IndyCar: Dixon scores stunning win from last on grid at Mid-Ohio
Images: LAT (above), Marshall Pruett (below and gallery)
Scott Dixon scored his fifth victory at Mid-Ohio, ended the Target Chip Ganassi Racing's 2014 win drought and most remarkably of all, accomplished it from 22nd on the grid.
On a day when Mid-Ohio's recent record of producing no yellow flags ended emphatically on Lap 1, when Dixon's teammate Tony Kanaan was squeezed and spun, causing a huge melee that removed Marco Andretti from the race, Dixon still barely benefitted, having to slow to a crawl to edge through the dust and carnage.
However, when a yellow bunched the field just a couple of laps after a pit stop for an off-strategy Dixon, he found himself in the lead and with his mastery of fuel mileage, was able to hold off first Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing) and then keep his next primary challenger, Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing) at arm's length to cross the finish line five seconds ahead. He would have run out of fuel on the slow-down lap so stopped at Turn 1 and returned to the pits on foot.
Said KVSH Racing team co-owner Jimmy Vasser: ""You cannot beat a guy who runs seven extra laps under green and is still the fastest car on the track. Dixon was unbeatable today. He's amazing."
Behind Dixon and Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe drove a stirring race to rise from 17th to third. The Canadian drove a bold brake-zone into Turn 4 (which is Turn 1 for starts and restarts) and then then had his path cleared for him on the exit of the corner by the Kanaan fracas. This catapulted him straight into the top eight, and thereafter he and the Andretti Autosport team called the strategy perfectly regarding when to stop and what tires to take. He was only two seconds behind Bourdais at the checkered flag.
Despite his own noteworthy climb through the field, Hinchcliffe was full of praise for the winner. He said: ""I don't know why we bother to race here. They should just give the trophy to Scott on Thursday. I thought I did a good job until I saw Numbnuts standing in Victory Lane. I passed 10 cars on the first lap and thought that was pretty damn good. But he started last and won!"
Hinchcliffe's teammate Carlos Munoz was a bold and aggressive fourth after running in the top five all day, and Graham Rahal was best of the rest, shaking off some of the bad luck that has haunted him lately.
If Dixon provided the miracle, there were two contenders for heartache of the day. One was Helio Castroneves, who was struck by a suspected throttle sensor issue even before the green flag and went several laps down, finishing 19th but with fastest lap as some consolation prize.
The other gross misfortune befell Newgarden, who was the only driver who looked capable of beating Dixon once the Kiwi got in front. The American had more or less matched Bourdais on blacks while the Frenchman was on reds and when those compounds were reversed respectively, Newgarden capitalized after making a bold passing maneuver on Bourdais and then pulling out a four-second advantage.
However, when the SFHR driver pitted for more reds, a lap earlier than intended, he was already in Turn 9 when he got the call and the crew simply wasn't ready. An air-hose left in his box went under his wheels, not only pulling down his right-rear tire changer, thus producing an agonizingly long pit stop, but also incurring a drive-through penalty. He finished an unrepresentative 12th. Team manager Andy O'Gara took the blame.
Will Power had a slightly flat day, after being ushered off the track by the Lap 1 fracas, dropping him down to 12th. The Penske cars continued to struggle as they had all weekend, and though Power, his pit crew and his strategist got him into the top six, it was noticeable that even on reds, he could only match the cars ahead when they were running the harder black compound.
Remarkably though, he was top of the championship contenders and has retaken the points lead following Castroneves' misfortune. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fast in the early stages, matching Bourdais and Newgarden, but a pitlane speeding penalty followed by a spin dropped him to 10th at the end, one place behind another title fighter, Simon Pagenaud who, like Power, never looked a match for the top five.
Last year's winner Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe brought Ganassi some more pleasure by rising from the back of the field to claim seventh and eighth.
Results - 90 laps: Pos Driver Team/Engine Time/Gap 1. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Chevrolet 1h52m45.2043s 2. Sebastien Bourdais KV/Chevrolet +5.3864s 3. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Honda +7.3335s 4. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Honda +9.3551s 5. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda +11.8508s 6. Will Power Penske/Chevrolet +15.9769s 7. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Chevrolet +16.8533s 8. Ryan Briscoe Ganassi/Chevrolet +17.502 s 9. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda +18.6160s 10. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Honda +20.0766s 11. Juan Pablo Montoya Penske/Chevrolet +21.7366s 12. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda +22.0987s 13. Mike Conway Carpenter/Chevrolet +23.8352s 14. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt/Honda +29.806 s 15. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda +44.6415s 16. Jack Hawksworth Herta/Honda +58.7211s 17. Carlos Huertas Coyne/Honda +1m02.5847s 18. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda -1 lap 19. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevrolet -4 laps Retirements: Sebastian Saavedra KV/Chevrolet 24 laps Tony Kanaan Ganassi/Chevrolet 0 laps Marco Andretti Andretti/Honda 0 laps
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