I was on a lap by myself the entire time. We will just to rebound from this. We might have been knocked down but we will get back up. On to Milwaukee.”
That 250-lap race is the first of three consecutive weekends of competition to close the season. The MAVTV 500 finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., carries double points, which will further stir up the standings. The Verizon IndyCar Series championship has been decided in the season finale the past eight years.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who looked to gain on the Team Penske duo with a strong result after starting fifth, also experienced misfortune when the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport car spun exiting Turn 11 on Lap 37 to bring out the second full-course caution. He finished 10th and holds down third in the standings by one point over Simon Pagenaud (485-484).
“It was one of those days we really needed to capitalize,” said Hunter-Reay, who has a series-high three wins this season. “We had to come through for a (pit lane speed) penalty and that put us back in the field. I had a spin. We recovered from that to put the DHL car in 10th, narrowed the points margin to the points leader but not enough. We’ll have to get pretty creative here the rest of the year.”