Scott Dixon clinched his six IndyCar championship title despite rival Josef Newgarden winning the season finale at St Petersburg.
Newgarden took the lead in brilliant fashion at the race’s penultimate restart, which he began in third place behind leader Colton Herta and Alex Palou. While Palou nabbed the lead off Herta at turn one, Newgarden lined up the pair of them for a bold double pass through the following corners.
Dixon, who like Newgarden had worked his way forward after starting in the middle of the pack, seized his opportunity to dive past Palou for third. Oliver Askew then slithered into a barrier, with assistance from Takuma Sato, causing the final caution period of the day.
Newgarden handled that restart with aplomb, but a fast-starting Pato O’Ward scythed his way past Dixon and Herta to appear on his tail. Despite O’Ward’s best efforts, Newgarden resisted the initial pressure, then drew five seconds clear over the final laps.
Herta skidded into a barrier which handed third place back to Dixon, but his quick recovery avoided another caution period. It was the final blow in a race which had promised much for the Andretti team, who held the top three positions earlier on.
Alexander Rossi led much of the opening two thirds of the race before spinning into the barrier at the exit of turn three. During the ensuing caution period team mate James Hinchcliffe spun at the final corner, pulled into oncoming traffic and wrecked his car’s front wing. Marco Andretti also spun out with a puncture after contact.
Rossi had taken the lead early on when pole-winner Will Power ran wide due to a problem with his car. “It didn’t downshift for some reason,” he explained afterwards. “It happened a couple of times.”
Power then had a close encounter with his title-contending team mate Newgarden, the pair touching at turn four. Not long afterwards Power crashed out when he hit the barrier in the same place Rossi’s race later ended.
The other caution periods were caused by Santino Ferrucci and series newcomer Scott McLaughlin, who spun at one restart and was collected by Rinus Veekay. The Carpenter driver had already clinched the Rookie of the Year title merely by starting the race. The half-dozen interruptions kept the pace car so busy it pulled over during the final period having run out of fuel, leaving Newgarden to serve in its place.
Sebastien Bourdais, in only his third start of the year, claimed a valuable fourth place for Foyt ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud. That trio have as many titles between them as Dixon, whose latest triumph underlines his place as one of IndyCar’s true greats.
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