On Sunday, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course has hosted open-wheel racing in of 34 of the last 37 seasons. For this week’s IndyCar Flashback, we go back to a recent race, where one of the series’ best drivers fought through the field to continue his dominance at the track.
Dixon Charges from Last to First for Fifth Mid-Ohio Win
With just four races remaining in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power were the class of the field. Castroneves led Power by 14 points after the Toronto doubleheader as the teammates were each seeking their first career title.
Power earned the early advantage for the weekend, qualifying sixth as Castroneves would start the race in 15th. Before the green flag waved for the 90-lap race, Castroneves’ struggles continued.
During the pace laps, the points leader pulled onto pit road with a stuck throttle. The team was not able to get Castroneves back on track in time for the green flag. Castroneves would go three laps down early in the race as the issue continued to flare up.
Up front, KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais earned his 33rd career pole, tying him with Dario Franchitti for seventh all-time.
When the green flag waved on the back straightaway, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan went side-by-side into Turn 4 for second place behind Bourdais.
Kanaan would spin, causing the field to take evasive action in order to avoid the No. 10 car. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato were collected in the accident, as Kanaan and Andretti were knocked out of the race.
After the Lap 4 restart, Bourdais continued to pace the field. The polesitter would lead the first 25 laps, stretching his fuel and tires almost as far as anyone.
When Bourdais pitted, Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay inherited the lead. Hunter-Reay was given a pit road speeding penalty as Bourdais returned to the track on the alternate tires.
With Bourdais on fresher and faster tires, he continued to pace the field. On Lap 37, Hunter-Reay spun out in Turn 12 to bring out the second caution of the day. Pit strategy put Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon at the front of the field. After starting last on the 22-car grid, the four-time winner at Mid-Ohio was in once again in contention.
Dixon would hold the lead until his final pit stop of the day on Lap 64. A switch to the faster tires meant Dixon’s fuel-saving abilities would be even more necessary. Newgarden, Bourdais and Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe took turns at the front during the pit stop cycle.
After the leaders pitted, Dixon would return to the lead and pull away from the field. Dixon earned his first win of 2014, adding to a track record with his fifth triumph at Mid-Ohio.
It also marked the 34th win of his career, tying him with Al Unser Jr. for sixth all-time. 5.3864 seconds behind Dixon was Bourdais, who earned his first podium since the Toronto doubleheader a year before.
Also completing an impressive drive, Hinchcliffe finished third after starting 17th, his first podium since the second Houston race in 2013.
After finishing sixth, Will Power took over the points lead by four over Helio Castroneves with just three races remaining. Castroneves ended the day four laps behind in 19th.
The eventful race at Mid-Ohio would set the course for an interesting end to the 2014 season. Here’s a look at how things played out for the race’s headliners.
Dixon’s win at Mid-Ohio started a four-race streak of Top Five finishes to close out the season, including a win at the penultimate race in Sonoma. Dixon’s late-season hot streak would be enough to vault himself to third in the final standings. A year later, Dixon earned his fourth championship.
Although he has not won at Mid-Ohio since 2014, Dixon has two Top Ten finishes in the last three years. In 2018, Dixon has won three races and leads the championship by 62 points with five races left.
Bourdais has not finished better than 17th at Mid-Ohio since his runner-up effort that day. In 2017, the four-time ChampCar champion began driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Bourdais has not had a Top Five finish since the IndyCar Grand Prix in May. A win at Mid-Ohio would also give Bourdais his first victory on a natural terrain road course since the ChampCar event at Mexico City in 2007.
Power would win the next race at Milwaukee and after finishing ninth in the season finale at Fontana, won his first career championship. Although he has yet to earn another title and has not won at Mid-Ohio, Power did earn his first Indianapolis 500 victory in May.
Despite not recording a Top Ten finish the final three races of the season, Castroneves finished second in the championship for the fourth time in his career. Following the 2017 season, Castroneves moved on to sports car racing but still ran at both Indianapolis Motor Speedway events in May.
Header Image by Bret Kelley/INDYCAR