Sonoma IndyCar: Scott Dixon gets fifth title, Rossi fightback fails

Tom Errington
Autosport
Dixon seals fifth title as Rossi fightback fails
Dixon seals fifth title as Rossi fightback fails

Scott Dixon sealed a fifth IndyCar title at Sonoma after Alexander Rossi's early error proved insurmountable for the Andretti driver, whose team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay was victorious in the season finale.

Hunter-Reay followed up his first pole since 2014 with a lights-to-flag victory in which he was largely unopposed as the title race took the driving seat.

Dixon closed rapidly around midway into the race but backed out before Hunter-Reay took a measured win.

Hunter-Reay took the two bonus points for leading the most laps just after half-distance, ruling out the already very slim title hopes of Penske duo Josef Newgarden and Will Power - who needed to win and hope for a Dixon disaster alongside those extra points.

But Newgarden and Power's slim hopes faded as the former stalled in the pitlane, while the latter made no impression on the leaders and finished third.

Dixon had entered the race with a 29-point buffer over his true title rival Rossi, meaning the Andretti Autosport driver had to at least finish several places ahead of the title favourite.

But Rossi was forced into a fightback after a clumsily clipping the rear of team-mate Marco Andretti at the first corner of the race, damaging the front-right corner of his car.

He slowed, cutting a section of the track, and returned to the pits before resuming the race a lap down.

Rossi took until lap 35 of 85 to get close to unlapping himself as he gave title rival Dixon something to think about by hounding the Ganassi man.

A slight error from Dixon allowed Rossi through before he finally unlapped himself when Hunter-Reay made a stop, and Rossi was then handed a brilliant stroke of luck when Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal stopped and caused a full-course caution just past half-distance.

Rossi had pitted just before the yellow, putting him at a fuel and tyre advantage.

He quickly dived back into the pits from 12th for a splash of fuel and new red-walled tyres, planning a short stint aimed at regaining track position.

The Andretti driver managed it in stunning fashion as he made up five places from 13th in the two laps following the restart and continued to carve his way back up the field - making contact with Newgarden in the process - and got to seventh before his final pitstop.

But a final finishing position of seventh was not enough to prevent Dixon's fifth title, as Rossi lost sixth to Sebastien Bourdais on the final lap as his tyre performance dropped off.

Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud had both looked like podium contenders early in the race but instead finished fourth and fifth ahead of Bourdais and Newgarden.

Indy Lights champion Patricio O'Ward starred on Saturday by making the Fast Six pole shootout on his IndyCar debut but endured a messy first stint and struggled to match the tyre life targets set by Harding Racing.

Despite this, O'Ward put in a strong performance after his first stint to finish ninth ahead of Ganassi's Ed Jones, Santino Ferrucci and Tony Kanaan in his 300th Indycar race.

Jordan King was 13th in his best IndyCar performance to date, climbing from 25th on the grid and making up more places than anyone else in the field.

Two drivers celebrating new contracts in Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato retired from the race with mechanical problems, with the latter having a spectacular plume of smoke following his RLLR-run machine before mid-distance.

Race result

Pos

Driver

Team

Car

Laps

Gap

1

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Andretti Autosport

Dallara/Honda

85

2h02m19.1667s

2

Scott Dixon

Chip Ganassi Racing

Dallara/Honda

85

2.7573s

3

Will Power

Team Penske

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

3.6550s

4

Simon Pagenaud

Team Penske

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

4.6306s

5

Marco Andretti

Andretti Herta

Dallara/Honda

85

19.8030s

6

Sebastien Bourdais

Dale Coyne Racing

Dallara/Honda

85

21.6393s

7

Alexander Rossi

Andretti Autosport

Dallara/Honda

85

28.3778s

8

Josef Newgarden

Team Penske

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

34.6288s

9

Patricio O'Ward

Harding Racing

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

42.8662s

10

Ed Jones

Chip Ganassi Racing

Dallara/Honda

85

44.2254s

11

Santino Ferrucci

Dale Coyne Racing

Dallara/Honda

85

44.6273s

12

Tony Kanaan

AJ Foyt Enterprises

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

1m00.4138s

13

Jordan King

Ed Carpenter Racing

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

1m04.0637s

14

Zach Veach

Andretti Autosport

Dallara/Honda

85

1m05.4899s

15

James Hinchcliffe

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Dallara/Honda

85

1m12.8026s

16

Pietro Fittipaldi

Dale Coyne Racing

Dallara/Honda

85

1m14.2459s

17

Jack Harvey

Meyer Shank Racing

Dallara/Honda

85

1m15.6462s

18

Carlos Munoz

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Dallara/Honda

85

1m18.6345s

19

Matheus Leist

AJ Foyt Enterprises

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

1m22.3819s

20

Colton Herta

Harding Racing

Dallara/Chevrolet

85

1m23.4673s

21

Max Chilton

Carlin

Dallara/Chevrolet

84

1 Lap

22

Charlie Kimball

Carlin

Dallara/Chevrolet

76

9 Laps

23

Graham Rahal

Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Dallara/Honda

66

19 Laps

24

Spencer Pigot

Ed Carpenter Racing

Dallara/Chevrolet

38

Mechanical

25

Takuma Sato

Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Dallara/Honda

15

Mechanical

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