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LEXINGTON, Ohio — Crashes and cautions didn’t play any factor in determining the winner of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Instead, Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series race came down to strategy. When to pit. When to accelerate or tap the brakes. And, in Charlie Kimball’s case, when to pass.
Maneuvering through one of the trickier sections of the road course — the first of a succession of S-curves more than halfway through the lap — Kimball utilized a move in the 73rd lap to pass Simon Pagenaud. The move put Kimball in position to earn his first win of the season, as he finished ahead of Pagenaud and Dario Franchitti.
Pagenaud rejoined the field after pitting on the 72nd lap, close enough for Kimball to attempt to pass him. Kimball skidded off the track in turn one in his first attempt to pass, then Kimball maneuvered inside Pagenaud between the fourth and fifth turns to regain the lead for the duration of the race.
“He came out of pit lane just ahead of me and the traffic I was fighting and kind of got clear,” said Kimball, a third-year IndyCar driver who was diagnosed as a diabetic six years ago and whose main sponsor, Novo Nordisk, manufactures insulin products for diabetics. “I was committed to using my last push-to-pass to get up to him.
“I had the momentum out of the corner and hot tires to be able to draft up and go by him into the corner. So once I was committed to the inside, I had the move.”
After the race Pagenaud was still in disbelief at Kimball’s maneuver.
“Charlie sticked that move in turn four and I never thought he would make it, to be honest,” Pagenaud said. “He made it, hats off. It's well deserved when you're making such a move and it works.”
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On the 2.258-mile road course, Kimball regained the lead in a race in which he only made pit stops on the 19th, 41st and 65th laps en route to winning IndyCar’s first caution-free race of the season.
“When it looked like everyone was trying to make the mileage for a two-stop race, I thought, alright, we’ve got the pace here,” Kimball said, adding that the decision to make three pit stops came during the race.
“We put ourselves in that position, to hedge the bets because of where we were in the championship [points],” Kimball said. “We were 11th coming into the day. We knew that with the speed we had in the car, if we could run flat-out, we had the opportunity to go green all day. You weren’t going to get the yellows to make two stops. We played it right and made the call when we needed to make the call for the win, but we had it in our mind that we were going to make it a three-stop race.”
GRAND MARSHAL: Less than five months before Ohio’s exotic-animals law goes into effect, a notable zookeeper and animal expert discussed the impact that regulation could have.
“The law had to be passed,” said Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, who served as the grand marshal of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. “Do you know how many tigers were in this state after that happened? 200 in people’s backyards. The party’s over.”
Hanna is the godfather of IndyCar driver Graham Rahal and was accompanied by a snow leopard at the podium inside Mid-Ohio’s media center.
“Jack’s job is more dangerous,” Rahal said, laughing. “I wouldn’t want to get near any of that.”
INDY LIGHTS: Gabby Chaves won the IndyLights Mid-Ohio 100, ahead of Peter Dempsey and Jack Hawksworth, while Alex Figge won his second Pirelli World Challenge race this weekend.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.