(ST. PETERSBURG, FL) Scott Dixon has experienced numerous highs during his 20-year IndyCar career. Rookie of the Year honors in 2001, a winner’s circle visit at the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and 51 victories overall.
The veteran for Chip Ganassi Racing claimed another milestone following the NTT IndyCar Series finale Sunday, a sixth career championship.
Dixon placed third at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and staved a hard-charge by race winner Josef Newgarden (Penske Racing) to claim the Astor Cup as the series’ champion by 16 points, 537-521.
“It’s all the team,” he said after the race. “I can’t thank them enough. Now we’re going to go have a beer.”
Dixon’s last Astor Cup victory took place two seasons ago.
Heading into the final event, the 40-year old Kiwi held a 32-point edge over Newgarden and needed, at minimum, a Top 10 finish if the series’ defending champ won Sunday’s 100-lap feature.
This would be a tough challenge as Dixon started eleventh in the 24-car field while Newgarden placed three positions ahead.
As the race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit proceeded, both open-wheeled pilots methodically worked their way up the leader board with precision driving, perfect pit stops and a little good luck.
Conversely, misfortune came the way to pole sitter Will Power (Team Penske), who crashed in Lap 35 and finished last on the afternoon, as well as Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), who led the most laps on the day but crashed while in the top position during Lap 69.
Newgarden was able to snare the lead on a restart with under 20 laps left when he smartly sliced around both Colton Herta (Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport) and Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) while the youngsters dueled in Turn One.
Newgarden proceeded to outpace the pack for the remainder of the race and topped O’Ward by 4.1409 seconds to claim his fourth win of the season and a second place finish in the standings.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” he said afterwards. “First off, congrats to Scott and his crew. They were great competitors. I don’t know what I could have done different this year. I don’t know what I could ask my crew to do. My guys were flawless. We just came up short, that’s all it is.”
O’Ward’s runner-finish completed an extremely-bountiful first full season for the 21-year old, with four podium finishes and a fourth result in the series’ standings.
Herta edged O’Ward by five points to take third in seasonal points.
Sunday’s Top 5 included Sebastien Bourdais (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Dixon now sits second for the most career championships and eyes to tie A.J. Foyt’s benchmark of seven when the series launches again at St. Petersburg in March 2021.
“Six is good but seven sounds better,” he said. “It’s going to be tough competition.”
Meanwhile, Newgarden seeks a third title.
“We’ll reset, we’ll hit them harder next year and I promise you that we will be in the fight,” he said.
The NTT IndyCar Series returns locally to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Saturday, August 21, 2021.