Despite being reluctant to acknowledge his place in the pantheon of North American open-wheel racing drivers, Scott Dixon nevertheless solidified his position as one of the greatest of his generation — if not all time — with his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Dixon entered the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma — the final IndyCar race at Sonoma Raceway for the foreseeable future — with a 29-point advantage over his primary rival and fellow Honda driver Alexander Rossi.
After the first of 85 laps in Northern California, Dixon might have breathed a sigh of relief when Rossi took damage just past the start-finish line. The Andretti Autosport pilot clipped teammate Marco Andretti and damaged his front wing and right front tire, necessitating a pit stop for repairs.
Yet, despite the setback and Dixon having settled in behind pole sitter and race leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, Rossi didn’t easily give up on his championship hopes.
With Dixon running in second, Rossi needed to make it to the front of the 25-car field and hope that Dixon wouldn’t remain in the same position at the end of the 85th lap. With neither Dixon nor Rossi scoring bonus points, a victory for Rossi meant that Dixon needed to finish outside the top two for Rossi to end the season on top.
A well-timed caution on Lap 44 when Graham Rahal’s engine failed erased the time Rossi lost earlier in the race. Following the restart, he was able to drive through the field and reach the fifth position.
With little standing between Dixon and his fifth title, the Kiwi took the checkered flag 2.7573 seconds behind Hunter-Reay, scoring 80 points to bring his season-long total to 678.
Rossi was passed by Andretti on Lap 73 and Sebastien Bourdais on Lap 85, dropping him to seventh by the time he crossed the finish line. The result earned him 52 points, bringing his sum to 621.
For Dixon, a 29-point lead turned into a 57-point championship win with his 2018 title joining his previous successes in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015.
With his IndyCar titles spanning 16 years, Dixon has competed in the upper echelon of the sport for nearly two decades but his passion for his day job remains as strong as ever.
“I enjoy it,” Dixon said about IndyCar. “It’s the best racing in the world. I’ve met some of the best people throughout my life at tracks — some of my closest friends.
“But it is fierce. The competition is the best in the world. It’s the toughest. The cars are very close to each other. The teams are all very good. There’s no small teams any more. All of them are very well-accomplished and have great drivers. It’s extremely tough to win.”
Winning is just what Dixon has done, visiting victory lane at least once in 14 consecutive seasons and in 16 of his 18 seasons racing Indy cars.
With his fifth championship, Dixon moved into second on the all-time championship list, separating himself from names like Dario Franchitti and Bourdais and slotting in behind A.J. Foyt, the only driver besides Dixon to amass five titles on his way to his record-setting seven.
At least one more year with Chip Ganassi Racing and several more in IndyCar should give Dixon more chances for wins and championships, further cementing his position in the annals of Indy car racing.