Graham Rahal had to ask NBCSN reporter Katie Hargitt to make sure he heard right.
“Nine?” Rahal asked in victory lane of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio after winning his second race of 2015.
Yes, nine. That is now the gap between Rahal and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya with two races left in the Verizon IndyCar season.
“Awesome, I feel pretty good now,” Rahal said.
It could have been 10 points, but leading the final lap gave Rahal the most led in the race with 23. Scott Dixon had 22.
But it could have been even more, if not for perfectly timed pit stops and cautions that “hosed” drivers like Scott Dixon and or irked Montoya.
Dixon, the pole-sitter, firmly controlled the race’s opening stages, which included a Lap 3 caution, before a debris caution on Lap 21 brought the field back together in the middle of green flag pit stops.
The five-time winner at Mid-Ohio was stuck back in the pack and wouldn’t get back into the top five until the race’s end, where he would finish fourth.
“It’s tough when everyone has the same pace and everyone is on the same tire,” Dixon said. “With the new aero kits there’s just such a big wake behind the cars and it sometimes makes it tough to get around people.”
Dixon remains third in the championship standings, 34 behind Montoya and 25 behind Rahal.
But if anyone feels hosed, it’s Montoya, whose 42-point lead over Rahal all but disappeared in the dust of a Sage Karam spin that brought out a caution on Lap 66.
Rahal had pitted, but Montoya had yet to. The Indy 500 champion would then be buried in the field and would finish 11th.
“It’s kind of weird that all the Ganassi cars pitted and Sage spins,” Montoya told NBCSN. “So it is what it is. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but I hear the spin was really dodgy.”
When asked if he thought it was intentional, Montoya responded: “Karma is a bitch, so we’ll see.”
We’ll see how that situation and the points shake out in the final two races of the season at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23 and at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 30.