IndyCar title goes to the wire at sombre Sonoma

Weekend Racing Wrap

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The outcome of the IndyCar championship hung in the balance until the very last lap of the season at Sonoma. However proceedings were inevitably overshadowed by the Justin Wilson’s death six days earlier.

Among the other action last weekend was the first World Endurance race since the Le Mans 24 Hours and DTM’s return to action minus the culprits of the ‘push him out’ row at the last race.


Round 16: Sonoma Raceway (season finale)

Amid the excitement of a six-way championship showdown, IndyCar never lost sight of the tragedy which struck at its last race, and a series of tribute to Justin Wilson were arranged in the run-up to the event. His family even requested his car be driven by close friend Oriol Servia. Happily, the final race of the season was also a safe one.

Season-long points leader Juan Pablo Montoya arrived at Sonoma as the clear favourite with Graham Rahal his closest rival. But in a surprising outcome owed in part to IndyCar’s controversial decision to award double points for the final race, neither of them claimed the crown.

Scott Dixon entered the race 47 points behind Montoya, which would ordinarily have been a long shot in a championship where a win is normally worth 50 points. But with 100 up for grabs Dixon’s chances became more realistic, and Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden were also in with a shout.

A miserable qualifying and early pitstop for damage eliminated Castroneves from contention. Newgarden was so far behind he needed a miracle, and got the opposite: he was blocked in the pits by the only Penske driver not in contention for the title – Simon Pagenaud – and later lost over a lap when he stalled leaving the pits.

Will Power led early on but – in a pivotal moment for the championship – was knocked into a spin by Montoya following an early caution period, sending both to the pits for repairs.

This cleared the path for Dixon to take a commanding lead and win, with Montoya needing fifth or higher to deny Dixon a fourth title. In the closing laps he stormed through the field – aided by incidents ahead including a dramatic late tangle between Bourdais and Rahal – but ended the race sixth.

That meant for the second time in his career Montoya ended an IndyCar season tied with a rival on top of the points standings. But while in 1999 he had won the title by winning more races than Dario Franchitti, this time Dixon’s greater haul of wins secured him the title – his fourth.

World Endurance Car Championship

Round 4: Nurburgring, Germany

Porsche and Audi commanded the front of the field on home territory, and Le Mans winners Porsche prevailed with a one-two finish. This time the number 17 car of Timo Bernhard, Brendhon Hartley and Mark Webber shared the spoils – the latter taking his first World Endurance Championship victory at the track where he claimed his maiden F1 triumph six years ago.

The number 18 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani was delayed by a total of 95 seconds of penalties for excessive fuel consumption after a fuel flow sensor failed. The sister car also had problems, including a long early pit stop to replace their front bodywork, but both finished clear of the pursuing Audis.

Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Truluyer retain the points lead after bringing their Audi R18 Etron Quattro home on the podium for the fourth time in as many races.

Next race: Circuit of the Americas, United States (19th September)


Round 6: Moscow Raceway, Russia

In the first DTM race since the ‘Push him out’ row – which resulted in bans for driver Timo Scheider and team boss Wolfgang Ulrich – Mercedes and Audi shared the spoils.

Pascal Wehrlein won the opening race on Saturday to undo some of the damage done by Scheider’s move in Austria as championship leader Ekstrom retired, while Mike Rockenfeller won his first race for two years with victory in the second race on Sunday.

Next race: Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, Germany (12th-13th September)

Over to you

What other four-wheeled racing action did you sample over the weekend? Did you watch any of these races? Let us know in the comments.

Next weekend is the final European race of the season for Formula One at Monza, where GP2 and GP3 will support as usual. There’s loads more racing going on as well with World Rallycross, Euroformula Open, Auto GP, BTCC, NASCAR and Formula Renault 3.5 in action.

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45 comments on “IndyCar title goes to the wire at sombre Sonoma”

  1. If Indycar used F1’s points system, with no double points races or bonus points, the standings would have been:
    Montoya 157
    Dixon 145
    Rahal 144
    Power 122
    Castoneves 118
    Kanaan 113
    Newgarden 110
    Hunter-Reay 94
    Bourdais 94
    Andretti 78
    There has been a lot of discussion about the things that are wrong with F1 lately, but it’s worth remembering all the things that the sport gets right. I think the points system strikes a good balance between rewarding winners and rewarding consistency, while remaining simple to understand, unlike Indycar’s mess of points for this-and-that.

    1. If Indycar didn’t use double points at all Montoya would have won. Double points shouldn’t be handed out unless its something like Le Mans which is 4x the time racing compared to a standard WEC race

    2. Indycar got what they wanted. Without double points, the drama of the last few laps of the last race of the season wouldn’t have been there. So it probably won’t go away.

    3. Indycar’s mess of points for this-and-that

      Forget double points (at any round) for a minute. If Dixon had not led the most laps, he would have not won the championship due to the bonus point(s) awarded.

      1. Ah, sorry. Didn’t realise you’do already deducted bonus points from your tally too.
        As you were!

    4. The Indy 500 was worth double points too. If you get rid of double points in both races your champion would have been…Scott Dixon.

      1. Now I read the opposite is true. One of them is wrong.

        1. I think people are forgetting that the points earned in the double points race they didn’t win, also gets halved. (Dixon at Indy, Montoya at Sonoma)

          Obviously both lose 50 points from their respective wins, but Dixon would lose 32 points (4th) from Indy, while Montoya would lose only 28 points (6th) from Sonoma.

          Montoya wins the championship by 4 points

    5. @Jason Miller
      From my count your math is slightly wrong, but the order is correct. I will reply more in depth below.

  2. FlyingLobster27
    31st August 2015, 13:30

    I had a long day Sunday: up early for the wet-to-dry Super GT 1000 km race at Suzuka (it went on until sunset, the 1000 km were not completed), listening to most of the WEC Nürburgring round, with a splash of DTM in the middle.

    Speaking of which, TouringCarTimes has reported that Dr Ullrich is facing a police investigation for “coercion and threat to physical safety”. This, on top of the punishment from the DMSB: harsh because I don’t believe it was a premeditated, coordinated plot, but fair because it sets a precedent and serves as a proper deterrent… I just sigh and think why this much hoo-ha wasn’t made of the 2002 Austrian GP. Some series just take disrepute incidents and action against race-fixing more seriously than others.
    That said, Audi switched their cars positions at the end of the WEC race this weekend, which, exactly half-way through a championship, is as uncalled for as Mercedes’s engineering for Wehrlein at Spielberg.

    1. Though Dr. Ulrich’s actions cannot be justified, I can perfectly understand the height of emotions in the heat of the moment which made him shout “schieb ihn raus!”

  3. Disappointing for sure. Power and Montoya colliding was just silly.

    JPM said what (just about) all of us already think “It doesn’t matter what we did all season because of double points.”

    Also, what’s with the really awkward looking line they took near the last corner? I didn’t see a kerb or paint indicating track limits yet they went nearly straight into the wall before almost stopping and having to make a 90 degree turn …

    1. It doesn’t matter what we did all season because of double points.

      It is a stupid rule to award more for the same but it is because Dixon has had such a ‘great’ season he was still in a shout to win it on double points. So saying the entire season doens’t matter is pointless. Had Montoya won one more race it would have been decided on second places.

    2. He didn’t complain about double points when he won the Indy 500…

      1. Well, that’s Indy 500. While Sonoma is just like 2014 Abu Dhabi..

        1. Absolutely! Sonoma does not deserve double points by any means.

  4. bradley, I think the total of seconds #18 had to be in the pits is wrong? Wasn’t it 30 seconds twice and another third one minute stop? Making it 120 seconds? Might be mistaken.

    Anyway as Porsche and Webber fan I was filled with joy. On this track, unbelievable. They were so close in Interlagos last year where he just imitated his Jaguar crash. They were close last year and nearly there this year too in Le Mans. We have to shelve one dream for now but this win was just really great to experience. As a Webber fan we haven’t had 41 wins like Hamilton or Vettel but it only makes each one all the more special.

    1. Yeah love it. Webber is like a handcraft market compared to the mass-production victory tyrant Hamilton haha
      Also Autosport are reporting it as 95 seconds as well.

    2. FlyingLobster27
      31st August 2015, 16:14

      Listening to RLM, I heard that the penalties were 5, then 30, then 60 seconds. But it’s all stop-and-go, so there’s also pit-in and pit-out (three times for the #18 Porsche!) that you lose time on.

  5. in the sonoma the title decider biggest blunder is first yellow, that is one of the dumbest call by race control, which led to other yellows, there was no reason for that yellow other than to spice it up, i totally agree with will power’s statements, they have to decide if they want to decide races and titles by lottery or racing by keeping pits open during SC. Dixon drove hell of a race, but i would have liked to see it decided by on-track incidents not lucky pit calls.

    1. in the sonoma the title decider biggest blunder is first yellow

      @f1007 Yeah I agree there was no reason for that yellow, The car was still under power & made it safely back to the pits.

      I also feel the 2nd yellow was unnecisary as Will Power spun but got moving again fairly quickly & there was no debris left on track.

  6. Dixon is the true champion. Even without double points he would have won it.

    Everybody seems to forget the Indy 500 was also double points. If both races were awarded normal points Dixon would still be the champion.

    So JPM might think it doesn’t matter, but without double points in the whole season he wouldn’t have won anyway.

    1. Scratch that. Montoya loses less points (1st and 6th) than Dixon (1st and 4th), so Montoya would be champion.
      Standings without double points for Indy and Sonoma would be
      1. Montoya 478
      2. Dixon 474
      3. Rahal 448
      4. Power 427
      5. Castroneves 413
      6. Newgarden 400

    2. @sasquatsch Double points are acceptable for double round such as the 24H of Le Mans..

    3. Montoya would have won the championship without the double points for both races.

      They both lose 50 points from the wins, but Dixon loses 32 points for finishing 4th at Indy while Montoya only loses 28 for his 6th in Sonoma. If both are scored as single points races, then Montoya wins the championship by 4 points.

      1. My apologies. I posted this before I saw you other post with the standings.

    4. Everybody seems to forget the Indy 500 was also double points.

      True but at least it makes sense for the 500 to be double points because its twice the length of regular Indycar races & is the biggest race of the Indycar season.

      Sonoma is nothing special, There is no reason at all for that circuit to host a double points race. The only reason it was done was to try & keep the championship alive & it just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth & to some extent I feel it cheapens the final results.

  7. Indy final race was ridiculous. Unnecessary yellow flags (a normal thing in Indycars) e ludicrous double points. Waste of time.

  8. Was really nice to see how they came together for Justin Wilsons family with the on-air donations drive. The tightness between the drivers, crews, organisers & TV seems to be stronger and more candid than in F1.

  9. I was surprised yesterday evening while watching the Indycar race, because I just didn’t feel the thrill of a title deciding race. Maybe that’s because of what happened last week with Wilson, but I think it’s also because of all these gimmicks they used to make the championship battle closer.
    There’s a crazy complicated points system, double points, caution periods for literally nothing… at a certain point it didn’t make any sense and I stopped enjoying it.

  10. Intresting race. Feel really sad for Monotya. I thought he deserved the title this year and he drove really well.

    The double point played the spoil Sport today. I love Indy racing more than NASCAR. Overall I think Indy racing is getting good coverage and attention nowadays which I am really happy about. That said the safety is a factor to be thought about seriously. The kind of high speed accidents makes it a little scary all together and needless to say the loss of lives like Justin Wilson and Dan Wheldon. Due to the nature of the high speed ovals the safety standards needs to be much more than that of the F1. I am hoping that while the sport gains popularity and global audience, it will be more safer to the racers and the spectators.

    It would be great for the racing sport if Indy car goes a lot more global thank today challenging F1. It can put F1 under pressure and the racing sport wins. In General if Indy Car , WEC and Formula E can step up the game in the Global arena, it would be a great treat for the Racing Fans like us.

    @KeithCollantine when that happens will become :)

  11. @keithcollantine Keith, third line in para following WEC headline: *shred the spills* Sounds fascinating but probably not what you intended!

  12. As a bit of a metrics junkie, I decided to look more in depth at how things would have been different if the IndyCar double points farce had not happened. I have a working copy should Keith want me to forward it along, and I invite anyone to double-check my math.

    2015 IndyCar standings as they happened with double points at the Indy 500 and Sonoma:
    Dixon 556
    Montoya 493

    Had they retained the 2014 formula where only the 500-mile races were scored double, and all of the 500-mile races were double-points events:
    Montoya 591
    Dixon 556

    In the 2013 system, with all races being equal:
    Montoya 478
    Dixon 474

    Now, for fun, (yes, I’m a bit strange), I decided to play around with the F1 points systems since 1950.
    Present F1 system:
    Montoya 152
    Dixon 145
    Rahal 144

    2003-2009 F1 system:
    Montoya 61
    Rahal 57
    Dixon 56

    1991-2002 F1 System:
    Rahal 45
    Montoya 44
    Dixon 43

    Further back, I had decided to do in parallel, both verbatim and proportional interpretations of the scoring rules. Verbatim, particularly in the early days of F1 with far fewer races becomes a bit silly, and when I selected “the best X results of Y races” I rounded up for anything .5 or greater, down for .499 or less.

    Seasons which drivers would have won (direct):
    Dixon 1951-1959, 1961-1966, (15)
    Montoya 2003-2015 (13)
    Rahal 1950, 1960, 1967-2002 (36)

    Seasons which drivers would have won (proportional where races are dropped):
    Montoya 2003-2015 (13)
    Rahal 1950-2002 (53)
    Dixon None

    According to my math, there is no way Dixon could have won the season if a proportional view of dropped races are applied, yet if most years of Formula One scoring had been in play in IndyCar this year, it would be Rahal, not Montoya, as champion.

    1. Note: Those results do include the fastest lap bonuses from the early days of F1.

    2. @Sean Doyle
      I’m assuming you looked at the wrong line when typing in Montoya’s actual 2015 points. He should be at 556. Power had 493 points.

      1. @ Corey You’re correct. Nearly three hours of going through every season points table of F1 left me with crossed eyes. Thanks for the catch!

  13. Somehow that first yellow, which was completely unneeded as they threw it at about the time limping car pitted, and then the clumsy incident between Montoya and Power killed the buzz of the race for me. Good to see Wilson’s car take a solid finish though and Kanaan did do his best to show us some good racing in the later stages of the race.

    In the end Dixon had 3 wins, so its hard to say that he didn’t deserve it. But yeah, double points really did the series no favour at all.

  14. Congrats to Dixon, he has won this round and the championship on merit. Whether or not this double point round was justified, those points were there for everyone to take. And it was Dixon who took them. Montoya had an abysmal drive, and the only reason he wasn’t penalized for spinning Power out, was because the officials didn’t want to ruin the spectacle. He should have gotten a drive-through like Bourdais was, both crashes were stupid and equally avoidable. And his final stint? He was 11th before the last green, then Power moved over for him (for a second time in a row in that race), and he only moved from 10th to 6th due to the cars ahead eliminating themselves. He didn’t make a single pass (passing limping Bourdais on his way to the penalty doesn’t count). So it was nothing like a champion’s drive, it was rather pathetic. Montoya had it all in his hands before the race, but lost due to his own incompetence and stupidity, and the double points system has nothing to do with it. Dixon, on the other hand, performed brilliantly, and fully deserves his fourth title.

    It is quite remarkable that not only Dixon did a Vettel last Sunday, but he also equalled Vettel’s number of titles.

    1. Montoya strikes me as a bit of a blow hard. I also think the same of Mark Webber. His criticism of F1 a few months ago did not sit well with me. Indycar has its own problems that he won’t dare comment on. People need to get their own house in order before they criticize others. I bet he doesn’t think F1 was so terrible now. I won’t be surprised if he makes the transitions to sports car racing he’ll start bad mouthing Indycar also. Indycar races are a lottery. A wounded car can’t even limp to the pits without a full course caution being thrown. Total joke!

      I’m happy he lost the title. He’s been playing it safe all year. His desperation to win the title in the last 5 laps was just sad.

      Maybe he’ll learn to grab the bull by the horn for next year.

    2. Actually Vettel is a four times world champion whilst Dixon is only a four times champion in a highly regarded national series.

      1. Thank you for the clarification. I’m sure so many people on this site had no idea that an Indycar champion is not a world champion :)
        I obviously was drawing a parallel between F1 and Indycar as the two top-tier open-wheel series this and that side of the pond. I didn’t realize that pointing out how similar 2010 F1 season finale and 2015 Indycar season finale unfolded, and that both winners of those races have for titles in their respective series, required a special disclaimer that their titles are not equal in terms of recognition.

  15. Double points didn’t ruin the race. It was the same for everyone. But it hurts the series. People may tune in more if the title is still in play, but they will be doing so knowing they are being hustled a bit. No race should be extra points. And it’s not like there was something different about this one, being longer, more famous, whatever. It was just about ratings. Can one imagine if a win in the last game of the year in a team sport was worth two wins to send a team to playoffs? It would be a joke. It makes indycar look desperate, thirsty.

    Speaking of being hustled, that Filippi caution was mighty strange. Even my six-year-old was like, “but the green car is still going!” Also, I’ve been a JPM fan for like 15 yeas but he had a penalty coming for hitting Power. Seemed like an entertainment thumb was firmly on the scale there too.

  16. oh well who cares in the end Dixon is the champion regardless,
    best thing that happened for little old NZ, we are missing good drivers, at least this might inspire some new talent.

    Dixon was sponsored by a Car sales man in NZ to drive in the Indy Lights,
    he has since payed the guy back 3 fold to try and help others get into the sport…

  17. As much as i don’t like double point, the whole idea behind it was entertainment (which is a big part of US motor sports) and it did deliver that, so i think we will see it again next year.


    The Suzuka 1000km was held this weekend, it was an absolute barnstorming race.

    NISMO’s YouTube channel has the race in full, which I cannot recommend enough that you watch if you have six hours to spare today.

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