Scott Dixon will start from 13th on the grid in the IndyCar season finale. Photo / Getty Images
Scott Dixon knows IndyCar’s tightest championship race in nearly 20 years would have probably been long decided if not for a rare gaffe by “The Iceman” in the Indianapolis 500.
Dixon was the dominant car at Indianapolis in May and led 95 laps until a late speeding penalty took the New Zealander out of contention. Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson instead won the race and, because the Indy 500 is worth double points, Ericsson was suddenly thrust into the IndyCar championship race.
But if Dixon had not been speeding, he’d have maybe scored the win, or at minimum finished higher than 21st. Ericsson received 109 points for the victory; Dixon earned just 33 in a crushing disappointment that may have ultimate implications on the championship.
Will Power is the points leader heading into Monday’s season finale, a five-driver battle that is the tightest in IndyCar since 2003 when the series was called “The IRL.” Power leads Dixon and his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden by 20 points. Ericsson is 39 points out of the lead, with Scott McLaughlin of Penske in fifth and 41 points out.
Going just a touch slower down pit road way back in May would have likely sent Dixon into Laguna Seca Raceway with a sizeable lead in the standings in pursuit of a record-tying seventh championship.
“Yeah, I think had we finished even in the top-three, this championship would be pretty easy right now,” Dixon told AP. “But I can’t change that. It’s history. It’s long gone. And you’ve got to move forward.”
Dixon recovered from Indianapolis to win at Toronto, where he tied Mario Andretti for second on IndyCar’s wins list, and win No 53 moved him past Andretti when he won at Nashville in August. That second win of the season moved him back into title contention, and his drive from 16th to third last week at Portland made him a serious challenger to Power come Monday.
Should he win that title, it would move Dixon to the mystical number seven, the record mark across the top series in the world. AJ Foyt holds the IndyCar record with seven titles, Richard Petty, the late Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson won seven in NASCAR, and Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton each have seven F1 titles.
Dixon doesn’t even entertain the idea of joining the exclusive club.
“It’s great to talk about after your accomplishments, but I’ve got six, I don’t have seven,” Dixon told AP. “I think I like seven because it is more than six. If you look at the historical side of it, or if you look at motorsports or other sports in general, seven is definitely at the top of the heap and it would of course be very special. But I have six now and that’s the facts. “
That pursuit got a little bit harder for Dixon in qualifying, only being able to secure 13th on the starting grid for Monday’s main event.
Championship leader Power earned pole position, earning a significant advantage at the start of the race on his championship rivals.
McLaughlin will start from eighth, Ericsson from 10th, Dixon from 13th and Newgarden – who triggered a red flag when he spun out – starting from the last row.