Mid-Ohio reaction: Scott Dixon comes up big when it counts

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It figures that the IZOD IndyCar Series title race shifted completely while I was gone today. But its constant twists and turns are to be expected.

Another thing that’s to be expected is Scott Dixon being the man to beat at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. And on Sunday, he once again proved his mastery of the venerable road course, using a stellar final pit stop to get past polesitter Will Power and go on to his fourth career victory at M-O.

“The guys in the crew did a fantastic time plugging in the fuel and getting the tires changed — big credit to them,” said Dixon. “It’s just one of those perfect moments. Got the jump on [Power] out of the pits and the rest was certain.”

It’s Dixon’s second win of 2012 and one that he really needed in order to keep his dreams of a third IZOD IndyCar Series championship alive. But while Power missed out on his first victory since Sao Paulo back in April, he had something to smile about as well — he’s your new points leader.

Ryan Hunter-Reay came in with a 21-point lead over Helio Castroneves, but both of them suffered poor results on Sunday.

RHR’s motor lost power throughout the second half of the race and he was forced to park his car just six laps from the checkered flag; his 24th place result knocked him back to second in the standings.

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Meanwhile, Castroneves had to start in the rear of the field due to an unapproved engine change. He could only get to 16th after 85 laps of racing.

And so, with three races remaining in the season, Power leads RHR by a mere five points, followed by Castroneves at 26 points back in third, and then Dixon — still in fourth place but now just 28 markers off the pace (he entered M-O at 61 back). The front four has tightened up considerably.

That final trio of events is an eclectic mix — the technically demanding hills of Sonoma, the Inner Harbor street course at Baltimore, and, to close out the campaign, the wide-open oval at Fontana. Power’s looking forward to all of them.

“If everything goes right, I really think we’ll be competitive,” he said. “I think that we need to win a race here soon if we’re going to win the championship. We’ll do our best to do that.”

Give Power credit for shaking off Hunter-Reay’s three-race win streak (Milwaukee, Iowa, Toronto) in June and July, and returning fire with back-to-back stellar runs — a 17th-to-3rd run at Edmonton and now, a runner-up effort. He’s got the momentum in this battle now…at least, momentarily.

Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay and Castroneves will both have to regroup. But considering the ebb and flow of this championship, they’ll probably get another chance to capitalize on an opportunity in these last few races.

And now, Dixon has shown that he’s coming right for all of them.

This three-week wait until Sonoma is going to be torture for some INDYCAR fans. You just know it.

Quotes in this article were taken from INDYCAR trackside reports and Sunday’s post-race press conference.