For the second consecutive year, the Mid-Ohio Grand Prix ran caution-free flag-to-flag, with Target Chip Ganassi claiming the victory – although not the driver you might expect. Breaking through for his maiden victory, Charlie Kimball drove the perfect aggressive, yet calculated race strategy to take the chequered flag after 90 laps of the Lexington, Ohio layout.
Kimball, starting in fifth place, quickly passed Marco Andretti and then waited until the perfect moment to strike the killer blow. Holding his own behind pole-sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and team-mate Scott Dixon, he stayed in touch with the three leaders for the first 30 laps until they all pitted at the same time, releasing him into open-air to make his mark and deliver a three-stop strategy – while most opted for two visits to pit lane – to take him to victory lane.
It was here that Kimball made his mark on the race. Upon resuming in the same order they entered the pits, Hunter-Reay, Power and Dixon became bogged down in a larger group of cars and were stuck setting laps in the 1m08s range, while Kimball was easily two seconds a lap faster. It was here that Kimball’s focus switched to fellow three-stopper Simon Pagenaud, who was setting equally quick times and had passed the three leaders in his own right after clearing some cars in front of his eighth-place grid spot.
Kimball’s own pit stop was insufficient to ensure he resumed ahead of Pagenaud, but the positions were quickly switched back once the Friendly Frog pitted for his own service.
Elsewhere in the field, championship points leader Helio Castroneves was struggling with a car clearly not working to his liking. The Brazilian was wringing its neck to get the most out of it, managing to get past some cars and make his way slowly up the order. It was mainly through the misfortune of arch-rival Scott Dixon and the quick pit work of the Penske team that saw Castroneves finish ahead of the Kiwi.
Series debutants Luca Filippi and James Davison were keeping their nose clean, with the former undertaking an early battle with Graham Rahal, which was eventually won by the latter largely due to the benefit of his experience. Filippi drove a clean race, as did Davison, and did their chances of a full time ride next season no harm at all.
With the race running under full green conditions, its only casualty was Tony Kanaan. The Indy 500 winner slowed on the back straight with a loose right-rear tyre. Unable to make it back to the pits, the Brazilian headed for the infield grassy area and showing the class and professionalism his years of experience warrants, parked his car well off the racing line and negating the need for a full course caution.
Later in the race, Kimball found himself stuck behind the lapped car of EJ Viso, who was proving reluctant to yield to the leader, but there was no penalty, blue flags or order to move aside forthcoming from Race Control.
Running nose-to-tail along the back straight, Kimball had enough push-to-pass power available to him to ensure his momentum carried him past Pagenaud into Turn 4. From here, Kimball held on to take the victory.
Charlie Kimball’s boss Chip Ganassi was clearly elated with his young charge’s first win, actually managing to fall off the pit-wall – thankfully avoiding injury – in his haste to celebrate the win.
Kimball himself was naturally overjoyed, dedicating the win to his parents and sister and paying tribute to the sacrifices all made to support his burgeoning racing career which was now starting to pay dividends.
Next up is Sonoma, which in some ways is similar to Mid-Ohio, with its sweeping elevation changes and mix of slow, medium and fast corners. Helio Castroneves, by virtue of finishing one place ahead of Scott Dixon, saw his championship points lead increase by a further four points to 33, with five races to go. Consistency may win him this title, but it is not over yet. One slip-up by either party could secure it for the other, and the pressure to stay cool has never been more intense.
2013 IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 Mid-Ohio Final Classification (90 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||90||1:43:29.1371|
|2.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH Racing||90||+ 5.5334|
|3.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing||90||+ 28.8735|
|4.||Will Power||Team Penske||90||+ 42.5032|
|5.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||90||+ 46.3449|
|6.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||90||+ 48.3249|
|7.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||90||+ 48.5496|
|8.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||90||+ 49.0431|
|9.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||90||+ 49.5609|
|10.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||90||+ 49.9283|
|11.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology||90||+ 50.4925|
|12.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing||90||+ 54.1360|
|13.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||90||+ 54.6693|
|14.||Oriol Servià||Panther Racing||90||+ 1:04.6395|
|15.||James Davison||Dale Coyne Racing||90||+ 1:05.4079|
|16.||Luca Filippi||Barracuda Racing||90||+ 1:09.0090|
|17.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela / Andretti||89||1 lap behind|
|18.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||89||1 lap behind|
|19.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing||89||1 lap behind|
|20.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||89||1 lap behind|
|21.||Tristan Vautier||SPH Racing||89||1 lap behind|
|22.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||89||1 lap behind|
|23.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||88||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology||64||Mechanical|