Scott Dixon has won his third career IZOD IndyCar Series championship after a controlled drive in the season finale, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. It matches his “years of five” rule, after also winning titles in 2003 and 2008.
Dixon finished fifth as polesitter Will Power won the race. He’ll have a margin of victory of 27 points in the series standings. Attrition played a massive role as only eight of the 25 cars that started finished, easily the fewest this season.
“It was a crazy day,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee in victory lane. “We started back, the car we had to work on all race. It’s a huge credit to Team Target. We had strategy and some overheating problems to the end. Can’t believe we won the championship. I guess the five year thing played out, through the trials and tribulations this year.”
“Dario I owe this to you, a crazy year, hope you’re back in the car soon, thanks man,” he added, to longtime teammate Dario Franchitti.
Helio Castroneves ran in the top five most of the race, but he needed to finish first or second to have any shot at overtaking the points leader and erasing the 25-point deficit.
The crucial point for Dixon, who started only 17th after an engine change and a 10-spot grid penalty, was the second round of pit stops on Lap 73. Dixon gained six positions on that pit stop exchange and advanced to sixth place.
The final blow for Castroneves came on Lap 211, when team boss and race strategist Roger Penske called him into the pits for a stop when pit lane was closed.
Castroneves started at the back of the queue after a restart following a spin by Dixon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Tagliani.
Despite the setback, Castroneves made his restart on Lap 216 a good one. He gained eight spots in two laps, from 11th place to third, even to the lead temporarily. But damage to his right front wing and a pit stop on Lap 227 basically ended his chances. He finished sixth.
The aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix has centered around Red Bull Racing and its two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
While Ricciardo has garnered praise at every turn for a masterful drive from sixth to first in the second half of the race, Verstappen has again come under criticism for overzealous driving in the wake of contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
A recap of the past news week for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and the attention both Ricciardo and Verstappen have garnered, is below.
Ricciardo Surfaces as Outside Title Contender After Chinese Grand Prix Win
Prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, few would have labelled Ricciardo as a possible title contender, especially in the wake of a mechanical failure in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, Sunday’s victory in China not only provided a number of thrills for onlookers, it also gave Ricciardo a major boost of confidence, and he asserted afterwards that he thinks a championship push is possible.
“I really feel like, I’ve said a few times, just give me the chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I will take it,” Ricciardo said in a piece posted on Crash.net. “I feel like I can capitalize on opportunities and I guess [China] was a good example even with a fat lip I am still pretty fast and pretty good on a Sunday.”
The victory also comes at an interesting time in Ricciardo’s career, as the 2018 season is the final one in his current contract with the Red Bull team. On the market for a new contract, Ricciardo mentioned that he’s seeking a two-year deal with whichever team he signs with.
“I don’t want to sign anything too long because I don’t know where the sport’s going,” Ricciardo said in an interview with The Times newspaper.
He added, “Ideally, I’d sign a two-year contract. I think two years I can definitely be comfortable with and then see it from there. That third year will be the rule change so I will probably wait and see what happens then.”
Ricciardo also added that whether or not he returns to Red Bull is entirely down to the team’s performance this year.
“I kind of feel like if they want me to race for them they should contact me, but they haven’t,” he said. “If we win this year then I’m staying with Red Bull. It’s pretty simple. It’s really just about performance at the moment.”
Jos Verstappen Offers Constructive Criticism to Max
Max Verstappen has again come under fire for overzealous driving, and not just from rivals this time.
Perhaps most notably, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula 1 driver in his own right, offered his thoughts this past weekend, asserting that Max needs to show more patience and a little better judgment in his overtaking moves.
“The overtake on Vettel really wasn’t on. It wasn’t possible. It was an error of judgement. In some circumstances Max just has to think more,” Jos told Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk, referenced in a Crash.net story.
However, Jos also praised his son’s driving style, noting that he hopes that part doesn’t change.
“I don’t want him to change his driving style. He passed two people at the start. He did that perfectly,” he added. “That’s what we all want to see. But we don’t want to see these kinds of actions. He needs to have it under control. He needs to think.”
In addition to receiving a 10-second penalty for the incident, Verstappen also received two penalty points, bringing his total to five. A driver who gets 12 penalty points within a span of 12 months is automatically given a one-race ban.
Rubens Barrichello Recovering from Brain Tumor
Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year after collapsing in the shower.
“Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my head. It seemed to be exploding, I had to fall on the ground and only after a few minutes I managed to reach my wife Silvana to ask for help. I immediately realized that it was a serious problem,” Barrichello said of the ordeal in an emotional interview.
Barrichello, whose health has appeared to improve in recent weeks, revealed that the recovery process has been nothing short of miraculous.
“I feel like a miracle,” he said. “(The doctors) told me that only 14 percent of the people who suffered this type of problem then managed to recover completely.
“I am still going through exams and so on, but I am honestly great and the difficulties in life are the ones who show us how to grow and how to be better.”