Dixon takes sixth IndyCar crown as Newgarden wins at St Pete

MIAMI (AFP) – New Zealand’s Scott Dixon captured his sixth career IndyCar points crown on Sunday night with American Josef Newgarden settling for his second consecutive victory in the season-ending Grand Prix of St Petersburg.

The 40-year-old Kiwi driver finished third in the race, good enough to hold off Newgarden 537-521 to complete a wire-to-wire season title run and move one shy of A J Foyt’s all-time record of seven IndyCar championships.

“Six is good. Seven sounds better,” Dixon said. “That’s obviously going to be the goal. It’s going to be tough.”

Newgarden began the day needing a win or runner-up effort to have a hope of taking the title while Dixon knew a top-nine result was enough for the crown no matter how his rival fared.

“We had a smooth race,” Dixon said. “We were able to put it together when we needed to. Credit Josef. He put us under a lot of pressure.”

Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi celebrate after winning the NTT IndyCar Series Championship. PHOTO: AP

Newgarden, denied a third season title in four campaigns, passed two cars on the first turn of a lap-80 restart but Dixon, close behind him all day, also jumped a spot to third.

A wreck in the pack behind them led to another restart with 15 laps to go that saw Mexico’s Pato O’Ward surge into second with Dixon third and that’s how they finished.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Newgarden. “I don’t know what I would do different this year. We did what we needed to do. We just came up short.

“We’ll reset. We’ll hit them harder next year. I promise you we’ll come back.”

Dixon won the first three races in a COVID-19 disrupted campaign and held onto the lead all season.

“It’s all the team,” Dixon said. “I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. It’s about the team effort.”

Newgarden led 24 drivers over 100 laps around a 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary downtown street circuit in the Florida city, which was to have staged the season opener in March before the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the campaign for three months.

Australian pole-sitter Will Power surrendered the lead to Alexander Rossi on lap six with Colton Herta moving into second. Power struggled with handling, crashed into the outer wall and exited the race on lap 36.

Dixon started 11th, three spots behind Newgarden, and stayed close to the American as both moved up the field.