Charlie Kimball capitalized on a perfect strategy from his Chip Ganassi Racing pitwall to secure the first IndyCar win of his career at Mid-Ohio.
Most of the front-runners had opted to two-stop the race; a list that initially included Kimball's Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Kimball, on the other hand, took a three-stop approach, and the race was barely half over before the team tried to switch Franchitti and Dixon over as well.
The change came too late for them to influence the battle for the lead, which boiled down to a head-to-head between Kimball and Simon Pagenaud, who was on a similar strategy.
Kimball held a decent advantage over the Frenchman during his third stint but then lost time behind lapped traffic, allowing Pagenaud to exit from his final stop just ahead of his rival. However a nice move at the Esses allowed Kimball to re-pass Pagenaud on the same lap, and before long he had built a lead that extended to 5.5 seconds at the finish.
“It's nice when the team gives you such a great car," said Kimball, who started fifth. "All I needed to do was to hit the lap times they needed me to. For a while they were saying 67.5s (seconds per lap) and I threw down a couple 67.1s. They said, 'OK, see if you can do a 66.' We just kept pushing the limit."
Pagenaud crossed the line in second, while Franchitti was a distant third ahead of Will Power, who was first of the drivers to have two-stopped. The Australian had spent most of the race chasing pole-sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay, but managed to get ahead when the Andretti driver was delayed in the pits.
"Simon was on a similar strategy," Kimball noted. "I caught traffic at just some of the wrong times, so that meant that he came out of pit lane ahead of us. But we had the momentum to take the lead and make the pass for what turned out to be the win.”
Pagenaud admitted he lacked the ultimate pace to challenge Kimball.
"I gave it my all. Just him and Ganassi were stronger," Pagenaud said. "Charlie was bold enough to stick it on the inside and I didn't think he would make it, but he did so congrats to him."
Hunter-Reay was fifth, while Helio Castroneves had to survive the attentions of title rival Scott Dixon in the final laps to claim sixth.
The race was run entirely under green flag conditions, and almost entirely bereft of attrition. Only Tony Kanaan failed to make the finish; the Indy 500 winner pulling off the track with a mechanical problem shortly after his second pit stop.
Series debutants James Davison and Luca Filippi finished 15th and 16th, respectively.
Results - 90 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time/Gap
1. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda 1h43m29.1371s
2. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda +5.5334s
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda +28.8735s
4. Will Power Penske/Chevy +42.5032s
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy +46.3449s
6. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy +48.3249s
7. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda +48.5496s
8. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda +49.0431s
9. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy +49.5609s
10. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy +49.9283s
11. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy +50.4925s
12. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy +54.1360s
13. James Jakes Rahal/Honda +54.6693s
14. Oriol Servia Panther/Chevy +1m04.6395s
15. James Davison Coyne/Honda +1m05.4079s
16. Luca Filippi Herta/Honda +1m09.0090s
17. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy +1 lap
18. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda +1 lap
19. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy +1 lap
20. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy +1 lap
21. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda +1 lap
22. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda +1 lap
23. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda +2 laps
Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy 64 laps