Entering the final race of the IndyCar season at Sonoma, Ganassi driver Scott Dixon was 47 points away from top spot in the championship standings and needed everything to align perfectly to pull off the miracle comeback and have a chance to win the overall title.
Well, it happened.
Dixon had a race car that was fast and worked perfectly, while both drivers ahead of him in the standings had trouble. Graham Rahal struggled with handling and, for the second race in a row, was punted off course and out of contention. Juan Pablo Montoya, who’d led the way all season, struggled with the car and also ran into teammate Will Power, which caused front-wing damage and forced a pit stop that set him back in the field.
However, all that still wasn’t enough for Dixon to win the title. He still needed to have one of his brilliant drives the rest of the way to collect enough championship points. He did, scoring his third victory of the year and, with the bonus points, equaled Montoya in total points. Dixon was crowned champion based on the tiebreaker: his three series victories beat out Montoya’s two.
The last race of the season had all the drama you could ask for and more: a championship fight to the final checkered flag of the season with every position gained or lost during the final race ratcheting up the excitement level. This race in the picturesque wine country of northern California was just another example of the great stories that we’ve seen all season in the IndyCar series: plenty of action on the track with a surprise winner, feel-good stories and a driver coming from behind to take the checkers.
IndyCar title No. 4 for Dixon was also a complete team effort. Without the work of drivers Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, who battled hard to finish ahead of Montoya, Dixon would not have been able to gain enough points to take the title.
After the difficult week IndyCar and the racing community had dealing with the death of driver Justin Wilson, this exciting end to the season was something that helped everyone feel better. It was a championship performance by a world-class driver who was surprised and gracious with his victories. Dixon was also quick to remind everyone that the racing community’s thoughts were still with the Wilson family.
Montoya, however, behaved like a petulant child afterwards. First, he complained about the double-points system awarded to participants in the final race. Well, Montoya had no problem accepting double points at the Indianapolis 500 race earlier this season. Then, he took it a step further with his post-race quote that everyone will remember: “Dixon had a shit season all year and had one good race, and we paid the penalty.”
The facts are Dixon won more races than Montoya, and he also led more laps this season. Doesn’t sound like too bad a campaign to me. Dixon also didn’t run into his teammate in the last race of the year.
Sour grapes are expected when losing the championship on the final day of the season, but Montoya showed his true character by diminishing Dixon’s accomplishment. In a week that’s seen tribute after tribute to driver Justin Wilson, who was as tough a competitor as you’ll find on the track and as nice a gentleman as you’ll ever meet off it, it’s fitting that Dixon claimed the title and not Montoya.
It will also be better for IndyCar.