Scott Dixon produced a dominant performance to win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio and earned a record-breaking 20th IndyCar Series victory under the auspices of the Indy Racing League.
Competing in his 109th race, all of which have come with Chip Ganassi's team, the Kiwi broke his tie overtook Sam Hornish Jr for the series record, and also moved level with current team-mate Dario Franchitti for 19th on the all-time career list encompassing races sanctioned by the AAA, USAC, CART, Champ Car World Series and IRL, with 21 wins after also being able to include the one he picked up at Nazareth in CART. IndyCar team owner AJ Foyt remains the all-time victory leader with 67.
Dixon's fourth win of the season, which came a massive 29.7secs clear of the field, also moved him back into the series lead with four races remaining. The reigning IRL champion, Dixon heads for the next round, at Infineon Raceway on 23 August with a three-point cushion over Briscoe, and 20 in hand over Franchitti. It's the twelfth time in 13 races that the 2009 points lead has changed hands, despite previous leader Briscoe finishing second on the road.
Starting from third on the grid, Dixon bided his time in moving to the front, waiting until the first round of pit-stops and relying on Ganassi's fuel-saving strategy to almost snatch top spot. Emerging just behind early leader Justin Wilson, the Kiwi then boxed his rival in behind the tardy Milka Duno before cutting inside and taking the place. From there, his record-breaking victory was almost assured.
"I think the Target car was fantastic from the get-go," Dixon reported, "We had a fairly decent start, and I think we could have had Justin, but didn't want to push the envelope too much. We were sitting behind Briscoe to save tons of gas and that allowed us to go a lap or two longer. I don't really think the pass on Justin had much to do with Milka. We pretty much made the pass going into the corner, and she just made it kind of interesting in the next couple."
Briscoe led from pole before being jumped by Wilson, as the Briton pounced on the slightest of errors in line from the Team Penske driver, but bounced back to claim a sixth runner-up spot of the season to keep his title challenge alive.
"Scott was just the class of the field today - and Justin was really good too, " the Aussie conceded, "We went for the red [tyres] at the end and it was something different, hoping that they would hang on, but it looks like the hotter temperatures caused them to blister after about four laps. It was hard to hold Dario off, so I'm pretty happy to come in second today."
Franchitti finished third for his ninth top five since returning from NASCAR, but admitted that he had struggled to get the best out of the #10 Ganassi machine.
"I was a little disappointed as we cannot get the Target car handling the way I want it to," the Scot sighed, "When we do, I think we'll be really good because we're finishing third with the car not balanced at all the way I like it. If we get it the way we do on the street courses, look out. The guys did a great job on pit-road and the Target team pulled a great strategy, but it was Scotty D who did the today. We just have to regroup and come back a lot stronger in Sonoma."