SCOTT DIXON FUELS 1-2 TARGET GANASSI SWEEP
By John Oreovicz, ESPN.com
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- IndyCar Series events at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course are often more like precision driving displays than actual races.
But the challenging road course between Cleveland and Columbus is a nut that Scott Dixon has definitely cracked. The New Zealander drove his Target Ganassi Racing machine to victory at Mid-Ohio for the third time in five years, heading his teammate Dario Franchitti in a Ganassi 1-2.
Franchitti was the big winner on the day, stretching his championship lead from 38 to 62 points over Team Penske's Will Power. Power finished 14th on Sunday after getting mired in the pack when his attempt to stretch his fuel mileage didn't pay off.
Dixon remains third in the standings, now just 29 points behind Power. He knows that the chances of catching Franchitti in the next six races is remote but pledged to win as many as possible without regard to the championship.
Sunday at Mid-Ohio was a good start. After pacing the recent IndyCar open test at the rolling road course, Dixon claimed pole position, then led 50 of 85 laps to earn his 27th career Indy car race win.
His only real scare came when Franchitti took the lead following an exchange of pit stops on Laps 55 and 56. The full-course caution that doomed Power's fuel strategy came on the 57th lap when Danica Patrick spun Graham Rahal off course, leaving Franchitti ahead of Dixon for the subsequent restart on Lap 61.
Franchitti initially got the jump, but Dixon got a good run off of the keyhole and got alongside Franchitti heading into the esses. Prevented by the rules from blocking or maintaining a defensive line, Franchitti had no choice but to cede the lead to Dixon.
The No. 9 car then steadily pulled away to win by nearly eight seconds.
"It was a hell of an effort from Team Target -- they didn't put a foot wrong," Dixon remarked. "We got caught out a little bit on the last yellow and had to get back past Dario on the restart. But it was a flawless day and a flawless weekend."
Target Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull suggested that the critical restart might have been a bit more hectic if the two drivers involved weren't teammates.
Franchitti also was probably being a bit conservative, given that he knew Power had dropped from fourth place to 19th due to the Patrick/Rahal caution.
"I was going to try to stay alongside him on the restart and use my push-to-pass to keep up with him through Turn 4, but he got a hell of a jump," Dixon said. "Once he got past, I tucked in behind him to the right and I was able to go in deeper and outbrake him.
"It was a bit touch-and-go, but he's a true professional and he gave me plenty of room. I tried to do the same for him. It's a shame for the fans that was probably the only good move of the race."
Franchitti was pleased that Dixon raced him clean, especially after he and championship protagonist Power made contact at the same spot on the opening lap.
"I got the jump on that restart, but he got in the draft, and before we were even in the braking zone he was alongside me," Franchitti reported. "I couldn't defend because of the rules. I can't complain about Helio [Castroneves] blocking at Milwaukee and then go and do it myself.
"He did a great job, and after that, he just took off and I concentrated on making my tires last and defending second place from Ryan [Hunter-Reay, the third-place finisher]. I'm pretty happy. A 1-2 by the team today was a great job and it was the best I could hope for as fast as Scott was today."
Although Franchitti said that Power nearly spun him out twice on the opening lap, he didn't harbor any resentment -- or express much joy at widening his championship lead.
"Will was unlucky," Franchitti said. "I think on the first lap he made a mistake, obviously, when he drove into me, but I don't think he did anything wrong. It was bad luck.
"But as I said to somebody else, I've done a lot of these races, and I've probably still lost more races from bad luck than I've won from good luck. These things have a habit of balancing out over the years. So I'll take the good luck as long as it keeps coming."
Takuma Sato earned a career-best fourth-place finish, while his KV Racing-Lotus teammate Tony Kanaan took fifth to solidify his fourth place in the IndyCar Series standings.