Dixon rallies to win IndyCar Series season finale

Scott Dixon celebrates after winning an IndyCar race last month at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill. (Associated Press)

MONTEREY, Calif. -- Scott Dixon snagged his third win of the season -- one week too late to contend for the IndyCar championship -- with a strategic run in Sunday’s season finale at Laguna Seca.

Alex Palou, Dixon’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, had already become the first driver in nearly 20 years to clinch the IndyCar title before the season finale. Palou won his second title in three years with his victory last week at Portland, his fifth of the season.

Dixon had been mathematically eligible to challenge Palou for the title until the Portland victory. He was still guaranteed to finish second in the standings, but the greatest driver of his generation was determined to grab one more win.

The 43-year-old won three of the final four races of the season and ensured Ganassi finished 1-2 in the final standings. Palou’s title is the 15th in IndyCar for Ganassi.

Dixon’s win was the 56th of his career -- 11 shy of AJ Foyt’s record -- and helped him close his season strong. Just a month ago, Dixon was in danger of ending his streak of 19 years with at least one victory.

Scott McLaughlin, like Dixon from New Zealand, finished second for Team Penske and was followed by Palou, who scored 10 podiums in 17 races this season.

Will Power of Team Penske finished fourth and ended his run as IndyCar champion by snapping a 16-year streak of winning at least one race. Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing tied his career-best finish of fifth and was followed by Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren was seventh and followed by Marcus Armstrong, who won rookie of the year honors for Ganassi. Pato O’Ward of McLaren was ninth and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Ed Carpenter Racing finished 10th.

The win for Dixon was the first of his career at Laguna Seca and he overcame an early-race penalty for avoidable contact to cycle into the win in a sloppy race slowed by eight cautions for 35 laps. The lengthy yellows took such a toll on the race that the pace car ran out of gas and needed to be refueled with more than 30 laps remaining.

“It’s a credit to the team, they’ve been executing like that all season,” Dixon said. “But we won. That’s all that matters. We won.”

Ganassi became the first team owner to win the championship and top rookie honors in the same season. Armstrong won the rookie title despite skipping the five oval races on the schedule. He signed an extension to return to the team next year and will run the full schedule, including ovals.

“To be first and second in the points, and then rookie of the year for Marcus Armstrong, I mean, Alex, Dixon, what a season for the whole team,” Ganassi said.

Colton Herta finished 23rd and was spun off course by Helio Castroneves in a car custom painted to resemble the one Herta’s father, Bryan, drove to the 1998 win at Laguna Seca. The spin cemented a winless season for the younger Herta, who started the year with a contract extension from Andretti Global that many believe made the 23-year-old the highest-paid driver in IndyCar.

Herta said he’d give himself a “D-minus” grade on his season and said even if he’d won Sunday’s finale it wouldn’t be enough to salvage a disastrous year.

Chevrolet, which won the Indianapolis 500 with Josef Newgarden, clinched the manufacturer championship. Honda won the driver championship with Palou and Ganassi.