Scott Dixon was stuck in traffic with what he knew was the best car on the Milwaukee Mile.
Less than 100 laps from the end of Sunday's A.J. Foyt 225, the reigning IndyCar Series champion found himself behind both Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti and defending race winner Ryan Briscoe, as well as having to deal with lots of lapped cars on the flat oval.
"I knew we had a better car than both of them," Dixon said. "It was just a question of getting past them. And, at this place, it's tough enough to be out there by yourself. It's really tough to be out there with all that traffic."
But Dixon, who said he likes to be "quietly aggressive" on the track, exercised plenty of patience.
Franchitti took the lead during a series of green flag pit stops just past halfway. The 2007 series champion, back in IndyCar after an aborted shot at NASCAR last year, built leads of more than 2 seconds over Briscoe and Dixon before he got held up in traffic and both of his competitors got past on lap 154.
A duel between those two ensued the rest of the way, with Dixon finally getting past the Penske Racing entry when the lapped car of Tomas Scheckter briefly held up Briscoe 25 laps from the end.
It turned out to be a three-wide pass, with Scheckter against the wall, Briscoe in the middle and Dixon fearlessly zooming by underneath them both as the trio drove toward the third turn.
"I was working on Briscoe for a good majority of the race," Dixon said. "He and I and everybody get caught up (in traffic) some times. I actually had a run on him several times and he kind of ran me to the bottom there. We didn't get caught up, luckily.
"That's how I got him. He tried to go below (me), then I got a run high and I got underneath him going into (turn) three."
Dixon went on to win by 2.125 seconds, nearly half the main straightaway on the one-mile oval.
"It was tough," said Dixon, who also took the series points lead with his second victory of the season and the 18th of his career. "Man, what a long race. Traffic was (the) key today."
It was a great result for Dixon, frustrated after finishing second to Briscoe here last year.
"We've come a long way, man," Dixon said, grinning. "This place has always been so tough. I remember crashing two cars in four laps at this place in 2005 _ one in practice and one in qualifying. That's probably a record of some kind. So I'm stoked that the Target car was so fast today. I'm just so happy to win at this place."
Dixon will head into next Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway with a four-point lead over Briscoe and Franchitti in the season standings.
Briscoe, who led a race-high 154 laps, was happy enough with his runner-up finish.
"It was a great day _ until, whatever it was, 40 laps to go when Scott got me," the Australian driver said. "But it was hard work out there, and traffic was a huge factor, very difficult at times.
"Once he got the lead, he was fast. I couldn't really keep up. But it was exciting and I love this place."
Franchitti finished third, followed by Graham Rahal, the 20-year-old son of longtime racing star Bobby Rahal, and fan favorite Danica Patrick, earning her fourth top-five finish in the last five races. IndyCar's glamour girl moved into fourth place in the standings, a career high.
"We have been really consistent so far this year, and that's what important when you are working towards the championship," Patrick said. "I'm looking forward to Texas and hope to keep the momentum going."
It wasn't a good weekend for Brazilian stars Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.
Castroneves, riding a high after winning last Sunday's Indianapolis 500 crashed in qualifying on Saturday, had to start last in the 20-car field and never was able to get into contention. He wound up two laps off the pace in 11th and fell from second to sixth in the season points, but seemed more concerned about his Penske teammate.
"Unfortunately, we were never able to find a good direction," Castroneves said. "Ryan seemed to be very comfortable at this track, and it's a shame that he didn't finish first, because certainly he had a winning car here."
Kanaan was in pain all week after crashing hard during the Indy race. He managed to qualify third and jump into the lead at the start, but his car got steadily worse and eventually caught fire in the pits, relegating Kanaan to a 19th-place finish.
"We can't afford to lose races like this," the frustrated Kanaan said. "It's going to cost us in the championship."
He fell from fifth to seventh in the standings, trailing Dixon by 39 points after five of 17 races.