IRL: Round 13 – Honda Indy 200, Mid-Ohio – 9 August

With NASCAR’s rare appearance on a road course stymied by lightning storms at Watkins Glen, IndyCar had no such problems under the blue skies of mid-Ohio.

Justin Wilson put Ryan Briscoe under pressure for the lead from the start, finally taking the spot on lap 6 as Briscoe drifted wide going through turn 9 and clearing off into the distance despite working to save fuel to make it a two-stop race.

Meanhile, Tony Kanaan was an early visitor into the gravel after running wide into the Keyhole while being challenged by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Graham Rahal also had a scary moment when he put a wheel on the grass running too fast out of a left-hander on lap 5, but managed to hold it together although Dario Franchitti took 4th place from him behind the leaders and his team mate Scott Dixon. Neither incident brought out the yellow flags.

Wilson and Rahal pitted under green at the end of lap 28, but Briscoe and Franchitti lasted two laps longer and slashed into Wilson’s previously 7s lead when they emerged alongside Wilson out of pit land. But Scott Dixon lasted a lap lonegr still, and managed to leapfrog Briscoe for second and slot in close behind Wilson thanks to a great in-lap.

That put Dixon in in ideal position as they closed up on backmarker Milka Duno. As Dixon tried to get past her, Dixon slipped through the inside and read the situation better to take the lead on lap 38 of 85. A couple of laps later and Helio Castroneves triggered the first caution of the afternoon, spinning off all by himself into the gravel. Despite initially appearing beached, he managed to drive his way out of the trap and back onto the track.

A second yellow followed quickly after the restart, when Danica Patrick was not so lucky when she tangled with an over-ambitious Mike Conway on lap 45 and got punted off into the gravel, burying the car in the kitty litter.

The race then ran green to the second and final round of pit stops, allowing Dixon to eke out a lead of over 6s over Justin Wilson who was not finding the harder compound tyres nearly so much to his liking. And then it all went wrong for Wilson, who was slow into the pit lane on lap 63 for his final stop and then stalled the car getting away, presumably as a result of being completely out of gas causing problems with fuel pick-up. As a result he dropped well down the running order and finished in a distant 13th place.

That left the race completely in Dixon’s hands, and the Kiwi made no mistakes, cruising to an emphatic half minute victory over Ryan Briscoe, whose tyres went off badly in the closing laps leaving him struggling to hold off Dario Franchitti for the runners-up position. Graham Rahal had brake problems and ultimately a gravel excursion on lap 71, allowing Paul Tracy to take 5th place, with Ryan Hunter-Reay already having taken a strong 4th place with Andretti-Green duo Hideki Mutoh and Marco Andretti in 5th and 6th places ahead of them.

Dixon’s dominance prevented this from being an exciting or classic race as last week’s outing had been, but that would have been a lot to ask from Mid-Ohio, where the new ‘push to pass’ has limited effect and the teams can’t run the new, improved aero packages designed for ovals that made all the difference to close racing at Kentucky.

But the race did chalk up a little bit of history, with Dixon’s fourth win this season and 20th victory in 109 IndyCar series starts overhauling Sam Hornish Jr.’s previous series record. Dixon also tied teammate Dario Franchitti for 19th on the all-time career list (sanctioning by AAA, USAC, CART, Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League) with 21 (he picked up one victory at Nazareth in CART) – A.J. Foyt is the all-time overall open-wheel career record holder with 67.

But probably the best news of all for Dixon – it puts him back in the championship lead by 4pts.

Race result

Pos Driver              Lap Time/Delay
1   Scott Dixon         85  1h 46:05.7985
2   Ryan Briscoe        85      + 29.7803
3   Dario Franchitti    85      + 30.0551
4   Ryan Hunter-Reay    85      + 33.7307
5   Hideki Mutoh        85      + 34.1839
6   Marco Andretti      85      + 46.7669
7   Paul Tracy          85      + 49.7020
8   Graham Rahal        85      + 50.4517
9   Raphael Matos       85      + 51.2286
10  Tony Kanaan         85      + 52.0810
11  Oriol Servià        85      + 52.6215
12  Hélio Castroneves   85      + 53.2362
13  Justin Wilson       85      + 53.5768
14  Robert Doornbos     85    + 1:10.0812
15  Ernesto Viso        84        + 1 Lap
16  Dan Wheldon         84        + 1 Lap
17  Ed Carpenter        84        + 1 Lap
18  Richard Antinucci   83       + 2 Laps
19  Danica Patrick      83       + 2 Laps
20  Mike Conway         69     Mechanical
21  Milka Duno          56       Handling

IndyCar championship standings

Pos Driver  Points
1   Scott Dixon         461
2   Ryan Briscoe        457
3   Dario Franchitti    440
4   Helio Castroneves   359
5   Danica Patrick      321
6   Marco Andretti      307
7   Tony Kanaan         294
8   Graham Rahal        289
9   Dan Wheldon         288 
10  Justin Wilson       270
11  Hideki Mutoh        267
12  Ryan Hunter-Reay    242
13  Ed Carpenter        239
14  Raphael Matos       230
15  Robert Doornbos     225
16  Will Power          209
17  Ernesto Viso        194
18  Mike Conway         185
19  Mário Moraes        181
20  Tomas Scheckter     137
21  Alex Tagliani       114
22  Paul Tracy          113
23  Milka Duno           75
24  Vitor Meira          62
25  Sarah Fisher         61
26  Jaques Lazier        53
27  Stanton Barrett      50
28  Richard Antinucci    48
29  Darren Manning       38
30  Townsend Bell        32
31  Oriol Servia         29
32  A.J. Foyt IV         26
33  Alex Lloyd           17
34  Scott Sharp          16
35  John Andretti        12
36  Davey Hamilton       10
36  Nelson Philippe      10
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