Newgarden storms to St Pete win but Dixon takes title

Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Newgarden storms to St Pete win but Dixon takes title

IndyCar

Newgarden storms to St Pete win but Dixon takes title

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Josef Newgarden did exactly what was necessary Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but so did Scott Dixon.

In a crazy race that saw leaders and front-runners crash all by themselves, Newgarden charged from eighth to capture IndyCar’s season finale in his Hitachi Chevy. Yet he lost the championship by 16 points because Dixon drove his usual heady race and finished third to clinch the sixth title of his career for Chip Ganassi’s team.

“I never doubted you guys, it’s a great team and thanks for everything,” said the 40-year-old Kiwi on his cool-down lap.

Leading by 32 points heading into the 14th race in the NTT series, Dixon just needed to finish ninth even if Newgarden won so he managed to dodge all the chaos (there were 26 laps of yellow) and methodically work his way to the front.

All the cautions kept things interesting and gave the defending IndyCar champ an outside chance to score his third crown.

Newgarden did all he could, but Dixon did everything he needed. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

“We didn’t need a green race so those cautions played into our hands and it was a solid day and we had a fairly quick car but just came up short,” said Newgarden, whose fourth victory of 2020 tied him with Dixon.

“We knew our fate wasn’t in our hands but we did all we could so it’s a little bittersweet. But Scott is a great opponent and congratulations to him. It’s big time to win six championships.”

The leader of Team Penske for the forseeable future took the checkered flag almost five seconds ahead of runner-up Pato O’Ward and put this one in the W category with a third-to-first move on a Lap 80 restart.

But before Newgarden swept past Alex Palou and Colton Herta for the lead as they dove into Turn 1, it had looked like Will Power or Alexander Rossi were headed for victory lane.

Starting on the pole here for the ninth time, Power led the first five laps in his Verizon Chevy before a downshift issue abruptly slowed him exiting Turn 10 and allowed Rossi, Herta and James Hinchcliffe to scoot past. Then while running seventh the Aussie lost control in Turn 3 and clouted the wall.

And it was that tricky stretch from Turns 2-3-4 that ultimately decided this one.

After leading 61 laps and looking comfortable doing it, Rossi also lost it in Turn 3 on Lap 69 and pounded the wall in his Auto Union Honda. “Human error,” he told NBC.

That left the new order Herta, Hinch, Palou, Newgarden, O’Ward, Dixon, Marco Andretti, Jack Harvey and Takuma Sato, who brought out another full-course yellow on the restart when he clipped Andretti and sent him spinning into the tire wall after he’d charged to sixth place.

During that caution Hinch spun out in the final corner and then drove into Harvey — ruining both of their days.

After Newgarden’s nifty restart vaulted him into the top spot on Lap 80, Sato pushed Oliver Askew into the Turn 10 tires for another full-course yellow. With 16 laps left, the green flag waved again and O’Ward passed Dixon and Herta to shoot into second in the Arrow McLaren SP Chevy. Herta slid off the runoff Turn 4 and fell all the way back to 13th while his former Indy Lights adversary and teammate put the pressure on Newgarden before losing touch in the closing laps. But it was the fourth podium of O’Ward’s first full season in IndyCar.

Sebastian Bourdais also finished the year in fine form as he gave A.J. Foyt a much-needed result with a fourth place.

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