Watch: Scott Dixon falls just short of 6th IndyCar title, young gun wins
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He was an outside shot for this year's NTT IndyCar Series crown, but that didn't stop Scott Dixon from giving the final race of the season — a double-points affair at Mazda Laguna Seca in Monterey — a big shake.
The New Zealander finished the race in third, having been among the race leaders for most of it after starting from second place. Victory ended up going to series rookie Colton Herta, capping off a whirlwind debut season. Dixon finished the race sandwiched by Penske Racing drivers; Will Power in second and Simon Pagenaud in fourth. Dixon's Ganassi Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist took fifth.
But, the championship title went to Josef Newgarden. After a day that was far from perfect, the 27-year-old finished in eighth to claim his second championship crown in three years — leading teammate Simon Pagenaud in the points, 641 points to 616. Alexander Rossi ended the series third overall, with Dixon fourth having earned the most points at the series finale.
“I was so pissed earlier, I thought we were throwing it away,” Newgarden said post race, referring to his car's lack of race pace. “They just did such a great job, this crew, all year long, and I didn’t want to throw it away at the end and do something silly.
“Man, they called a great race and I just tried to be as smart as I could today. I’m just so proud of everyone today. To win the Indianapolis 500 with Simon [Pagenaud] and the championship, there’s not much more you could ask for. I’m just to thankful for the team. I’m so happy. I was crying that whole lap. I’m so glad it’s over.”
Dixon spent most of the race staring at the rear end of Herta, who was clearly the car and driver to beat on the day. A late piece of strategic play proved the difference between Dixon finishing second or third. At the final round of pit-stops Power went for a late pit-stop 'overcut', which resulted in him popping out ahead of an earlier-stopping Dixon. Pagenaud did the same, although Dixon was able to get by him a few laps later.
Power then set off after race leader Herta, building to a grandstand finish as the margin shrunk to less than a second. But Herta was able to fend off the Australian to help build a platform for a sure-fire championship tilt in 2020. Dixon had his own battle at the end, forced to fight with Pagenaud for the last step on the podium. In the end he claimed the spot, but by just a tenth of a second.
The series now breaks for the rest of the year and America's winter holiday season. It will return next year on March 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg.
Results: Grand Prix of Monterey
1. Colton Herta
2. Will Power
3. Scott Dixon
4. Simon Pagenaud
5. Felix Rosenqvist
6. Alexander Rossi
7. Sebastien Bourdais
8. Josef Newgarden
9. James Hinchcliffe
10. Ryan Hunter-Reay
11. Marcus Ericsson
12. Graham Rahal
13. Max Chilton
14. Marco Andretti
15. Charlie Kimball
16. Tony Kanaan
17. Matheus Leist
18. Zach Veach
19. Jack Harvey
20. Spencer Pigot
21. Takuma Sato
22. Conor Daly
23. Ed Jones
24. Santino Ferrucci
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