Any time Scott Dixon has ever led a lap in an Indy Car at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he has gone on to win the race. And on a day where nothing went as expected in the IZOD Indy Car Series event at Mid-Ohio, Dixon showed that he could be counted on as he stormed away to his second win of the 2012 season.
Dixon hounded polesitter Will Power throughout the first half of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, and then benefitted from a lightning-fast pit stop from his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team to beat Power out of the pits with 28 laps to go. That pit stop gave Dixon clear track to work with, and he used it to his advantage, as he rolled away to a four-second advantage at the checkered flag.
“We were having trouble getting the car to grip up at the beginning of the race but we were able to make fuel out there and that helped us at the end,” Dixon said. “Huge credit to the guys on the pit stop, their work is what made the difference for us today.”
Dixon became the first driver ever to win four Indy Car races at Mid-Ohio, breaking a tie with Emerson Fittipaldi for most wins at the tough circuit. The win also tied Dixon for 10th on the all-time Indy Car victory list, with his 29 wins matching the total of four-time Indianapolis 500 champ Rick Mears.
Amazingly the race was caution-free, which was unexpected not only because of the tightness of the Mid-Ohio layout, but also because it rained hard overnight and again Sunday morning, which washed most of the rubber off of the track. It appeared that it would rain during the race as well, and it actually started to sprinkle on Lap 35, but the full rains never came.
Power controlled the show in the first half of the race, leading Dario Franchitti and Simon Pagenaud prior to the first round of pit stops. He maintained his lead after the stops, although Dixon took Franchitti’s runner-up spot during that first round of service. Power was threatening to become the first driver ever to lead every lap in a Mid-Ohio Indy Car race before he gave up the lead to Dixon during the final stop.
“They have such tight pit boxes here that it is hard for the fueler to get to the car cleanly,” Power said. “I don’t know that we could have passed Scott on the track, but it was a good points day for us and while we wanted to win, getting good points was the objective.”
The day became a huge one in the championship for Power and Dixon as series leader Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered engine problems that left him to finish 24th. The finish vaulted Power back into the points lead with three races to go, giving him a five-point lead over RHR.
Hunter-Reay ran in the lead pack for the first half of the race before his Chevrolet engine developed a misfire with 32 laps to run. The team stayed out for the next 24 circuits before coming in to diagnose the problem and eventually called it a day with three laps to go – important because the Andretti Autosport team will not incur an engine-change penalty for the next race since it failed to finish due to the engine problem.
“The engine failed in a slow, miserable way. Chevy has done a great job but we’ve had issues a few times this year,” Hunter-Reay said. “I think we could have finished third looking at the pace we were running, but we’re still upbeat. We have three races to go and we know that we can win races if we do everything we are supposed to do.”
Simon Pagenaud stretched his final fuel load to secure the final spot on the podium, nosing out fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais for the third spot. Bourdais gave Dragon Racing its best result of the year with a fourth-place run as the four-time series champ outlasted James Hinchcliffe. Using a three-stop strategy while most of the leaders used two stops, Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan used fresher tires to take the fifth and sixth spots in the final order.
“Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong this year, but this was very good for us,” Bourdais reported. “To get a result like this in the bank is important in the owner’s points as we need to stay in the top 22, so this will be a big help for us.”