What NBCSN IndyCar announcers said about Dixon crown, last race at Sonoma

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Here’s what NBCSN’s IndyCar announcers had to say about Scott Dixon’s championship and how the season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma played out on Sunday:

STAMFORD, Conn. – September 16, 2018 Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) won his fifth career Verizon IndyCar Series championship today on NBCSN, earning a second-place finish at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway to clinch the title. Dixon’s five series wins now rank second only behind A.J. Foyt (7) for the most IndyCar championships in history.

Dixon won the championship by 57 points over Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), who battled back to finish seventh in Sunday’s race after suffering damage to his front wing and tire on the first lap. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) took the checkered flag at Sonoma to win his second race of the 2018 campaign.

NBC Sports’ lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey called the Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on NBCSN, alongside analysts and former drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Robin Miller, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, and Katie Hargitt reported from the pits.

NBC Sports is now the exclusive home of IndyCar, and will present all IndyCar races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019, including the Indianapolis 500 and an additional seven races on NBC.

Following are notes and quotes from NBC Sports’ IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma coverage on NBCSN:

Diffey on Dixon: “We witness something that hasn’t been done in more than half a century – Scott Dixon is a five-time IndyCar champion!”

Dixon during his post-race interview with Beekhuis after winning the title: “We had a lot of things that could have gone wrong today…this is so awesome. I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. You always doubt these situations so much, that it’s never going to happen. I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Rossi during his post-race interview with Lee, discussing contact on the first lap: “I got a good start. I don’t know if he lifted, or if I misjudged…it is what it is. It was going to be a tough day to beat Scott anyway…it’s unfortunate for it to go out like that. I wish I could replay that a million more times…at the end of the day, we have to look at 2018 and be pretty happy.”

Tracy on Dixon: “We call him the ‘Ice Man’ – you will not meet a driver on or off the track who is as cool as Scott Dixon.”

Bell on Dixon: “He’s still at the top of his game in every measurable category with no signs of slowing down any time soon.”

Diffey on Rossi: “He borders on fearless…when he’s chasing and in attack mode, it’s pretty special to watch. The way he has not given up today – this kid just doesn’t give up.”

Bell on Rossi’s aggressive driving style: “It’s worked out remarkably well everywhere – except today. We kept saying it all season long, that Rossi makes these moves and he comes out looking like a champ every time. Unfortunately…it was a little too much and a little ill-timed. He’s done a brilliant job to come back, but I know in a long offseason, he’ll definitely be analyzing that opening lap move.”

Tracy on Rossi on lap 20: “He’s had a very messy weekend. He’s had a lot of offs. He’s been in the dirt a lot. He made a mistake at the start. I think the nervous anticipation was super high. He made a small mistake and now he’s got to fight to come back.”

Tracy on Hunter-Reay: “He’s been so unlucky all year. He’s been at the front all year and in position to do really well at a lot of races and had mechanical problems…there’s no one that’s had worse luck than Hunter-Reay this year.”

Bell on Hunter-Reay: “He always bounces back. He can come off a horrendous weekend, show up at Sonoma – and he’s been dominant in practice, qualifying, and now the race. It’s ironic that he’s having a totally uneventful, quiet day at the front, and reminding everyone why he’s an IndyCar champion.”

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NBC SPORTS BECOMES EXCLUSIVE HOME OF VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES BEGINNING IN 2019

On March 21, NBC Sports and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement in which NBC Sports acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC, with all remaining races televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 INDYCAR schedule will be announced at a later date.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to INDYCAR fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date. Click here for more information.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”