Newgarden Wins St. Pete, Dixon Wins Sixth IndyCar Championship in Wild Race

4 Mins read
Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Josef Newgarden repeats as the winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but it wouldn’t be enough to stop Scott Dixon from winning his sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship in a crazy race that only the year 2020 could produce.

Will Power would lead the field to green and immediately establish his lead over Alexander Rossi as everyone made it through turn one cleanly. On lap five, Power would experience an issue downshifting, and Rossi would pounce to take the lead in turn 10 as Power slipped down to fourth place.

Rossi would streak away, heading an Andretti Autosport top three with Colton Herta and James Hinchcliffe. Rossi would maintain his lead after the first cycle of pit stops, when a caution flag came out at lap thirty six as Power’s rear end stepped out on him, smacking the turn three wall before coming to a stop at the end in the runoff area beyond turn four.

At the restart on lap 41, Newgarden and Dixon were in seventh and ninth respectively, and Newgarden would make a gutsy move to dive under rookie Rinus VeeKay for fourth place in turn one.

The field wouldn’t even get a full lap in as Santino Ferrucci made hard contact with the concrete barrier in turn two. Going side by side with Takuma Sato, Ferrucci got forced wide and hit the wall at an awkward angle where it opens for safety crews. He would walk away okay from the incident.

Under this caution, Conor Daly hit the wall in the same spot as Power, resulting in a broken left rear tow link and punctured tyre. He would finish the day in seventeenth place.

Things got underway again on lap 47, and yet again, another caution would come out. Unfortunately, this caution would be the end of Scott McLauglin‘s IndyCar debut as spun in turn one, collecting VeeKay who pit under the caution. While McLaughlin was unable to continue, VeeKay would try and salvage what he could to finish fifteenth. The Dutchman was also named the 2020 Rookie of the Year after the race.

Third time would be the charm as the restart came on lap 53 with no cautions. Dixon would dispatch of Jack Harvey and Graham Rahal as he followed Pato O’Ward up through the field to sixth place with some intense, close quarters racing around the Progress Park complex.

Harvey would receive a penalty for avoidable contact during that sequence with O’Ward and would finish in a disappointing nineteenth place.

On lap 63 Colton Herta made an error and overshot turn four and was forced down the escape road. Luckily, he would only lose two spots to Hinchcliffe and Newgarden.

On lap 65 Newgarden would be the first of the leaders to pit, and Rossi would still find himself in the lead. However, on lap 72, he would bring out the fourth caution of the day in heartbreaking fashion after getting in the marbles in turn three and making contact with the inside wall. After such a dominant display this race and turn of fortunes in the second half of the season, this will be Rossi’s first season in IndyCar without a win.

Under this caution, safety crews would take time to remove some of these marbles that had been making restarts so treacherous, and on lap 75, Herta would lead the field to green… and then yellow again. This time it would be Marco Andretti, who charged into the top 10 after starting twenty-third, after Takuma Sato locked up going into turn four, and tapped Andretti’s right rear tyre, cutting it, and immediately spinning him in the next corner.

Also under this caution, James Hinchcliffe would spin in the turn 13 and 14 hairpin, and hit Jack Harvey rejoining the track, chopping off his front wing. After being in a podium position almost all day, he would come home fourteenth.

During all of this craziness, it started to lightly rain all across the track! It wouldn’t stop the race from going back to green however, as Josef Newgarden made an incredible move on the inside of Colton Herta and Alex Palou to take the lead of the race! Dixon also propelled himself up to third before the sixth caution of the day came out for Oliver Askew in turn 10, forced into the tyre barrier by Takuma Sato.

The sixth caution was too much for even the pace car, as it ran low on fuel, leaving Newgarden to control the field and lead the field to the final restart on lap 85. As soon as the field saw the green, Pato O’Ward took his shot at Dixon for third, and even passed Herta to storm to second, hungry for his first win. Deja vu would strike Colton Herta, as he would run wide in turn four again, moving Dixon back to third. Herta would finish thirteenth.

From here, Newgarden would check out and pull away from O’Ward, but the win wouldn’t be enough to wrestle the title away from Dixon, who would finish third. Hometown hero Sebastien Bourdais would finish fourth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay would salvage fifth for Andretti. Simon Pagenaud would finish sixth, Marcus Ericsson seventh, Charlie Kimball eighth, Graham Rahal ninth, and Takuma Sato closing out the top 10.

IndyCar’s “Iceman” now joins the legendary A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win six series championships. Dixon’s next goal is tying Foyt’s record of seven Astor Cup trophies. This also marks Chip Ganassi Racing‘s thirteenth IndyCar championship, dating back to 1996 with Jimmy Vasser.

Congratulations again to Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing on a historic season!

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Final Results

11Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske2:06:13
25Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP– 4.140
39Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing– 6.156
414Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises– 7.413
528Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport– 9.752
622Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske– 10.577
78Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing– 11.069
84Charlie KimballUSAA.J. Foyt Enterprises– 15.858
915Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing– 16.374
1030Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing– 16.774
1188Colton HertaUSAAndretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport– 24.214
1259Max ChiltonENGCarlin– 30.472
1355Alex Palou (R)ESPDale Coyne Racing w/ Team Goh– 43.579
1426James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Autosport– 1:04.066
1521Rinus VeeKay (R)NEDEd Carpenter Racing– 2 laps
167Oliver Askew (R)USAArrow McLaren SP– 2 laps
1720Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing– 2 laps
1810Felix RosenqvistSWEChip Ganassi Racing– 2 laps
1960Jack HarveyENGMeyer Shank Racing– 3 laps
2098Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta Autosport w/ Marco Andretti & Curb AgajanianCrashed
2127Alexander RossiUSAAndretti AutosportCrashed
223Scott McLaughlinNZLTeam PenkseCrashed
2318Santino FerrucciUSADale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-SullivanCrashed
2412Will PowerAUSTeam PenkseCrashed
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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