SONOMA, Calif. – Scott Dixon captured a fourth IndyCar championship by winning the season finale Sunday to snatch the title from Juan Pablo Montoya.
The race came exactly one week after Justin Wilson was struck in the head by a piece of debris from Ganassi driver Sage Karam's car. He died Monday night of his injuries, and Dixon was one of the many supporters who remained in Pennsylvania to stay with Wilson's family at the hospital.
Montoya led the points from the season-opening race right until the final lap Sunday. But he finished the race in sixth, which allowed Dixon to tie him in the standings.
Dixon was awarded the title based on wins; Sonoma Raceway was his third victory, while Montoya had only two. The New Zealand driver entered the race third in the standings, 47 points behind Montoya. The race was worth double points.
"There was still a chance, and that's what we were hoping for," Dixon said. "I still can't believe it. We were such a long shot."
The victory was the 100th for Chip Ganassi Racing, while a Team Penske driver failed to win a championship in the finale for the ninth time since 2002.
Team Penske was in trouble from the midway point of the race when Montoya hit Will Power. It sent the Colombian to pit lane for repairs and he was mired in the middle of the pack for the bulk of the race.
Although he picked off a few positions, his break came eight laps from the end when Sebastien Bourdais spun Graham Rahal. Needing to get to fifth to win the title, he moved up one spot to seventh when he passed Rahal.
He got up to sixth when Bourdais was penalized, then had five laps to close a 3.5-second deficit on Ryan Briscoe to move to fifth.
Montoya made a hard charge, ultimately slicing Briscoe's lead to 1.6 seconds, but he ran out of time to grab that final spot.
He was pragmatic after the race.
"It doesn't matter what happened," Montoya said. "We had a few ways to win the championship and we just threw it away. We didn't close it."