By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun
6:23 PM EDT, August 5, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ohio —
Scott Dixon had been in this position before — out front in the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was a very familiar place to be.
But it wasn't comfortable.
At one point, he was so far ahead, he thought he'd done something wrong. But it was just Dixon's dominance. Still, he said, he never thought he had the race won until he took the checkered flag.
"Until it's over you never know," said Dixon, who won Sunday at the track for the fourth time in six years. "No matter how many times you're in that winning situation you worry, because you know what could happen — mechanical problems, fuel issues, they could have miss-measured how much fuel they put in.
"... On the final laps I could have still hit a curb and got in a wet puddle and spun."
Of course he didn't. Instead he brought his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda home with a 3.4619 second victory over Will Power in his Team Penske Chevrolet at an average speed of 115.379.
It was Dixon's second win of the season and the 29th of his career, tying him with Rick Mears at No. 10 on the All-Time Indy Car wins list.
Dixon's winning move, however, did not come on the race track. The 32-year old started on the second row in fourth place, and then moved up to second when then-second-place runner Dario Franchitti pitted.
Dixon stayed in second until he and Power pitted together on lap 57. At that point, pit position and Dixon's pit crew worked together to get him out ahead of Power. It was the pass of the day, the defining moment.
"These are such tight pit boxes and [Dixon] had a clean in," said Power, who had to go around Dixon's pit and laid out tires to enter his own box. "We had a tight in, so some of that was me getting in. It's hard for the fuel to get in clean too because [the fueler] has to step back from my front wing to swing in."
And once the pass was made, Power added, there was not much he could do.
"It's really hard to pass around this joint," he said.
In Dixon's pit box, fueler Todd DeNeve, who has been the team's fueler since 2003, had no trouble.
"My guys did a fantastic job," Dixon said. "The key was getting the fuel in quickly."
DeNeve didn't know how fast the stop was, but he knew why it went well.
"A lot of practice," he said. "The key for me is getting the nozzle plugged in and then out of the car fast because getting the fuel in takes longer than the rest of the stop.
"It was a great stop today. We wanted him to beat Power out of the pit and he did. Then he won. It feels great. We're back in the points race."
The points race got tighter and the leader changed Sunday. Power — thanks to his second-place finish, three bonus points for winning the pole and leading the most laps (57), and an unusually bad finish by previous leader Ryan Hunter-Reay (24th) — takes the lead with 379 points, five more than Hunter-Reay.
Helio Castroneves is in third, 26 points back, and Dixon remains in fourth, but he's now within 28 points of the leader.
Before the race, drivers worried about rain that cleared before the start and using the push-to-pass button in their cars that provides extra power in passing situations.
The push-to-pass was complicated in this race because IndyCar officials added a five-second delay before the boost would actually kick in. That meant drivers had to judge where to push the button in advance of actually wanting to use it.
"It was useless," Power said. "You couldn't use it when you wanted to. "
Even Dixon, who Power said does everything right at this track, couldn't manage to use push to pass.
"Everybody completely messed it up," he said. "It's difficult. If they're looking for ways to make people fall on their faces, they've succeeded."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun