Its odd to be writing about a championship climax in August, but thats whats happened last weekend when Scott Dixon came into the IndyCar season finale in Sonoma with a 47 point deficit to championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya. With double points up for grabs, all Dixon needed to do was win the race and hope Montoya and Rahal finished outside of the top five.
As it turned out thats exactly what happened, when a costly collision with teammate Will Power put Montoya outside of the top ten with 20 or so laps to go. Graham Rahal meanwhile looked on course to finish third, however he complained about balance issues severely affecting his stopping power in the closing stages of the race, which dropped him back when he really needed to be in second and catching up to Dixon.
Bourdais nerfing him off the road with 10 laps to go all but sealed his championship fate, although his clash with Tristan Voutier in Pocono could arguably be attributed to that. This enabled Dixon to have a straight cruise to the finish, with Montoya seemingly running into the same issues as Rahal late into the race. That didn’t stop him from putting in the last five laps of his life though, in an attempt to catch and pass Ryan Briscoe.
Although it was a tie that ultimately decided the championship brought on by double points, the right man still won in my eyes since Dixon would’ve taken the championship if they just awarded regular points. Regardless of the finish, its still been a brilliant (half) year for the series and the closing stages of this race were a representation of that.
There was a lot of grief early on particularly aimed towards the stewards, who seemed to lose the ability to run a race in New Orleans. But as the season went on we finally got the popular win from Josef Newgarden in Alabama, where we also saw a great recovery drive from Will Power to finish fourth. Montoya also won the 500 fifteen years after his maiden win in 2000, and we saw the classic race at Fontana – which sadly isn’t on the calendar next year – along with Carlos Munoz’s maiden win in Detroit, and Sebastien Bourdais’ late surge to win at Milwaukee.
The events of Pocono of course, are still fresh in everybody’s minds. Seeing the tributes, t-shirts, stickers, the special Autosport cover, all seemed strange. It wasn’t that long since we saw Justin Wilson fight for the win at Mid-Ohio and pull off some amazing overtaking manoeuvres, and I was looking forward to seeing what he could do at Sonoma as a send off into the off-season.
But sadly in that cruel, unfair way only motorsport knows how deliver, the ‘what could be’ moment has happened again. Out of all the lovely tributes by those who knew Justin and raced with him, Racer Magazine’s Robin Miller did the most heartfelt on NBC Sports during their pre-race coverage last weekend.
IndyCar goes into the off season with its head held high, and will race on along with the rest of the motorsport community in Justin’s honour much in the same way as it did with Dan Wheldon four years ago.