In previous races so far in 2014 we've seen Will Power storm his way through the field from some very poor starting positions to get on the podium - and at Detroit he even won the race despite starting from 16th position. But there was none of that sparkle for the Penske driver at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which saw him both start and eventually finish the race in sixth place.
Even that had been a battle, especially in the closing laps where he came under intense pressure for a spell from last year's race winner Charlie Kimball. But holding on to sixth place puts him into the lead of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship if only by the narrowest of margins, and Mid-Ohio could yet prove to be one of the turning points of the entire 2014 title campaign.
"Proud of the Verizon Chevy boys today," said Power afterwards. "We didn't quite have the pace on the red tyres that we wanted, but it was as good as we could do.
"As far as the standings go, we have a small lead but the key from here on out is to finish ahead of the other guys week in and week out," he noted. "If we can do that, we will be in good shape to challenge for the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship."
Both of Power's main rivals for the title hit problems at Mid-Ohio, and in the case of his team mate Helio Castroneves it was a mechanical issue that struck the #3 car even before the green flag came out.
"At first, I thought the throttle issue was a quick fix," said Castroneves. "As soon as they started the car for 'Gentlemen, start your engines' I knew there was something wrong. Then, during the parade laps, I noticed that it was stuck. That could be a big problem and cause a big crash.
"When we came back down pit road we figured out it was a bigger problem - there was just a bit of a mistake in our fuel mapping," he explained. That meant a lengthy stay on pit road while the crew removed bodywork to get at the problem. In the meantime the green flag came out to start to race without him.
Even though the race went under an immediate caution for the turn 4 collision between Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti, Castroneves had still lost four laps by the time he was able to head back out onto the track. He was never able to recover any of the lost ground and finished the race in 19th place, taking a costly hit in the points standings as a result.
"Man, I hate it for all the guys," sighed Castroneves after a deeply frustrating day at the office. "It was a tough race, knowing that I was on a lap by myself the entire time. We will just to rebound from this. We might have been knocked down but we will get back up. On to Milwaukee!"
In some ways it was even harder for the third man in the title battle, 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. He had started in fifth position and moved up to third place as a result of the first lap mêlée, but then dropped back down to ninth after being handed a drive-thru penalty for speeding on pit lane.
"I don't know what happened with the pit lane speed situation," he admitted. "I don't know if I double clicked the button or what, but I hit it the first time and we ended up violating the pit lane speed. We had to come through for a penalty and that put us back in the field."
He was still on target on pick up some big points to help him close the gap on Castroneves until he suddenly spun out in turn 11 on lap 37. Although he managed to keep the #28 Andretti Autosport car off the wall, it still dropped him to the back of the field making it a tough day to recover from there to tenth place by the chequered flag.
"It was one of those days we really needed to capitalise," he agreed. "We recovered from that [spin] to put the DHL car in tenth, narrowed the points margin to the points leader, but not enough. We'll have to get pretty creative here the rest of the year."
As a result of the Mid-Ohio race, Will Power moves into the lead of the championship standings albeit by just four points over Castroneves. Hunter-Reay on the other hand is 63 points adrift of Power, and now only one point ahead of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport's Simon Pagenaud who finished once place above him at Mid-Ohio.
"Unfortunately, we just didn't have the pace today," said Pagenaud, who like Hunter-Reay needed a better result this weekend to really bounce him into championship contention.
"Qualifying really hurt us, and we were stuck in the pack for most of the race," sighed the Frenchman. "We definitely have some work to do to prepare for our next road course race in Sonoma. We need to focus forward and make sure we maximize every opportunity we have in the next few weeks
"One positive takeaway from Mid-Ohio is that the other championship contenders also struggled," he added. "We're getting down to the wire now, and this could still be anyone's championship.
The final three races of the 2014 season will be run back-to-back, starting with the Milwaukee IndyFest on August 17 and followed a week later by the final road course race of the year at Sonoma.
The series stays in California for the season finale at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana. Significantly this will be a double points event like the previous 'Triple Crown' races this season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, meaning that it's unlikely that this year's champion will be known until the chequered flag comes out under the floodlights on August 30.
CLICK: Mid-Ohio race report
CLICK: Full race results from Mid-Ohio
CLICK: Current IndyCar championship standings