It was a close one, but Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon took his fourth Verizon IndyCar Series title by the skin of his teeth after a chaotic final round of the year at Sonoma.
Going into the final race of the year, Dixon was third in the points standings knowing that the only way he could make the double points race pay off for him is if he dominated proceedings and didn’t let Juan Pablo Montoya – the erstwhile points leader – get anywhere near him.
Thankfully, in delivering his 38th and Ganassi’s 100th IndyCar win, the stars aligned for the New Zealander. Firstly, tyres that went off so rapidly they could have been designed by Pirelli were doubled up with a fuel strategy Dixon perfected – he is the master of the economical drive – the rest he could just sit back and watch as everyone lost their heads in the Californian heat.
Most of the chaos stemmed from the Team Penske drivers that were meant to be helping their man Montoya claim the title. First off, after one of many restarts Will Power seemed to leave a gap for Montoya to squeeze through but when the former McLaren driver went to go through, Power rejoined the racing line rather abruptly. The resulting collision damaged both cars and sent Montoya to the back of the field with a lot of work to do.
Thanks to cars pitting ahead he could move up a few places and start to claw his way back, but one incident that really helped him involved fellow title contender Graham Rahal. Rahal was sitting pretty in the middle of the top ten when Sebastien Bourdais massively overshot his braking point and punted Rahal off-track. The emergency pit stop for Rahal and drive-through for Bourdais meant Montoya moved up to sixth place.
However, that meant Dixon and Montoya finished level on points as the flag dropped – 556 – and a tiebreaker was confirmed for who would pick up the crown. By dint of how many wins he had during the season – three: Long Beach, Texas, Sonoma compared to Montoya’s two: St Pete, Indy 500 – Dixon picked up the title for a fourth time.
He said after the race: “I don’t know what to say. This season we had some big races, and this was the biggest. We were such a long shot. I knew the car was strong, but you never know until the last lap. That’s what it came down to. You hope for it. We had to do our best job and that’s what we did today and, luckily enough, it worked out.”
Chip himself waxed lyrical about his star man, who picked up the team’s 11th championship, saying: “Scott is obviously, I think, arguably the driver of our generation – the Indy car driver of our generation, for sure. I think his stats speak for themselves. His numbers against the other all-time winners and what have you, he’s up on the list there. There’s not anybody I’d rather have driving our cars, I can tell you. I mean, he’s just a quality driver, but a quality person, a father, a husband, just the kind of guy you want in your organisation. It’s that simple. All around, on the track, off the track, he’s the complete package.”
For Montoya, he was gracious in defeat and is already planning to go one better next year: “The No. 2 Verizon Chevy team had a great season. We just had a disappointing finale. There was a lot to be proud of this year, from winning the season opener to giving Roger Penske another Indianapolis 500 title. Unfortunately today we gave one away but we will come back stronger next year. I have to thank everyone at Verizon, Chevrolet, Hawk Performance and PPG for their great support. I’m looking forward to even more success with them.”