LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Simon Pagenaud proved he is desperate to win IndyCar's season championship, banging wheels with his closest challenger Sunday before winning the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Pagenaud went wheel-to-wheel with Team Penske teammate Will Power on the restart at Lap 66 (of 90), emerging in front coming out of the road course's famed carousel corner.
"It's racing," he said. "It was fair, it was clean."
Power said he "slept" on the restart, giving Pagenaud the opportunity.
"And he went for it, as he should," Power said. "But it was on me for not (being ready)."
Pagenaud pulled off the key win despite a lower back injury suffered in Friday's practice. Pagenaud, who won the pole after the injury, took three pain-killing injections to get through the weekend.
The win allowed Pagenaud to push his series lead to 58 points with four races left. He hadn't won a race since May 14, which gives him confidence that he can hold off Power, the 2014 series champion, for his first title.
Pagenaud now has eight career wins, four this season.
Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin was positioned to win his first IndyCar race, leading by nearly 11 seconds when a caution came out for Jack Hawksworth slamming into the Turn 1 tire barrier. Aleshin came to pit road but his crew released him into Josef Newgarden's pitting car. There was contact, and another crew member was struck.
Aleshin was penalized twice and finished 17th.
Conor Daly tried to stretch his fuel to the end in the late going, but he had to pit on Lap 84. That gave the lead back to Pagenaud. Daly finished sixth.
Charlie Kimball said Scott Dixon drives harder when he is angry, so it was expected Dixon, a five-time winner of this event, would come charging through the field after his Ganassi Racing crew didn't send him out in time to make a final run in the second round of qualifying. He started 11th.
Dixon dropped to 13th on the opening lap, then came out of the first pit stop behind Helio Castroneves. The two veterans were roaring toward Turn 2 when Dixon peaked the nose of his car to the right in a bid to take the inside lane into the corner. Castroneves would have none of it.
Their contact severely damaged Dixon's left-front suspension, ending his race. Castroneves' car took right-side rear wing damage, which left him without the aerodynamic downforce he would need later on. Castroneves missed a corner, drove through the grass and promptly headed to pit road for a new rear wing, which required a lengthy pit stop.
Dixon wasn't happy with Castroneves, although IndyCar's three-man officiating team deemed no penalty was necessary.
"Helio was coming out of the pits on the pit exchange and we were trying to go off (fuel) sequence," Dixon said. "He was off pace and we caught him on the exit of Turn 1. I got alongside him and he kept edging me over until I had nowhere to go."
Dixon's car hit the curb, kicking it to the left where Castroneves' car was.
"I braked when I was alongside him and then he just turned in," Dixon said. "Had we had a little more room I think we could have gotten through there just fine. It was definitely an aggressive move (on my part), but I should have known better trying that with Helio. It usually ends like this with him."
The caution rewarded the other drivers who had pitted early, giving the lead temporarily to Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti while burying Pagenaud and Power in the pack (positions 12th and 13th).
NOTES: Josef Newgarden, who was as high as second in the standings this season, had another difficult race. His car got struck from behind for the second straight race, this one forcing him a lap off the pace for the exchange. He was able to get that lap back, but the 10th-place finish didn't match starting from the third position. ...RC Enerson, the 19-year-old Floridian make his IndyCar Series debut, started 18th, but he had turned the fastest lap of the race up to the point he came to pit road for fuel on Lap 39. The engine stalled, and the crew couldn't get it re-fired before he lost two laps. Enerson came back to the track and delivered some fast laps, but he couldn't make up much ground. He finished 19th of 22. ...Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi finished 14th.