Sunday’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was dominated by Chip Ganassi’s team, with Scott Dixon winning convincingly from championship leader Dario Franchitti. Dixon was the man to beat all weekend, scoring his first pole and win of the year. In the end he drove away on his own to win easily – his third victory at Mid-Ohio in five years. It was also his 26th IndyCar career win and kept his remote title hopes alive as he chiselled into Franchitti’s lead and closed to within 31 points of second-placed Will Power.
“A superb job by Team Target to get a 1-2 today,” said Dixon. “To put a dent in Dario’s lead is tough, but it’s good for Dario’s fight and to get pole and win today is fantastic.”
Franchitti extended his championship lead with a solid drive to second. “Scott had one of those days,” he said. “He was in a different zip code. He deserved to win it. From the time we came here for the test he’s been on a mission.
“But a good points day for us, despite Will [Power’s] best effort at the start to spin me around. He hit me twice on the first lap, pretty hard actually going into the turn. But this is a tough race and the way the surface and tyres interact it’s easy to make a mistake.”
Power, Franchitti’s primary title rival, ran fourth through the early laps but hit bad luck. An unfortunately timed yellow flag just before he was scheduled to pit meant he had to wait a lap for the pitlane to be opened, then stop while the field was running slowly behind the pace car. As a result he rejoined near the back and eventually made it home 14th, falling 62 points behind Franchitti.
Power said he was simply racing hard with Dario when they collided on lap one. “I was just trying to get past him at the start. It was as simple as that. He went around the outside and I hit his back wheel. It was sort of similar to Toronto. I’m just racing, that’s all.”
Canadian rookie James Hinchcliffe (below) led 26 laps at Mid-Ohio in one of Newman/Haas’s cars. Hinchcliffe took the lead after he found himself on a slightly different pitstop sequence from Dixon and the other frontrunners. The rookie looked good, holding off Dixon for many laps before having to stop for fuel. Later, in the thick of the midfield, he spun off, eventually finishing 20th.
“We caught a lucky yellow and the team got us up front,” said Hinchcliffe. “But we showed we had pace today. On the radio they were telling me I had to save fuel and keep Scott and Dario behind. I said, ‘Save fuel and keep five championships behind me? No problem.’
“But the car was great and the guys were awesome in the pits. When we came in I wanted black tyres because I’d run so well in the last stint on them, but we knew they didn’t come up to temperature as quick. But then the yellow [flag] came out and pretty much everybody around me was on reds, so I knew we were in trouble. We lost a couple of spots on the restart and I was just trying to keep up and lost it in the Keyhole. It was pretty devastating.”
Six races to go – three ovals, two road courses and one street race – and if Power and Team Penske are to beat Ganassi’s operation, they need to get some momentum going.