By: Spencer Neff
December 19, 2019 | 8:42 AM
With 2020 quickly approaching, Open-Wheels continues its look back at the best from the past decade of IndyCar racing. Today, we look back at the 2015 Honda Indy 200, held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
In the midst of a career renaissance, one driver made a childhood dream come true and vaulted himself into the championship conversation.
Rahal takes victory at home track
Ahead of the Verizon Indycar Series’ 14th round in the 2015 season, a major technological advancement was implemented. For the series’ annual stop at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, LED panels were implemented.
Placed in the middle of the car just beneath the roll hoop, the display allowed fans to monitor each car’s position in the race. Additionally, the scoring panel would provide push-to-pass indications and pit stop times.
When the weekend kicked off, Scott Dixon continued his dominance at the 2.238-mile, 13-turn road course. With a best lap of 125.869 mph, the four-time Mid-Ohio winner earned his second career pole at the track.
Looking to chip away at Juan Pablo Montoya’s 48-pont lead in the championship, Dixon was the only driver of the Top 3 in points to start better than 10th, which Montoya had done. After qualifying 13th, Ohio native Graham Rahal looked to turn his luck around.
Early on, Dixon took the advantage from pole. On Lap 3, teammate Charlie Kimball spun into the tire barrier – and the 2013 race winner’s hopes of a second win took a significant hit.
During the first 22 laps, Dixon remained unchallenged for the lead. On Lap 21, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth spun in Turn 4. Following the incident, the racing surface was littered with debris in multiple corners, prompting the second full-course caution of the afternoon.
When the field went back to green on Lap 26, Dale Coyne Racing’s Tristan Vautier had assumed the lead over Montoya and Rahal. As had become the norm at Mid-Ohio, long green-flag stints were on the menu for the rest of the race. Following the early yellows, the next 40 laps were run without stoppage.
On Lap 33, Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson made his way around Vautier for the top spot. Making his fifth start for the team in 2015, it would be the third race the popular Englishman would lead that season – but his first outside of an oval since Toronto a year earlier.
Six laps later, Montoya made his way to the top spot to pick up a critical championship bonus point. During the second round of pit stops, Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden and Montoya’s teammate Helio Castroneves also made their way to the front.
By Lap 49, Montoya found his way to the front again. For the next 16 laps, the points leader was primed to duplicate the 1999 win from his rookie and championship season in CART with Ganassi.
On Lap 65, plans changed when Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sage Karam spun in Turn 4 and prompted the fourth caution of the afternoon. With pit stops looming for seven drivers ahead during the yellow, Rahal cycled back to the lead on Lap 68.
For the restart on Lap 70, Montoya attempted to claw his way back from 12th to keep his points lead. With 10 laps remaining, the action picked up again. In Turn 4, Kimball and Rodolfo Gonzalez collided. With Kimball stalled in the grass, the yellow flag was displayed a fourth time.
Fortunately, Kimball’s stalled car was removed from harm’s way quickly, and starting with Lap 84, a seven-lap battle for the win ensued. In the end, it was Rahal who took command – and the Columbus native never looked back.
After leading the final 23 laps in the 90-lap event, Rahal picked up another bonus point for leading the most laps.
After going 124 races between his first two wins, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver had earned his second victory in four starts. Additionally, he joined his father and car owner Bobby (1985 and 1986) as winners at their home track.
Finishing just over seconds behind Rahal, Wilson earned his first podium since Houston in 2013. Rounding out the podium, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rallied from 13th on the starting grid. In 10th, Montoya was able to hang on to a narrow championship lead over Rahal.
Three weeks later, Rahal crashed out early at Pocono Raceway, allowing Montoya’s lead to expand back to 34. Tragically, Wilson was struck by debris during a late-race incident.
A day later, the 38-year-old passed away due to his injuries. The following week, the Verizon IndyCar Series headed to Sonoma Raceway for an emotional season finale.
After winning and leading the most laps, Dixon edged out Montoya on the race wins tiebreaker (3 to 2) for his fourth series title. Lastly, although the LED panels have seen some issues since their implementation at this event, the technology has been well-received across the IndyCar community.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback. Look for more IndyCar Flashbacks and Fan Votes throughout the offseason and in 2020.
Header Image By Bret Kelley/INDYCAR