SONOMA, Calif. – IndyCar’s “Ice Man,” Scott Dixon, repeated his 2014 win at Sonoma Raceway, and stealthily stole the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship in the process.
He did so on a tiebreaker in the most dramatic of fashions, both tied on 556 points with three wins to Montoya’s two. It’s Dixon’s fourth championship (2003, 2008, 2013) and his 38th career win. The win is also Chip Ganassi Racing’s 100th in IndyCar.
Through a mix of strategy and misfortune that struck his title rivals Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power, and with Graham Rahal having an off day, Dixon came from 47 points back in the double points season finale to win the title.
Dixon beat Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe, with Briscoe holding off Montoya for fifth and the final position he needed to win the title.
The race was always going to be something of a strategy affair with tire fall off present throughout the race, and a mix of different strategies emerging.
A key moment emerged early when Dixon beat Will Power and Josef Newgarden off a round of pit stops, even though there were 12 cars running off sequence ahead of them who did not pit on Lap 35. Dixon was net leader at that point.
While only one yellow occurred in the first 38 laps, and Sebastian Saavedra emerged as a surprise race leader, the race – and championship – took a dramatic turn just before the halfway point.
Montoya and Power collided in Turn 4 on Lap 39. Montoya clipped Power, left front to right rear, although Power later admitted in a post-race interview he took fault for not realizing Montoya is there. Either way, it dropped them both outside the top 20 in the race, and put them both on the comeback trail.
Saavedra led past halfway before Tony Kanaan took the lead on Lap 45 at Turn 7.
The race took its ultimate turn once Dixon took the lead on Lap 51 for the first time, leading Josef Newgarden, before the final pit stop sequence occurred close to Lap 60.
Dixon pitted on Lap 62 for what would be the final time. Newgarden, who had been second, fell out of contention courtesy of a pit fire and a long stop.
The race took another turn following a heavy accident by James Jakes on Lap 65 at Turn 9, with Jakes indicating a brake failure occurred on his car.
Another yellow occurred when Jack Hawksworth contacted Carlos Munoz at Turn 7, leaving the Colombian beached.
Another notable championship moment occurred when Sebastien Bourdais crashed into Rahal on Lap 78, going into Turn 7. Bourdais was issued a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
Montoya was then 3.4 seconds behind Briscoe for fifth, needing to pass the former Ganassi and Penske driver to secure the championship. While he clawed the gap to 1.2 seconds, he did not pass him.
Dixon won the title on a tiebreaker, with Montoya now having lost a title on one after winning one over Dixon’s old teammate Dario Franchitti in 1999.
Afterwards, Dixon and team boss Ganassi crowd-surfed.
The reality of what they’ve achieved on-track will take even longer to sink in.
SONOMA, Calif. – Results Sunday of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
3. (7) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (17) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 85, Running
6. (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (18) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
9. (24) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 85, Running
10. (14) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 85, Running
11. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
12. (19) Oriol Servia, Honda, 85, Running
13. (10) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (21) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 85, Running
15. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (20) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
19. (25) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 85, Running
20. (16) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 84, Running
22. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 84, Running
23. (23) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 82, Running
24. (13) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 80, Running
25. (22) James Jakes, Honda, 63, Contact
Winners average speed: 94.117
Time of Race: 2:09:14.2620
Margin of victory: 6.1115 seconds
Lead changes: 10 among 7 drivers
Power 1 – 13
Andretti 16 – 19
Saavedra 20 – 21
Power 22 – 34
Saavedra 35 -44
Kanaan 45 – 50
Dixon 51 – 61
Dixon 63 – 85
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 556, Montoya 556, Power 493, Rahal 490, Castroneves 453, Hunter-Reay 436, Newgarden 431, Kanaan 431, Andretti 429 and Bourdais 406.