Dixon Masters Mid-Ohio Again!
LEXINGTON, Ohio – When it comes to racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Scott Dixon is “The Master.”
He scored his fourth Honda Indy 200 win at Mid-Ohio in the last six years and has reinserted himself as a fierce challenger for the 2002 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship.
By winning his 29th career IndyCar victory, Dixon is now in the company of legends. Win No. 29 ties him with the legendary Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time victory list. Mears retired when he was 41 after the 1992 season. Dixon turned 32 on July 22 and has at least 10 years left in an IndyCar cockpit, maybe even 15.
“Fifteen years, I’m not sure my wife would be happy with that,” Dixon said, referring to his lovely wife Emma. “I don’t know. We take it every step at a time, and every year’s a new year. And I’m just thankful that I’ve been with (team owner) Chip Ganassi for 11 or 12 years. So it’s been exciting times for me. I hand a lot of credit to those wins to them. They’re a top class team, all the championships I’ve won and everything.
“So, yeah, it’s great to be aligned with them and do that well and be tenth on the all time list. But we would love to work our way to the top. But 32, if I could run for another nine years when I’m 41, that would be pretty cool. That’s a long time.”
Dixon’s victory in a Dallara/Honda came in the second caution-free race in a row for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Helio Castroneves won a green flag-to-checkered flag contest at the Edmonton Indy on July 22.
And because of that, whoever was out front was in prime position to win the race. Team Penske’s Will Power started on the pole and led the first 57 laps. But the key moment of the race came when Power and Dixon both pitted on the 59th lap. Dixon was able to drive straight into his pit box while Power had to drive ahead of the tires for Dixon’s pit and make a quick left. That was all the extra time Dixon needed as he speed off pit lane ahead of Power and in the lead for good. He led the final 26 laps to win the race by 3.4619 seconds ahead of Power.
“That stop, I knew when (Scott) Dixon was behind us, was going to be tough,” Power said. “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 was 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.”
Power entered the race third in points, 26 behind Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport. But Hunter-Reay had an engine issue on Lap 54 which dropped him to 22nd position. The engine would finally break with just a few laps left and Hunter-Reay finished 24th in the 25-car field.
That puts Power in the lead by five points over Hunter-Reay heading into a two-week break before the series resumes at Sonoma, California August 24-26.
“It’s unfortunate because we had third in the bag and the engine expired out there,” Hunter-Reay said. “It had a slow death there. We came into the day 23 points in the lead and we are trailing now. It’s not good. We need to let Penske do this sometime. The engine gradually started losing more and more power. Then Takuma Sato drove me off course being a numb-nut.
“The championship is absolutely doable. We’ll get over this quick. We’ve had three of these now and it’s time Penske has some too.”
It was Dixon’s second IZOD IndyCar Series win of the season. He also won at Detroit in June. He is fourth in the points just 28 behind Power.
“I knew Ryan was having a bad day when I was lapping him,” Dixon said of Hunter-Reay. “I know when you get lapped on a road course, man; you’re having a really bad day. I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t sorry to see it because it’s how the points chase 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.”
Power matched his Mid-Ohio best finish of second in 2010. He started on the pole in both those contests. He earned three bonus points for leading the most laps.
But his race was decided in the pits.
“You realize as you’re coming in you it’s going to be tight when he’s sitting right behind you,” said Power, who drove a Dallara/Chevrolet. “You know, man, it’s all about the stop. There’s nothing you can do about it. All you can do is move on and try, make sure you get the miles you need to get to the end. And hopefully it’s yellow, maybe it will rain, you don’t know. So you just keep executing and there’s things you can’t do anything about. That’s racing. These guys our guys did a good job, too.
“It’s just the circumstance it was. So, you know, he won the race.”
Simon Pagenaud finished third in a Dallara/Honda for Sam Schmidt Motorsports for his third podium of the finish. He also finished in the top three at Long Beach and Belle Isle.
“It was an awesome day. I would say even an awesome weekend,” Pagenaud said. “I think it was a massive step forward for the HP team. The guys, after the test last week, we came back home and after Edmonton already we sat down at the shop and it was a problem. We didn’t work well on the red ties. And obviously being so important in IndyCar, you have to make it work. And we sat down and we tried to analyze what we needed. And the guys just gave me that. So hats off to them.”
Sebastien Bourdais started sixth and finished fourth for Dragon Racing in a Dallara/Chevrolet. James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top-five for Andretti Autosport in a Dallara/Chevrolet.
Castroneves dropped from second to third in the standings when he had a miserable weekend that included the flu, an injured hand when he was involved in a crash with Mike Conway on Saturday morning, a 13th-place qualification effort that was followed by a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change and a 16th-place finish.
“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,” said Castroneves, who is now 26 points out. “But we need to just keep going and hopefully we can have a strong race out in Sonoma.”
So with three races remaining, it’s shaping up to be quite a championship battle as the fight resumes at Sonoma in three weeks.
“It’s simple for us,” Power said. “We just gotta do the best with the things that we can control. Obviously there’s a lot of other factors in racing. But you can’t, nothing you can do about that. It’s not worth worrying.
“Sonoma has been good for me. I enjoy street courses. So Baltimore should be good. And like you said, who you knows, at Fontana, we’ll just keep our heads down. If everything goes right, I really think we’ll be competitive. I think that we need to win a race here soon if we’re going to win the championship. We’ll do our best to do that.”
And here comes Dixon. After mastering Mid-Ohio he is ready to slug it out with IndyCar’s best as he attempts to win his third career IZOD IndyCar championship.
“I’m excited for the last three,” Dixon said. “Sonoma has kind of been a bit of a thorn in my side. I don’t know. We’ve had success there. We’ve won there. We’ve been on the podium many a times. But we struggled a little bit in qualifying. Dario Franchitti and I think we’re fourth and fifth last year.
The track’s changing, which I’m looking forward to, I think it’s going back to a scenario or situation where I think we can do a little bit better with bigger braking zones and things like that. So I don’t know I’m going to take it as it comes. It’s one of those races that we need to definitely sharpen up on, yet we’re coming with a new car so it could be totally different.
“Baltimore, frustrated last year, we were quickest in Q1 and then it was like tenth in Q2. I think we got a bad set of tires or something, just couldn’t really find anything. And the race we were strong there and ended up fifth or something. So it’s going to be a tough into the year, but now we’re in the hunt. We can definitely make these things happen.
“I know the team is going to be pumped and we can definitely gain good points here. So I’m looking forward to all three.”
Dixon won Sunday’s race in true Olympic fashion. But that may not have been his best race of the day. He had to hustle off to fly out of Mansfield, Ohio so he could catch a 6 p.m. flight out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to London where he will join his wife, Emma, for the XXX Olympic Games in London.
“I’m excited,” Dixon said. “My wife was a runner for Great Britain, 800 meters and 1500. To go to an event like that and see what it’s all about and have somebody that I’m so close to sort of fill me in on what’s going on behind the scenes. He would know what’s going on, too.
“We get to go to a lot of great events and see a lot of great things in America, obviously with our races, but to go to something that big and that special; I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’ve got pretty crappy seats, I might add. But I’m going to need to take some binoculars. But I’m excited. Can’t wait to get over there and soak it all in.”
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