Dixon on taking his fifth IndyCar title: “I can’t believe that it’s actually happened!”

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Scott Dixon (NZL), Chip Ganassi Racing, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Sonoma
Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

Scott Dixon has expressed his disbelief and gratitude after securing his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship at the season finale of the 2018 season at Sonoma Raceway. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver qualifying in second place and drove a relatively quiet and uneventful race to take the second spot on the podium and, with it, the title.

Dixon held the lead of the standings for the last eight races of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series and looked like the man to beat for much of the season, however, Alexander Rossi put in a late charge in the final few races to bring Dixon’s advantage down to twenty-nine points; meaning that it was still all to play for in the double-points finale at Sonoma.

Entering the Sonoma weekend, Dixon looked like the best car out of the championship contenders. He did not seem to have the fastest car on the grid during practice, but his pace was still faster than Rossi and the Team Penske duo of Josef Newgarden and Will Power.

Dixon and Ganassi did manage to find some more speed in the #9 Honda prior to qualifying, however. Whilst Ryan Hunter-Reay led every session and took pole position, Dixon was right there with him on pace. In fact, Scott believed that had it not been for a mistake on his final lap at the final chicane, he would have started on pole position.

“I think we definitely had a shot to put the PNC Bank car on pole today, but we’ll have to chalk that up to driver error,” Dixon said after qualifying on Saturday, “I had a lap going that would have gotten the pole, but I just made a mistake and it cost us. Congrats to Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti [Autosport] on the pole, though.

“We’ve had a fast car all weekend here at Sonoma and we’ve stayed at the pointy end of the field since we unloaded. Hopefully, that will continue in the race tomorrow and we can finish the season strong.”

Despite missing out on pole position, a front-row starting position would prove vital for Scott when the race commenced on Sunday. The New Zealander was able to keep out of trouble and settle into a rhythm early, whilst his rival Alexander Rossi made a crucial mistake at turn one when he ran into the back of his Andretti team-mate, Marco Andretti.

The contact gave Rossi a broken front-wing and a right-front puncture, forcing him to crawl around to the pits and almost fall off of the lead lap. Alexander was forced to spend the rest of the race trying to catch back up, ultimately being unable to get back on terms with Dixon.

Whilst his closest rival had an eventful race, it was plain sailing for Dixon. The Ganassi driver ran in second place for essentially the entire race, only losing positions during pit-stop cycles. In the end, Scott would come home just under three seconds off of the race winner Hunter-Reay, with second place being enough to secure him his fifth IndyCar championship crown.

Scott Dixon (NZL), Chip Ganassi Racing, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Sonoma

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Dixon was immediately greeted by his wife, Emma, upon his return to the pit-lane after taking the chequered flag. In fact, his entire celebration after the race took place with his family, including his two daughters, who partied and played with Scott’s Ganassi pit-crew post-race as the championship presentations were made.

It was evident from these jubilant celebrations between the team and the Dixon family that the eighteen-year tenure that Scott has spent in IndyCar with Ganassi has resulted in a tight-knit team that has now produced five championships; putting Scott level on titles with IndyCar legend A.J. Foyt.

I can’t thank everybody enough – the team, my teammate [Ed Jones], everybody involved.” Scott said in post-race interviews, “This doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. We had a lot of grit. We had a lot of things that could’ve gone wrong today.

“Huge thanks for PNC coming on this year, it really stepped up the team. Honda’s been amazing, so many people at NTT DATA, our technical partner, too.

“I’ve got to thank the other teams, too, that we fought hard with – Penske and Andretti – throughout the season,” Scott went on to add, “Rossi did a hell of a job, he’s been pushing so hard this year. He’s a huge talent and one that’s going to win many championships throughout his career.”

Scott later explained how, despite Rossi’s mistake on lap one, the pressure remained until the moment he crossed the line to finish the race. Rossi managed to capitalize on a mid-race caution period to get back onto the lead lap, eventually climbing all the way up to fifth place before dropping back in the final laps to take a seventh-place finish.

“We were just making sure we weren’t getting ourselves in an awkward place throughout the race that they could capitalize on. Nobody’s ever out. Until we got to the last [pit] stop and were full to the end, even then I could see him moving up on the pylon.

“Man, this is so awesome! I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. You always feel these situations so much that it’s never going to happen. I can’t thank everybody enough for this, it’s so cool.”

Despite being one of the elder statesmen in IndyCar now, Scott does not show any signs of slowing down. The thirty-eight-year-old will once again be on the grid for the 2019 IndyCar Series with Ganassi and will be vying to take a record-breaking sixth championship; an achievement that would make him, statistically, the most successful driver in the history of the series.

The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10.

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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