Dixon's consistency not matched by teammates
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Scott Dixon was always going to be up against it at the final round of the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma.
The Kiwi was earmarked as a championship contender early in the year, and then sustained his trademark consistency throughout the season. Though he would only win one race all year -- a memorable performance at Road America -- he emerged just two points behind Josef Newgarden as Monday's series finale arrived.
By contrast, Newgarden had been adopted as something of a poster boy for the series. He had won more races than anyone else (four) in his debut season for Penske Racing, and represented the best opportunity for an American to triumph since Ryan Hunter-Reay took the crown in 2012.
What stood in Dixon's way was Newgarden's onslaught of Penske Racing teammates Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Will Power, who all out-qualified Dixon in the event's build-up. And each of them was also still in championship contention, ensuring that they had something to fight for come race day.
Stuck in fifth behind a determined Castroneves for most of the race, Dixon lacked the track position to challenge Newgarden at the front. He did eventually get around Castroneves, but by then the leaders were more than 10 seconds ahead. No fairytale safety car or on-track catastrophe would occur either -- leaving Dixon to finish fourth as Newgarden took the title.
"Whenever we pitted short, [Castroneves] pitted with us and he was just a massive roadblock. Once we got clear track, we were able to hunt them down. But all day, as soon as we got in traffic, the car got really loose," Dixon said.
"It was a strong season -- obviously not where we want to finish in the championship. Congrats to Penske and Josef on a job well done."
Ultimately, a lack of help from his Chip Ganassi Racing teammatesduring the season didn't help. Dixon, who finished third overall in the championship, was the only driver in the team able to make the new Honda engine package competitive; his 11 top-five finishes comfortably out-shining the three from Tony Kanaan and the one top-five from Max Chilton. Fourth driver Charlie Kimball scored none.
In fact, Dixon scored a top 10 finish at every single race of the season except the Indy 500. The spectacular crash that ended Dixon's Indy hopes also played a significant role in his championship result.
The 37-year-old now gets to enjoy a relatively quiet off-season, save for a star appearance at next year's Leadfoot Festival in the new Honda Civic Type R.
His IndyCar future remains assured, though for the rest of the team it's anything but.
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