Scott Dixon was a bit surprised while in victory lane after Sunday's IndyCar Series finale.
Dixon entered the race third in the IndyCar Series points standings and needed some misfortune from both Juan Pablo Montoya, the points leader when the race started, and Graham Rahal, who was in second, to get the series title.
That misfortune happened and Dixon won the championship over Montoya, who finished sixth, via a tiebreaker after he won at Sonoma for the second straight year.
The tiebreaker was season victories. Dixon's win on Sunday was his third of the season. Montoya, the Indianapolis 500 winner, had two. After the race, Montoya said he felt like he threw the championship away. Sunday's race was for double the normal race points, which allowed Dixon to sneak in for the title. Montoya's win in the 500 was also for double points.
Dixon entered the race 47 points behind Montoya.
The turning point in the title race happened when Montoya made contact with teammate Will Power, who was also eligible for the championship. Montoya was on the inside of Power entering a corner and Power came down on him. The impact spun Power around and Montoya had front wing damage. He was forced to pit for a new nose and lost valuable track position while Dixon's pit strategy worked like a charm up front.
Montoya got back towards the front of the field and was eighth after the race's final restart. He gained two positions after Rahal, who was in sixth, was spun by Sebastian Bourdais. The spin ended any chances of Rahal getting the title and Bourdais was penalized by IndyCar officials for avoidable contact. Montoya officially moved up to sixth with four laps to go but had too much ground to make up on fifth-place Ryan Briscoe before the checkered flag fell.
The title was Dixon's fourth IndyCar championship. He previously won the 2003, 2008 and 2013 championships. Montoya, in his second IndyCar season since he last raced full-time in American open-wheel racing in 2000, was looking for his first American open-wheel title since 1999. That season he beat Dario Franchitti for the championship via a tiebreaker.
While the series will be celebrating Dixon – one of its all-time greats while still perhaps being an underrated driver – over the upcoming months, it will also be answering questions about the death of driver Justin Wilson, who was killed last week at Pocono when he was struck in the head by debris. The series will undoubtedly investigate the possibility of increased head protection for its drivers before the 2016 season begins and while not guaranteed, it's possible that the cockpit area of an IndyCar will look quite different when the season begins next season.
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