Legend status: Scott Dixon wins fifth IndyCar Series title
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New Zealander Scott Dixon has defied an up and down season to clinch his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series title on the 10-year anniversary of his second championship crown.
Dixon finished second at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma to race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, which proved enough for him to topple the challenge from Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power.
Title number five makes Dixon the third most successful champion on the American open-wheel winners list behind seven-time champion A.J. Foyt and six-time champion Rick Mears. Dixon now sits above the likes of American legends Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Rahal, and more.
Click here to read Scott Dixon's post-race reaction
His leading title rival Rossi took a huge hit in the early laps, after a lap-one, turn-one collision meant that the Andretti Autosports driver would have to make a pit-stop for a new nose cone and other repairs after making hitting teammate Marco Andretti. Dixon meanwhile was sat in second behind pole-sitter Hunter-Reay and ahead of Newgarden.
Rossi was able to rejoin on the lead lap, so thus was still in the hunt if he could recover positions. For Dixon, the next drivers to consider in his championship equation were Newgarden and Power — who was down in seventh but climbing rapidly.
Dixon went onto a three-stop strategy, following the lead of Hunter-Reay. The majority went this way, including Newgarden and Power, while Rossi stayed out longer while outside the top 20 in the hope of completing the race in two stops (not including his early stop for repairs).
Dixon remained second after the stop, with Rossi ironically the closest car to him on track. Though he was one lap down, the two drivers still fought with each other. Dixon eventually let Rossi past on lap 37, and by lap 39 Hunter-Reay was back in pit lane and Rossi was back on the lead lap. Dixon stopped too, with things unfolding smoothly.
A safety car shortly afterwards (for the stationary car of Graham Rahal) came at a perfect time for Rossi. By the time the race restarted on lap 50, Rossi was 20th and back on the tail of the field. For Newgarden and Power, the DNF meant that they would be mathematically ruled out of title contention.
A chaotic subsequent restart helped Rossi carve through. By lap 53 he had pushed up to 11th place, and by lap 54 he was ninth. As the laps wound down, Rossi continued to forge forwards into the top five. But, even if he was able to get past Dixon he would still need the Kiwi to encounter some bad luck and fall backwards.
With Hunter-Reay holding a commanding lead with 10 laps to go, Dixon's main challenge was holding off Power for second. But instead of simply letting the Australian go, he fended him off and eventually the margin between the two blew out again.
But there would prove to be no fairy-tale finish for Rossi in the final laps. Instead the race ran green, with Hunter-Reay, Dixon, and Power taking the chequered flag as the final podium-getters of the season. After his valiant fightback effort, Rossi finished seventh — his tyres losing bite in the run to the line.
Dixon ends the year as one of four drivers with four race wins to their name. What separates his season from the others, however, is the level of consistency throughout. Out of the season's 16 rounds, he only finished outside the top 10 twice with no DNFs. And if you remove those two results from the list, he only had one finish outside the top five.