As Scott Dixon celebrated his season finale win at Sonoma Raceway, his fourth career IndyCar championship and Chip Ganassi Racing’s 100th series win, “Fortune Days” by The Glitch Mob played amid the party.
Not celebrating was runner-up Juan Pablo Montoya, who may find Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” an appropriate theme song to the conclusion his 2015 season.
Moments after losing the championship to Dixon not by points, but by the single digits of their respectful win totals, Montoya shared the sentiment of the band’s hit song from 1991.
“When you do this and you put double points in the last race, it doesn’t matter what you did all year,” Montoya told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee after finishing sixth, one agonizing spot away from celebrating his own “Fortune Days.”
“We had one bad race where it’s double points, and we’re out of the championship.”
It doesn’t matter that with Montoya’s win in the season opener at St. Petersburg on March 29 and bolstered by his Indianapolis 500 win in May and five podiums, that the No. 2 Penske Chevrolet had been chased for six months.
“We fought all year,” Montoya said. “It’s just a shame. We had two ways to win the championship and we just threw it away.”
What matters is that Montoya and Dixon, both previous IndyCar champions, entered Sunday with two wins apiece.
Dixon, with two fewer podiums and his last win coming at Texas Motor Speedway in June, entered the race trailing Montoya by 47 points.
“Dixon had a shit season all year and had one good race, and we paid the penalty,” Montoya said, bluntly, in his post-race press conference.
It doesn’t matter that Montoya was once on the opposite end of a tiebreaker, winning the 1999 CART title over Dixon’s longtime teammate Dario Franchitti.
For Montoya, in 2015, there were more than enough “variables” thrown at the six championship contenders in the final race.
“It sucks, but when you make double points the last race in a road course and you change the tire and you do everything you did for this weekend and you put so many variables, it doesn’t even matter what you do all year,” Montoya said.
The biggest variable, the one that ultimately mattered more than sanctioning body rules, started on a Lap 39 restart as the field swept through Turn 5. Montoya, running behind Penske teammate Will Power, dove into corner and unexpectedly clipped Power, sending his No. 1 Chevrolet into the dirt.
The variable itself was Montoya’s front wing, damaged enough to force the Colombian to bring his No. 2 Chevrolet to pit road to be replaced.
When the race resumed past the halfway point of the 85-lap race, Montoya and Power found themselves 23rd and 24th in a field of 25 cars.
“I think there’s been only three races all year decided on merit,” Power told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “It’s an absolute lottery and I feel horrible for Juan … we got to decide if we’re a sport or whether we’re a casino, cause it’s just the luck of the draw here.
“There are ways to leave the pits open under yellow, so the racing and the championship isn’t decided by race control, it should be decided by people doing a good job on the track.”
It doesn’t matter that the Penske drivers battled back through the pack, aided by cautions and a penalty to Sebastien Bourdais, which gave Montoya his last spot. It wasn’t the one he needed.
It matters that Montoya “had like 45 laps to figure it out” and couldn’t overcome the variables everyone races against in Casino IndyCar.
“They like the excitement for the last race. Is it fair? No, but we go into the last race of the year knowing it’s a double-points race,” Montoya said. “It’s the rules they want to play with, and if you don’t like the rules, don’t race.”