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The Indycar season comes down to seconds in Sonoma

by • September 11, 2015 • EventComments (0)6492

It was a heartbreaking week, which led to a jaw-dropping final few laps and culminated in a tiebreaking finale. It was something that could not have been scripted and it ended with Scott Dixon capturing his fourth IndyCar championship. Dixon snatched the title from Juan Pablo Montoya who had led the standings from the season-opener until the final lap of the year.

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However in a race worth double points, Dixon dominated at Sonoma and overcame a 47-point deficit to tie Montoya in the standings. As a result of the tie the title went to the New Zealander based on his number of wins, Sunday was Dixon’s third of the season over Montoya’s two.

“There was still a chance, and that’s what we were hoping for,” Dixon said. “I still can’t believe it. We were such a long shot.”

“We all raced with heavy hearts this weekend,” Dixon said. “It’s been a very tough week. It’s such a small community. But Justin would have wanted us to go out and race, and today I gave it my all from when the green flag dropped. Much love to the Wilson family.”

Dixon’s previous championships came in 2003, 2008 and 2013, and this one tied Mario Andretti, Bourdais and Franchitti for second place in the sport’s history. A.J. Foyt won seven. The victory was the 100th for Chip Ganassi Racing, and it also marked Chevrolet’s fourth consecutive manufacturer championship since the company returned to IndyCar in 2012.

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The Ganassi team owner Chip Ganassi called Dixon “the IndyCar driver of our generation. His stats speak for themselves. There’s not anybody else I’d rather have driving our car. … On and off the track, he’s the complete package.”

Dixon certainly did his part for his fourth IndyCar title, but he can thank his Ganassi Racing teammates for their efforts. Charlie Kimball finished third with Tony Kanaan fourth, and that took points from Montoya.

Dixon was third in the standings as he began the race and everyone assumed it was Montoya’s title to lose. However Team Penske was in trouble from the midway point of the race when Montoya hit teammate Will Power. It sent the Colombian to pit lane for repairs and he was mired in the middle of the pack for the bulk of the race.

Although he picked off a few positions, his break came eight laps from the end when Sebastien Bourdais spun Graham Rahal. Needing to get to fifth to win the title, he moved up one spot to seventh when he passed Rahal. Montoya then moved to sixth when Bourdais was penalized. Montoya was then left with five laps to close a 3.5-second deficit on Ryan Briscoe and pass him to move to fifth. Montoya made a hard charge, ultimately slicing Briscoe’s lead to 1.2 seconds, but he ran out of time to grab that final spot.

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“It doesn’t matter what happened,” Montoya said. “We had a few ways to win the championship and we just threw it away. We didn’t close it.”

“When you do this and you put double points on the last race, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done all year,” Montoya said.

Ironically, Montoya tied Dario Franchitti for CART’s 1999 championship, and he got the title on a similar tiebreaker.

Power, the 2014 season champion, was devastated for Team Penske.

“I feel so gutted for the team to not win on a draw there,” said Power, who complained that race control had too much of an effect on the race with long yellow flag periods.

This race was run amid the somberness of Justin Wilson’s passing following head injuries suffered in the Pocono race. Several drivers and crew members competed with T-shirts bearing Wilson’s name and logo, and pre-race festivities included a video tribute, a moment of silence and the playing of “God Save the Queen.”

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