LEXINGTON — Soon after Scott Dixon made the second-greatest rise to victory in IndyCar history yesterday, leaping from dead-last 22nd at the start to his track-record fifth victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, third-place finisher James Hinchcliffe was asked what comes to mind when he first hears Dixon’s name.
“Mid-Ohio; Mid-Ohio again, Mid-Ohio again again; Mid-Ohio again again again,” Hinchcliffe deadpanned.
Just as Hinchcliffe was being told he was one short, Dixon walked into the room and took control of the news conference.
Starting 22nd because of a spin during the rainy qualifying session on Saturday, Dixon’s Target-Chip Ganassi Racing team helped him leapfrog forward through a couple of rare full-course caution periods in the first 30 laps. Dixon did the rest in a race that, up until then, had been dominated by pole winner Sebastien Bourdais.
Thus, Dixon delivered the team its sixth straight victory at Mid-Ohio, and seventh in the past eight.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Dixon, whose other victories here came in 2007, ‘09, ‘11 and ‘12. ” Winning is a good feeling.”
Coming off his third season championship last year, he had yet to win this season. But yesterday put him back on top of the podium, his 34th career victory, tying Al Unser Jr. for sixth place on the IndyCar career list.
The only man who came from farther back at the start to win an IndyCar race was Max Papis, driving for the Rahal Letterman team, rising from 25th in the 2001 event at Laguna Seca. Papis got out of the car that day and declared “I am Max Papis. I am the king of the world.”
A much more subdued Dixon wouldn’t even declare himself king of Mid-Ohio, though the record book indicates otherwise. In the 90-lap race yesterday, he had taken the lead for the first time on Lap 40 while Bourdais and several other frontrunners pitted on their regular sequence, and he regained it again in the same fashion on Lap 68, staying out front the rest of the way.
The only driver who seemed capable of challenging him was Josef Newgarden of the Sarah Fisher Hartman team. But when Newgarden was ticketed for running over an air hose in his pits on his last stop on Lap 65, the drive-through penalty took him out of contention.
“You can never be disappointed with a podium finish, and to be honest, we didn’t have anything for Dixie,” said Bourdais.”The fastest car won the race. In the end, that’s all that matters.”
Or as Bourdais summed up his day in relation to Dixon’s, “We drove from first to second.”
Dixon had to make above-average fuel mileage to keep running after his last pit stop with 29 laps left. Despite the fact his team told him with 10 laps left he had plenty to finish, “I continued to save,” he said.
In the end, that probably was his most brilliant move of the race because his low-fuel warning light came on with about a lap and half remaining.
“Thank God I had continued to save fuel,” he said was his first thought. After he “coasted” through the final lap, he shut off the engine, pulled to the side of road just past the bridge in Turn 1, and made the short walk back to the pits and victory lane.
“It’s kind of like when you win Indy (500) the first time,” Dixon said of the emotion of rising from last to first, before qualifying that statement: “It’s a small bit of that.”