Managing his strategy to perfection, Scott Dixon climbed to the top step of the podium for the first time in 2011 with a commanding victory at Mid-Ohio.
Following him home in second place was team-mate Dario Franchitti, who was also able to judge his pit stops well to maximise track position and ensure a straight fight was had among the Ganassi boys at the front.
For Will Power though, Lady Luck was never with him during the race, as twice he failed to pit prior to separate full course caution periods and was therefore forced to do so during the caution period itself, sacrificing valuable track position on both occasions. The second of these occurrences was especially painful, as the majority of the field had already pitted and was bunched up with Power as the pit lane opened for serviced. While the Penske crew furiously worked on the tyres and fuel, Power could do nothing but sit and watch virtually the entire field casually motor past.
From the green flag, Dixon and Ryan Briscoe led away, while Power was passed by Franchitti. Further back, Alex Tagliani ran over a bump and veered left toward James Hinchcliffe, forcing the Newman Haas driver to take evasive action over the grass, re-joining in last place.
The pace car made its first appearance of the afternoon on Lap 22 when Sebastian Saavedra ran off at Turn 2, making contact with the tyre wall and ending his afternoon prematurely.
As can be the case when a reworked strategy plays into ones hands, James Hinchcliffe, who has pitted early in the race following his first corner off, didn’t need to pit with the rest of the field at the first caution period, and was granted a free pass to the front of the field. At the restart, Hinchcliffe was running well in the lead, holding his own for over 25 laps in front of Scott Dixon before his new pit strategy forced his hand.
It was at this point that the race was effectively won by Dixon. Following Hinchcliffe’s dive for the pit lane, Dixon made the most of the clean air available to him, setting the fastest lap and subsequently making his pit stop and re-joining well ahead of Hinchcliffe as he was coming through. While Franchitti, Power and Briscoe were following close behind, it was the next caution period which put paid to the chances of the latter two. On Lap 57, Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal both found the gravel at Turn 2 courtesy of a spat over the same piece of tarmac.
At what proved to be the final restart on Lap 60, Dixon saw no reason to wait or to tease the rest of the field, and simply powered into the distance to win by over 8-seconds from Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan. Will Power eventually finished 14th, widening the gap to Dario Franchitti in the championship chase to 62 points.
One week is all that separates us from the next race, at the returning New Hampshire Speedway. How the teams will handle the short turnaround from road course to oval shall soon be revealed as the next chapter of the 2011 season is written.
2011 Honda Indy 200 Mid-Ohio Final Classification (85 laps):
|1.||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||85||1:48:46.9509|
|2.||Dario Franchitti||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 7.6508|
|3.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 9.0784|
|4.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||85||+ 12.3062|
|5.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||85||+ 19.9748|
|6.||Alex Tagliani||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||85||+ 20.6267|
|7.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 20.9094|
|8.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||85||+ 23.0252|
|9.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 23.6411|
|10.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||85||+ 26.2582|
|11.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi||85||+ 27.4550|
|12.||Simona de Silvestro||HVM Racing||85||+ 29.0438|
|13.||Simon Pagenaud||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||85||+ 29.7880|
|14.||Will Power||Team Penske||85||+ 42.5675|
|15.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||85||+ 45.3255|
|16.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||85||+ 45.7141|
|17.||Ana Beatriz||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||85||+ 47.0943|
|18.||Martin Plowman||Sam Schmidt / AFS Racing||85||+ 48.3700|
|19.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||85||+ 48.8679|
|20.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||85||+ 49.4093|
|21.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 59.9851|
|22.||Ed Carpenter||Sarah Fisher Racing||85||+ 1:09.2913|
|23.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 1:09.5303|
|24.||Graham Rahal||Service Central Chip Ganassi||83||2 laps behind|
|25.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||81||4 laps behind|
|DNF.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||63||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||20||Accident|
[Images and video via IZOD IndyCar Series]