Will good fortune shine upon Scott Dixon once again to earn 5th IndyCar title?

Scott Dixon is ready to take home the Astor Cup for the 5th time in his career today. Photo: IndyCar

Editor’s note: Starting Thursday and leading up to Sunday’s IndyCar championship-deciding Grand Prix of Sonoma, we will feature each of the four title contenders.

Today we focus on Scott Dixon, who is shooting for his fifth IndyCar championship later this afternoon. Dixon leads 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi by just 29 points going into the 85-lap jaunt around the 2.52-mile permanent road course, which will mark the final time for IndyCar to compete at Sonoma Raceway for the foreseeable future.

As for the other three drivers still in mathematical contention, we kicked things off Thursday with Joseph Newgarden, on Friday with Will Power and Saturday with Alexander Rossi.



SONOMA, California – Scott Dixon doesn’t mind answering questions about his career, this season, even his bid to win a fifth career IndyCar championship in today’s season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway (live on NBCSN, 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT).

But one thing Dixon would rather just leave as-is and not be asked about is his phenomenal luck, coming back time after time this season to turn what looked like a bad finish, into a halfway decent showing.

The perfect example was two weeks ago at Portland International Raceway. Dixon was part of the early-race tangle in Turn 3 that put Marco Andretti’s car on his side. The Auckland, New Zealand native was hit hard from behind by a driver he’s still unsure of because the impact came in a cloud of dust.

Fortunately, the damage to Dixon’s No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing PNC Bank Honda was minimal. But he also fell way back in the pack and saw his 26-point lead in the standings coming into Portland dissolve, leaving him at one point in the race as much as 16 points behind his closest challenger, Alexander Rossi.

But just like he’s done so many times this year as well as in his career, Dixon roared back to finish fifth, regaining his lead over Rossi and even increasing it slightly to 29 points leaving him with a 29-point lead over Rossi heading into today’s season-ending and championship-deciding race.

MORE: Ganassi keeps IndyCar championship in perspective: it’s just another race.

Dixon’s comeback from Portland even brought out pundits on social media, calling it “the miracle on dirt.”

So can Dixon — who starts on the outside of the front row today, alongside pole-sitter and Rossi’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay — pull off yet another miracle of sorts today? Can he keep Rossi at bay? With so much to lose and everything to gain, will Rossi potentially make a fateful mistake that costs him the championship and seals it for Dixon?

Or, as one reporter so gracefully put it to Dixon, “It’s been quite a year of unparalleled reliability for you. … In terms of the odds of something happening at some point in the season, does that leave you waiting for the axe to fall Sunday?”

To which Dixon smirked slightly and then quipped back at the reporter, “I was trying not to think about things like that. Thank you.”

He then continued, “We had some pretty miserable races at the start of the year and some pretty big mistakes and some pretty bad luck, I think, in strategy, where we had a podium going in Long Beach, same in Barber, Indianapolis we handled it in qualifying but the car was good in the race.

“I think you can ask any driver; there’s many scenarios and situations throughout the season that, yeah, we could have done that better or we could have had some more luck here and there. I found during the course of the year it kind of evens its way out.

“But yeah, I can’t change that, so I’m not going to really think about it. We’ll just keep our heads down and try and make the most of it.”

We’ll just keep our heads down and try and make the most of it.”

On a race day where good friend and former Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan will make his 300th consecutive start in Sunday’s race, Dixon is showing no signs of pressure or significant concern.

But don’t let his nickname of “Ice Man” and his stoic expression fool you. There’s plenty of things for Dixon to consider heading into Sunday’s race:

1) Can he maintain his 29-point lead?

2) Can he finish at least one point higher than Rossi to still win the championship?

3) Will he have to worry about one of Rossi’s teammates – or Rossi’s friends driving for other teams – be potential blockers or obstacles to Dixon’s championship quest?

4) Will seven rookies – including two making their first career IndyCar race starts – be a concern? Will they make a mistake that potentially could take Dixon out?

5) Will Rossi use uncanny strategy – like the fuel-saving gameplan at Gateway that pushed him back in the field, only to come back in the closing laps to finish runner-up?

6) Could Rossi get to a point where the only way he can save his title hopes is by making contact with Dixon, either unintentional or on purpose? What then?

Forget about it, that’s what Dixon – who has three wins and four podium finishes this season – would say and do.

“For us, the goal is just to go out and win the race and then we won’t have to worry about all that,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s always an exciting race at Sonoma, but also for the IndyCar Series championship.”

For us, the goal is just to go out and win the race and then we won’t have to worry about all that.”

But Dixon is well aware of potential of the opposite happening.

“We’ve been in this situation a few times, but still, everything is on the line,” he said. “For us, the championship is the goal but I don’t know. It can always flip. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck, too.”

Even though he has four other IndyCar championship trophies at home, Dixon is putting special emphasis on winning a fifth title more so because there’s greater significance than just another championship.

If Dixon wins the crown, he would become only the second driver in Indy car history to earn five championships in a career (A.J. Foyt is the only other one to achieve that feat, and he has seven championships in total).

“(Winning No. 5) would be big, huge,” Dixon told MotorSportsTalk. “It would put us in fairly rare territory, which statistically for later in my career to look back on would definitely be a huge milestone.

“For me, it’s more about being in this business we’re here to win races and championships and that’s kind of how you grade yourself each year on its own. But I think to try and go on and win a fifth (championship) would be massive.”

Even though Dixon typically dislikes talking about records and statistics and the like, closing to within two titles of A.J.’s record is one thing he’s thought of. He’s also pondered passing Mario Andretti for second on the Indy car all-time win’s list (Andretti has 52, Dixon has 44 – or it could be 45 if he wins Sunday’s race).

And then there’s Foyt’s overall wins mark of 67, tops on the Indy car wins list.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe, on his own little island with wins,” Dixon said. “Mario, it’s conceivable, but still extremely tough.

“To even get one win a year is hard. There’s a few of us this year that have three (wins), which is not like the old days, like one year we got six wins (2008, when he won his second IndyCar championship).

“It’s definitely a lot harder to get to that point and, looking at my age, (turned 38 in July) it depends how much longer you feel not so much the love, but the passion for it.

“For me right now, it’s greater than ever, but I can’t predict that. For me, it’s just to keep my head down, get as many victories as possible, and when you walk away, maybe look at it and hopefully it’s good and hopefully you’re happy with it.”

So when the green flag drops just after 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT in Sonoma, Dixon will be as ready as he ever will be.

“It would mean a lot to win the championship,” Dixon said. “We’re in the business of winning, so it’s an obvious thing.

“Every year, we set two goals. The first is to win the Indy 500 (good friend Will Power won it this year while Dixon finished a close third) and the second is to win the championship. For me personally, this would be huge.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top

SuperMotocross Rankings season opener
Align Media

As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage