It's been a hard season for powerhouse team Chip Ganassi Racing up to now, with the four-man team failing to claim a victory in 14 races. It took a return visit to one of their most successful venues, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, to finally put the team back on track and break their 2014 drought.
"It's a good feeling. Winning's a good feeling. I think having the year that we've had, you understand why the feeling is so good," smiled Dixon who admitted that the biggest emotion on Sunday afternoon was one of simple relief at the feeling that the team has turned the corner at last.
"Relief is the biggest thing," he nodded. "It's a lot later in the season than we're used to as a team. Sometimes you can understand if one of us hasn't won at this point, but all four of us?"
"The entire team did a great job, my hats off to them," contributed team owner Chip Ganassi. "They all did a great job. We had a couple close ones there in Iowa and Pocono and finally came through there. I want to thank Chevrolet for some great engines and I am very happy for everyone here today."
The signs and portents at the start of the day hadn't exactly been auspicious: a slip by Dixon in wet conditions in Saturday qualifying had left him starting from dead last in 22nd place on the grid. With overtaking far from easy at Mid-Ohio it seemed highly unlikely that he would even be able to get in the top ten let alone on the podium. The furthest back the race has ever been won from in the past was eighth, by Al Unser Jr. in 1995 and Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999.
"The way the weekend started, even the test, the car was extremely fast and looked good until I made the mistake in qualifying," said Dixon. "I thought to try to come from last on the grid here to even a top ten was going to be extremely tough to do.
"We tried different strategies early on in the race," he revealed. "I think we'd done two pit stops in the first 20 or 30 laps, which is kind of unheard of. I think had we continued on that rate, we would have run out of tyres.
"I just said to the guys, We got to do something different here or we're going to run around mid pack. We switched, were laying down some quick laps, jumped some people, then got that caution [when Ryan Hunter-Reay spun on lap 37]. We had to make massive fuel mileage after that to what you typically have to do.
"So that was the challenge - to maintain the pace obviously in front of people that have just pit and put on new tires. We had to try and really extend the stint."
The team had appeared confident that Dixon could pull it off, but in the end he appeared to have to cruise across the finish line (still more than five seconds ahead of second-place man Sebastien Bourdais) and park the car at the pit exit in turn 1. Did that mean he had run out of fuel?
"The fuel light came on two laps earlier than we thought. Had I continued on not saving fuel, we would have been a lap short," said Dixon, while adding that he had not actually stopped because he had run dry. "We didn't run out of fuel there, but we would have on the backside of the circuit and it would have been a long walk back."
"That was tough," rued Bourdais. "Hats off to Dixie and the Ganassi guys. We didn't have anything for them. They were clearly the class of the field and deserve it."
The result was Dixon's 34th career win in the Verizon IndyCar Series, tying him with Al Under Jr. for sixth place in the all-time wins list. It's the fifth time he's won at Mid-Ohio and the tenth time for the Ganassi team in the winner's circle at the venue.
"It's partly that it suits me, but it also suits the team," responded Dixon when asked what it was about Mid-Ohio that made him and Ganassi so strong here. "It's a place I love. It's got a great flow to it. I love old-school American tracks: Watkins Glen, Road America, even Laguna Seca. They're physically demanding, lots of elevation, very technical.
"It's a combination of things," he added. "It's a place that you get a lap, it's just very rewarding. You get a flow going, it keeps ticking off. It's a good feeling."
The race could have gone very differently for Dixon, who was lucky to escape serious damage from the first lap rash between his team mate Tony Kanaan and Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti.
"I was a little worried because we picked up quite a big vibration after that accident there,' Dixon noted. "I think it was maybe just hitting the brakes, then going straight into a caution period. Sometimes with these brakes, they get a big vibration if they heat up, then cool off quickly. I ran over some big pieces of debris, thought it was stuck in the underwing. Came in and stopped, and the team checked just to make sure we didn't have anything stuck there."
For Kanaan, crashing out on the first lap was just another disappointing day at the office in what's been a frustrating year from the Brazilian since taking over from his good friend Dario Franchitti in the #10 car.
"I went on the inside of [Josef] Newgarden and it was really tight for both of us and I don't know if he saw me or not," said Kanaan of the incident that caused a very early caution. "I was all the way alongside him and then toward the middle of the corner he was actually a little bit ahead, so there was contact there and he touched my front wheel and I spun. I was in a tough position there.
The contact left him spun around facing the oncoming traffic: most managed to avoid Kanaan but Andretti was unsighted and had no time to react before ploughing straight into the staled car: "Marco didn't see me unfortunately and I feel bad for Marco," said Kanaan.
"Today's crash was just a victim of being in the back," sighed Andretti. "Obviously there was a lot of carnage. As soon as - I think it was Hinchcliffe in front of me - made an evasive move, I was right on top of Tony and I didn't know he was backwards. I could have used a spotter there, that would have helped. That's what happens when you qualify back there. I need to improve on that."
Takuma Sato also ran into the accident, making contact with Andretti as he rebounded from hitting the #10: "We made a good start, picked up a couple positions in Turn 1, but then there was a multiple car accident in front of me and I couldn't avoid it," said the driver of the AJ Foyt Racing #14. "I damaged the front wing so we pitted and changed it."
Starting from third place on the grid, Kanaan had appeared to be Ganassi's best hope of picking up a result here. Ryan Briscoe had got underway from 19th on the grid after suffering similar woes to Dixon in qualifying, while Charlie Kimball - who won here in 2013 - started alongside him in 20th, only a row ahead of Dixon himself. Both drivers also went on to perform strongly in the race, with Briscoe finishing in eighth position and Kimball just ahead in seventh.
"It feels good to get back up there with a top 10 result after a few disappointing finishes and I couldn't be happier for Dixie and the Team Target guys," said Briscoe. "We had some issues early in the race with the front wing after the incident with Tony and Marco on the first lap and we decided to stay out on the damaged wing for a while longer. We finally came in and changed it and then worked really hard to move through the field from the back."
"Today was a great day for Chip Ganassi Racing and a huge congratulations to Dixon and the #9 Team Target crew for getting the first win of the season for the team," added Kimball. "The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys fought hard all day and came through to get a solid top ten finish from starting 20th."
Their performances from so far back on the grid just underscored once again how formidable the Ganassi team is at Mid-Ohio.
"It's very rewarding," agreed Dixon. "It was a good feeling and mostly for the team and the crew ... It's nice to put a smile on Chip's face, too.
"For me to get back on the top spot, you know, it means a lot," he added. "I think you never want to get complacent in this series. It's extremely competitive. Everybody in the Verizon IndyCar Series does a fantastic job. That's why it's so tough to win.
"It's kind of like when you win Indy for the first time, it's a small bit of that with relief and knowing that we didn't go a year without winning a race, that we can definitely try and close out this championship as strong as possible."
Dixon now has three more races remaining this season - at Milwaukee, Sonoma and Fontana - to build on his race win at Mid-Ohio this week and demonstrate to the world that the Ganassi team is back on top again.
CLICK: Mid-Ohio race report
CLICK: Full race results from Mid-Ohio
CLICK: Current IndyCar championship standings