By: Tanner Watkins
July 28, 2019 | 5:00 PM
They say wins don’t come easy in the NTT IndyCar Series, and Scott Dixon has surely had easier victories than this. Nonetheless, “The Iceman” was the driver to finish first in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, besting his teammate by a scant 0.0934 seconds for the victory.
With 22 laps remaining in the race, Dixon held a 9-second lead on fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist. The kicker? Dixon was on the alternate Firestone tire compound which wears out quicker, while Rosenqvist was on the same primary compound which served him well in the race’s early stages.
As the laps clicked off, Rosenqvist continued to trim the gap: 5.9 seconds with 13 laps to go, then 3.8 seconds with eight laps remaining. It seemed that the only thing holding Rosenqvist back would be potential team orders from boss Chip Ganassi, considering Dixon’s glimmer of hope in the championship.
The wild card in this finish ended up being lapped traffic – which in hindsight, benefitted Dixon just enough. As Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti, Max Chilton and Matheus Leist battled behind Dixon, Rosenqvist was forced to carefully weave his way through the off-pace group to even have a chance at the lead.
After a thrilling duel, Andretti and Sato came together in a collision which forced the Japanese driver to pit lane. Eventually, Rosenqvist overcame each driver in his way, and had a chance at Dixon on the race’s final lap.
Heading into the Keyhole section at Mid-Ohio on the last lap, Rosenqvist was inside Dixon for the race lead when the teammates made contact. Thankfully for them, each driver continued on without losing a position.
In the end, it was Dixon who took the victory – an incredible sixth triumph at Mid-Ohio – with Rosenqvist securing his first podium in IndyCar. It was also the first time since a race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2015 that the Ganassi team had recorded a 1-2 finish.
After the race, Dixon was asked about walking the fine line between racing your teammate hard for a win but keeping championship dreams afloat – all with tires that were running ragged.
“It is so hard… If I wasn’t his teammate then I think he would have had me off (at the Keyhole),” said Dixon post-race. “This may help our race for the championship – it looks like the others may have had a rough race out there today, but it is what it is. Just proud of the team and proud that we finally got that done. That was a tough race, a really tough race.
“Those tires were shot with about 15 (laps) to go,” Dixon added. “I thought we were going to have to pit again.”
The same joy couldn’t be shared by championship leader Josef Newgarden and former champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Heading into the Keyhole – just seconds after Dixon and Rosenqvist had come together for the lead – Newgarden attempted a patented over-under pass attempt on Hunter-Reay. The Team Penske driver ended up hurtling to the apex a little too quickly, eventually ramming the side of Hunter-Reay’s yellow No. 28 and sending Newgarden off of the track.
What would have been a fourth-place finish for Newgarden ended up being a 14th-place result and a 16-point swing in the championship. Alexander Rossi finished fifth today, a race where he wasn’t quite in contention for most of the way, but the California native didn’t make a mistake and will head to Pocono with only 16 points separating he and Newgarden.
At the end, Newgarden was quick to take the blame for his run-in with Hunter-Reay.
“I just forced the issue, probably,” said Newgarden post-race. “Was trying to get on the podium there and got inside of him… Lost power, started looping around and lost power. It is my fault trying to force the issue there.”
Newgarden was the only Team Penske driver to not finish in the first six positions as Will Power was fourth and Simon Pagenaud placed sixth. Rounding out the top ten were Spencer Pigot in seventh, rookie Colton Herta in eighth, Ohio native Graham Rahal in ninth, and part-timer Jack Harvey coming home with a top-ten.
Heading into the next race at Pocono Raceway in a couple of weeks, Newgarden will carry a 16-point advantage over Rossi while Pagenaud sits 47 points back in third. Dixon trimmed the gap from first-to-fourth to 62 points by virtue of his victory today.
The race ran caution-free for the second consecutive year, though a run-in between James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson and Takuma Sato on the opening lap sent Ericsson to a DNF and the other two drivers to pit lane early on.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for wrap-up coverage of the Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio and more as this NTT IndyCar Series season rolls along!
Header image by James Black/INDYCAR.