A rare mistake by Scott Dixon has seen the Kiwi spin from a potential race victory in the second race from Mid-Ohio, surrendering more ground in the INDYCAR championship to primary title rival Josef Newgarden.
The win went to Colton Herta who led all 75 laps to front an Andretti 1-2-3 with Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay making up the podium positions. Herta becomes the seventh different winner in 2020 and the first for the Andretti outfit.
Dixon was running in provisional third just after the first round of pitstops when he spun on the exit of Turn 1, dropping several positions and putting him out of contention for the win. He was able to recover to claim tenth, getting by Rinus Veekay on the final lap but he has yielded further points to Newgarden who finished eighth.
The margin leaving Mid-Ohio between Dixon and Newgarden is now 72 points, 24 less than what the deficit was ahead of the doubleheader.
Dixon admitted after the race the mistake was a “stupid one” that has left him upset for the team who delivered a quick car after yesterday’s pace struggles.
“We kind of tried to have the tyres a little bit better for longer in the run so our cold pressures were really low and we struggled on all the restarts,” said Dixon.
“Plus everyone behind me had reds on so I got a little bit aggressive and hit the overtake on the exit of one and just had way too much Honda power and spun the car.
“Totally caught me off guard, it was a total rookie mistake. I am so bummed for the team you know, it just such a stupid mistake I shouldn’t have made.”
But despite the loss in points, Dixon is not willingly to alter his race winning mentality ahead of the final three races from Indianapolis and St. Petersburg,
“No, we definitely can’t do that,” he said when asked if he will adopt a points preservation focus for the rest of the season.
“The easiest way is just trying to win races. The NTT INDYCAR series is so tight right now, the competition is super tough so even trying to rebound from days like this is really tough.”
It could have all be so much worse for Dixon when Santino Ferrucci ran off the road at Turn 3 while jockeying with the Kiwi for position. Re-joining at an awkward angle, Ferrucci nerfed his Dale Coyne teammate Alex Palou into the wall to bring out the race’s first caution.
Dixon then set about biding his time behind Herta while his lead title contender Newgarden came under fire from a hard-charging Rinus Veekay in the duel for eighth.
The Kiwi was sitting pretty in second as he extended his advantage over Ryan Hunter-Reay in third to over two seconds. The entire field were waiting for the opening of the first fuel window which came on Lap 16 just as rookie Dalton Kellett spared off the circuit.
With the Canadian not in a dangerous position, race officials opted to leave the race green for one more lap so to allow the field to stop for fuel. Dixon followed Herta into the lane but was unable to get the jump on his rival in the pit sequence, re-joining in fourth with the only drivers not making a stop being Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti.
But Dixon was sluggish from the restart and Hunter-Reay looked to take the bit between his teeth and go around the outside of the Kiwi at Turn 2 but was forced wide by some stubborn defence.
That allowed Rossi into fifth and he made light work of Dixon one lap later at Turn 4. Dixon was flustered and his horrid string of laps was compounded by an unforced spin at Turn 2.
Touching the damp grass on the exit of the corner, the Chip Ganassi Honda spun 180 degrees in front of a flurry of cars. Fortunately, he avoided a hefty collision and was shrewd enough to keep the clutch in to prevent stalling. But the damage was done, and Dixon slumped to last on the road and saw his points advantage take another sucker-punch.
Chip Ganassi would deviate from the strategy to pit for a second time on Lap 31 for new sticker red tyres but would be forced to make a late stop to ensure he could finish with enough fuel.
Herta looked in complete control and he was able to fend off the undercut by Rossi for their final stops on Lap 46 and 47. Dixon had cycled back into the top-5 during the pit phase, bullying his way past Rahal in the process but made his way back to the pitlane with 17 laps remaining for a final fuel stop.
The Iceman re-emerged in 13th and five spots down on Newgarden. Benefitting from his fresher rubber, Dixon was able to salvage tenth at the chequered flag.
He has now finished behind Newgarden in the last three races with the championship crown still wide open with three more races to play.