Realistically, Scott Dixon needed a win and for the three drivers ahead of him to have bad days to jump back into IndyCar title contention this year, entering Mid-Ohio 61 points back of championship leader Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Still, the surprise of two of the three actually having bad days, plus when Dixon found himself lapping Hunter-Reay, caught the eventual race winner off guard.
“I knew he was having a bad day when I was lapping him,” Dixon said. “I know when you get lapped on a road course, man, you're having a really bad day.”
That didn't mean he wasn't satisfied with the end result of RHR incurring yet another mechanical failure.
“I'm not going to lie; I wasn't sorry to see it,” Dixon related. “Because it's how the points chase is going at the moment. And we've had some sucky days, too, so it's nice to share those around a bit.
“But we'll see. He's going to be strong. He's right there in the thick of it. Those four guys within 28 points, that's crazy at this time of year. It's exciting for the fans.”
Dixon closes to within 28 of new championship leader Will Power, whose runner-up finish vaulted him back ahead of Hunter-Reay for the series lead by five points. Helio Castroneves is third, 26 back, just ahead of Dixon.
“That was definitely good points today,” said Power. “I mean, it was going to plan. That stop, I knew when (Scott) Dixon was behind us, was going to be tough. We were pitting the same lap because I had to get around his guys to get in my box. That really slows up my entryway. He has a clean in. And my fueler has to kind of stand back as my front wing swings around.
“All that combination made for a slower start, and that's where he got us. And then obviously it's so difficult to pass around this joint.
“It's still a very good day, though. Really happy to score the points we did. And that was everything we had. We can't ask for anything more. We couldn't have done anything better, I don't think.”
Luck did not shine so brightly on the two ahead of Dixon and Power, with RHR's mechanical woes and Helio Castroneves having a fraught weekend from start-to-finish.
Hunter-Reay finished 24th, at least getting 12 rather than the minimum possible 10 points, to emerge only five points behind Power, thanks to a slow engine failure.
“It's disappointing to start the day with a 23-point lead and leave in second place, but we'll get over this quick,” he said. “There's a lot of racing still to go, and the only thing we can do is dig deep and move on. I think it's going to be a good championship fight, but you can't have any more days like this. I'm confident we're going to be right in it until the finish – it's certainly doable for us to win it all."
For Castroneves, a practice accident on Saturday caused a bruised wrist. Add to it the angst of feeling under the weather and a 10-spot grid penalty, and 23rd on the grid to 16th at the finish was the end result, now 26 points back of his teammate in third place.
“Certainly it was a day where we ended up taking a big hit in our race for the championship as starting in the back with an engine change created a big challenge,” he said. “But we need to just keep going and hopefully we can have a strong race out in Sonoma."
The series tests at Sonoma August 17 before the race there the following weekend. The three-week stretch in-between Mid-Ohio and Sonoma is the longest gap between on-track weekends all season – although the break from Brazil to Indianapolis was one month, teams still spent several weeks at IMS for practice and qualifying.