LEXINGTON, Ohio - A sweat-soaked firesuit served as his royal garb and a water bottle his scepter. Nonetheless, Scott Dixon was crowned the IndyCar Series king Aug. 9 in a humid Victory Circle at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Dixon won the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance in commanding fashion for his record 20th IndyCar Series victory. Speedways, bullrings, road/street circuits, the 30-year-old New Zealander has conquered them all - along with two series titles and an Indianapolis 500 victory -- leading to his coronation.
"Obviously it's a fantastic milestone for myself and obviously for the team," said Dixon, who registered his fourth win of the season. "I've achieved all of those wins with Target. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible.
"To finally be labeled (Mr. IRL) I think in this series is a big deal to me, a big deal to the team. But it's going to be tough to hang on to that. To keep that going, I'm definitely going to have to keep racing for a lot more years. If I got to 25, 30 or 35, that would be pretty cool."
Dixon, competing in his 109th IndyCar Series race (all with Chip Ganassi's team), overtook Sam Hornish Jr. for the series record. Dixon also tied teammate Dario Franchitti for 19th on the all-time career list (sanctioning by AAA, USAC, CART, Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League) with 21 (he picked up one victory at Nazareth in CART). A.J. Foyt is the all-time Indy car victory leader with 67.
Dixon, with his fourth win of the season, also moved back into the series championship points lead with four races remaining - the next Aug. 23 at Infineon Raceway -- by three over Briscoe and 20 over Franchitti. It's the 12th time in the 13 races that the points lead has changed hands.
"I don't really care for leading the championship now," said Dixon, who has lost and won the title the past two years in the season finale. "The only time you want to lead it is at the end. If you can get a runaway now and start building some points on those guys, that's going to be important. But I can see (the race going) down to the wire. I'll happily be second going into Homestead (Oct. 10).
Dixon, who started third in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in the 85-lap race on the 2.258-mile circuit, took control between Laps 60-64 - the final round of service stops for the contenders - and went on to beat pole sitter Briscoe to the checkers.
"No doubt he was strong," said Briscoe, who was runner-up for the sixth time this season. "I heard him saying he could just put the car anywhere. He just had one of those cars. I had one of those days last year (winning at Mid-Ohio). I could do anything with it, be aggressive and the car would stick.
"I think it's one of those tracks. You can find that setup where the car's really good, it's very fast. But if you're off a little bit, it's daunting. There are some fast corners, there are some curbs. If it's not right, you pay for it. It was just one of those days."
Franchitti finished third for his ninth top 5 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and Ryan Hunter-Reay gave A.J. Foyt Racing its best finish in more than a year in fourth after starting seventh in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car. It was the best finish for a Foyt car at Mid-Ohio since 1993 (Robby Gordon, second).
"We were able to gap anybody out there and we were holding with the leaders," Hunter-Reay said. "A fourth for this team right now is a big deal. A fourth for me right now is a big deal. We were catching third. It was a lot of fun."
Andretti Green Racing teammates Hideki Mutoh and Marco Andretti were next across the line, while Paul Tracy was seventh. He was filling in for Mario Moraes, who remained in Brazil this weekend after the death of his father, in the No. 5 Azul Tequila-Votorantim entry for KV Racing Technology.
"It was a long day, but I'm glad we were able to finish inside the top 10," said Andretti, who started 13th and posted his third consecutive top 10. "The goal is to make our way up in points; it'd be great to year if we're able to charge our way up to fifth and today put us closer to that goal."
Graham Rahal, who started fourth, finished eighth and rookie Raphael Matos was ninth in the No. 2 Luczo Dragon Racing car. Tony Kanaan recovered from an off-course adventure early in the race to finish 10th.
Justin Wilson, who won at Watkins Glen five weeks earlier in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs entry for Dale Coyne Racing, passed Briscoe for the lead in Turn 9 of Lap 6 and ran up a gap of 7.4372 seconds on Lap 23. Dixon moved to the lead for good with a Lap 37 pass of Wilson in Turn 4 - with the lapped car of Milka Duno between them.
"I don't really think the pass on Justin had much to do with Milka," Dixon said. "We pretty much made the pass going into the corner, and she made it kind of interesting in the next couple corners".
Wilson remained within striking range following a Lap 48 restart, but Dixon recorded his fastest lap (1 minute, 08.5600 seconds) on Lap 62 as Wilson glided onto pit lap out of fuel for his final stop. The No. 18 car stalled leaving the pit box. Game, set.
"We were having a great weekend; the car was running quick," said Wilson, who finished 13th. "Obviously, we are disappointed with the results as we wanted to do much better."
The mantle was passed to Andretti to challenge Dixon. But he had to come in for service on Lap 74. That was the match.
Danica Patrick's place in the standings took a hit when she finished 19th. The No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola car for Andretti Green Racing was bumped by the No. 24 entry driven by Mike Conway into the sand trap in Turn 4 while running 12th on Lap 45. The car was extricated and Patrick continued. Conway received a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact.