Defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has claimed a sensational victory at Mid-Ohio from the back of the grid. It was the New Zealander’s fifth win here – undoubtedly his best – with the result coming off the back of canny pit strategy by his Chip Ganassi Racing team.

Polesitter Sébastien Bourdais finished second, while James Hinchcliffe held on to finish third.

Dixon started at the rear of the field after spinning in Saturday’s damp qualifying session and having his two best lap times removed under the series’ tough rules, leaving with a seemingly impossible task to claw his way through the field on a narrow circuit not always known for its overtaking.

His stroke of fortune came with a mid-race Safety Car interruption; team strategist Mike Hull ordered his driver to stay out while much of the field took the chance to pit for fuel and tyres. That gave him track position, and when racing resumed on Lap 42 he was able to skip away from the pack courtesy of his much lighter fuel load.

He did hit the pits later on for his final service, and had done the hard work to keep him in contention for the team’s tenth victory at the circuit where they have dominated.

It still wasn’t completely certain, however, and as the final lap started, Dixon’s low fuel warning light triggered but he had just enough in the tank to get across the finish line, five seconds clear of Bourdais.

Hinchcliffe claimed his first podium finish of what has been a (thus far) horrible 2014 campaign in the Andretti Autosports entry; he finished two seconds ahead of rookie teammate Carlos Muñoz.

Fellow Andretti stablemates Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan didn’t enjoy the same fortune, as both were punted out just seconds into the race as the pack jostled for position on the opening lap.

Kanaan was up to third and challenging front-row starter Josef Newgarden for second into Turn 2, but was forced onto the karbing as Newgarden turned for the corner apex. That destabilised the back end of Kanaan’s car, and he looped into a spin exiting the corner which triggered mayhem behind. While many runners took to the grass in avoidance, Andretti in the mid-pack was completely unsighted, hit the Brazilian’s car and in turn was hit from behind by the luckless Takuma Sato.

The accident was to Hinchliffe’s benefit. The Canadian brilliantly read the unfolding drama in front of him and picked his way through the mess, gaining eleven positions.

Also suffering drama was championship leader Hélio Castroneves, who finished four laps adrift in last place with an incurable engine mapping issue. That played to the benefit of his chief title rival and teammate Will Power, who finished sixth and regained top spot in the Drivers’ Championship standings – a 13-point deficit was now a 4-point buffer.

The field regroups in two weeks’ time for the penultimate oval race of the season at the historic Milwaukee Mile.

2014 IndyCar Series Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Race Result (90 laps):

Driver Team / Entry Result
1. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:52:45.204
2. Sébastien Bourdais KV Racing Technology Honda Honda + 5.386
3. James Hinchcliffe ca Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 7.334
4. Carlos Muñoz Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 9.355
5. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Honda + 11.851
6. Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet + 15.977
7. Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 16.853
8. Ryan Briscoe Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 17.502
9. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda + 18.616
10. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 20.077
11. Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet + 21.737
12. Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Honda + 22.099
13. Mike Conway Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 23.835
14. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda + 29.806
15. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda + 44.642
16. Jack Hawksworth Bryan Herta Autosport Honda Honda + 58.721
17. Carlos Huertas Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda + 1:02.585
18. Takuma Sato A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda Honda – 1 lap
19. Hélio Castroneves Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet – 4 laps
Did Not Finish
DNF. Sebastián Saavedra KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda Honda 24 laps
DNF. Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 0 laps
DNF. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda Honda 0 laps

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Matt Lennon