LEXINGTON, Ohio — Scott Dixon won this one in the pits.
Dixon took the lead for good by passing Will Power in pit row on the 57th lap and then held on Sunday to capture his fourth IndyCar title in the last six years at Mid-Ohio.
“We’ve had good speed everywhere, but you’ve got to say this place has been really good to us,” Dixon said.
Dixon, who previously won titles on the winding road course in 2007, ‘09 and ‘11, qualified a disappointing fourth. But he patiently picked off cars until he sped past Power when both pitted just past the midpoint of the 85-lap race.
Power did get a consolation prize despite finishing second: He took over the points lead from Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished 24th.
Power was well aware of the predicament he faced as he headed into the pits. Every other car had already pitted, so it was empty. Dixon quickly pulled into his slot and got a fill-up and new tires and then screamed away. Up ahead, Power was just finishing up his stop, but had to not only negotiate around a pile of tires but also had to look out for Dixon, who already had built a head of steam.
“You realize as you’re coming in, it’s going to be tight when he’s sitting right behind you,” he said. “You know, man, it’s all about the stop. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Dixon also was aware that the race was right in front of him. It’s exceedingly difficult to pass anyone on the narrow, twisting pavement at Mid-Ohio — even with IndyCar officials implementing a push-to-pass system to help open things up.
It was now or never for the 32-year-old in the Target Chip Ganassi Honda.
“These are the tightest pit boxes we have throughout the whole season,” Dixon said. “To try to get a car in when the person behind you (is right there), is very, very difficult. I had an open pit, just slid it in there.
“It just worked out we were a second or two quicker and off we went.”
Only 28 points separate the top four in the rankings, with Power just two points ahead of Hunter-Reay, who was followed by Helio Castroneves. Dixon moved into fourth place with three races remaining in the season.
Power, who has won three times this year, led the first 57 laps before giving way to Dixon. He was pleased with the way his car performed — he said it was an almost perfect run — but knew he had his hands full against a guy who has turned Mid-Ohio into an annuity.
“He’s just good around this place. I mean, he’s quick,” Power said. “His car’s got a good setup, the whole package. It makes it so difficult to beat him.”
There were no caution flags for the second IndyCar race in a row, the first time that’s happened since 1987.
Rookie Simon Pagenaud hung on for third place — his third podium finish of the season. With countryman Sebastien Bourdais’ best finish of the season in fourth, it was a banner day for the French.
“That’s funny, I thought about it during the race,” Pagenaud said. “I thought, ‘We’re doing pretty well this weekend.’”
James Hinchcliffe improved 15 spots after placing 20th in his only previous appearance at Mid-Ohio a year ago.
The victory was the second of the year for Dixon, who also won at Belle Isle. It was his 29th career IndyCar win, tying him with Rick Mears for 10th place.
After taking the lead, Dixon gradually stretched out the margin between him and Power. He ended up winning by 3.4619 seconds.
“All in all, it was a perfect day,” he said.
After the race, Dixon hurried to catch a flight to England to watch the Olympics with his wife, Emma, a former 800- and 1,500-meter runner for Great Britain.
“To go to an event like that and see what it’s all about and have somebody that’s so close to you fill you in on what’s going on behind the scenes (is great),” he said. “To go to something that big and that special, I can’t wait.”
There was one negative, however.
“I’ve got pretty crappy seats,” he said to loud laughter. “I’ll probably need to take some binoculars.”