SCOTT Dixon led the IndyCar Series for just one day in 2015, but he picked the right one.
Dixon snatched the crown away from Juan Pablo Montoya in the double-points final race of the season at Sonoma Raceway, winning the race while Montoya could do no better than sixth. The results left them tied on 556 points apiece, the New Zealander taking the title by dint of having more wins. The Sonoma victory left Dixon’s season tally at three to Montoya’s two.
In a twist of fate, Montoya won his Champ Car title on a countback after tying on points with Dario Franchitti in 1999.
Dixon had started the day with a 47-point deficit on Montoya – he wasn’t even the Colombian’s closest challenger – but turned it around to take his fourth IndyCar title to tie legends of the sport like A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais.
“I still can’t believe it!” Dixon said in the winner’s circle, also celebrating the 100th IndyCar win for Chip We were such a longshot to get this through. It was still a chance and that’s what we were hoping for.
“I just can’t thank my teammates enough. All of them helped all weekend, all season long … I don’t know what to say.”
Montoya’s title hopes were dealt a crucial blow on a restart midway through the race.
A collision with Penske teammate Will Power, costing the Australian his own title hopes after leading the entire early portion of the race, left Montoya with front wing damage.
The resulting pit stop for repairs relegated him to the tail of the field, and able only to fight his way up to sixth, one place shy of the points he needed to take the title.
Montoya downplayed his clash with Power after the race, but the Indy 500 winner took aim at the concept of making the final race of the season worth double points.
“It doesn’t matter what happened (with Power),” Montoya said.
“We fought all year, the Verizon Chevy was really strong … it’s just a shame. We had two ways to win the championship and we just threw it away. We had a competitive car to do what we needed to do. We just couldn’t close it.
“It’s racing. When you do this and you put double points in the last race … it doesn’t matter what you did all year.
“We had one bad race all year where it’s double points and you’re out of the championship.”
Dixon’s crew had kept him in the dark about the point situation through the race, taking it upon himself to try and count cars and do the maths in his head under caution periods.
“If they were saying nothing, I knew it was going to be close, but … dammit, I can’t believe it!” Dixon exclaimed.
Once reaching the lead Dixon controlled the second half of the race at the front, winning from Ryan Hunter Reay by 6.11 seconds with Ganassi teammates Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan finishing third and fourth.
Australia’s Ryan Briscoe finished fifth from Montoya, while Power recovered to finish seventh. The result lifted Power to third in the final standings, 63 points down on Dixon and Montoya.
Title contender Graham Rahal endured a difficult day with an ill-handling car, before being spun by Bourdais late in the race, eventually finishing 18th.
The IndyCar community held a moment’s silence ahead of the race to honour the memory of Justin Wilson, who sustained fatal injuries in a crash at the penultimate round of the championshp at Pocono last weekend.
IndyCar veteran Oriol Servia replaced Wilson in Andretti Autosports’ No.25 at the request of the Wilson family, doing a superb job to race to 12th place despite not having driven an IndyCar on a road course this year.