On a night where crashes and mechanical failures claimed more than half of the 25-car starting field, Scott Dixon did exactly what was needed to claim his third career IZOD IndyCar Series Drivers’ Championship, as the Honda-powered driver finished fifth in Saturday night’s MAVTV American Real 500 to claim the title over rival Helio Castroneves.
Dixon came to the 19th and final race of the 2013 season with a 25-point lead over Castroneves, including a series-leading four wins this year. A finish of fifth or better would have secured the title for Dixon, but he worked his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda to the front of the field, and battled for the lead for much of the night, until backing off in the final laps due to rising engine temperatures as Will Power went on to claim the victory.
Overheating issues affected several cars, as sand and debris affected both Honda and Chevrolet-powered entries and resulted in several retirements during the course of the 500-mile contest. A multi-car crash on Lap 110 eliminated five more cars, including four Hondas, and resulted in Dale Coyne Racing driver Justin Wilson being transported to a local hospital for further examination of a possible hip injury.
Despite the attrition, the race was fiercely contested, with 11 different drivers leading one or more laps, including Mid-Ohio race winner Charlie Kimball, who led three times for a total of 22 laps, and appeared to be in contention for the victory until a late-race mechanical problem sent him to the pits. Kimball still was scored 10th, despite dropping out of the contest with 12 laps remaining.
Stepping in for the injured Dario Franchitti, veteran Honda driver Alex Tagliani also ran near the front of the field for much of the night, and led five laps before spinning and making light contact with the wall to end his race on lap 209.
Driving for Bryan Herta Autosport, JR Hildebrand appeared headed for at least a second-place finish in the closing laps, as he ran in lock-step behind fellow Honda driver Kimball until he, too, was felled by debris-related overheating issues with just 13 laps remaining.
Tonight’s race concludes the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series with Chevrolet winning the Manufacturers’ Championship and Honda-powered Scott Dixon claiming his third drivers’ title. Dixon’s other titles came in 2003 and 2008. Honda-powered Tristan Vautier also claimed series Rookie of the Year honors.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara) started 2nd, finished 5th, wins the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Drivers’ Championship: “It was a crazy race. We started well back and had to work on the car a fair bit in the early stages of the race to make it better. Just a huge credit to the team, the changes we made all worked and the car was quite quick, until we had an issue with some overheating towards the end. I still can’t believe we won the championship. Mid-year, I did not think we had a chance of doing this, but it all turned around at Pocono [where Dixon scored Honda’s 200th Indy car victory]. We dug deep and Honda stepped up, and together we made it happen.”
Charlie Kimball (#83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara) started 4th, finished 10th: “First of all, major congratulations to Scott [Dixon] for winning the championship and to the Chip Ganassi Racing organization as a whole. The goal tonight was for Scott to clinch the title in the #9 car and we were able to do that. We were able to run up front and prove that our #83 car was quick, too. It was unfortunate to have a mechanical failure that close to the end. We had a good restart, the car was getting better and better, and we were in good shape for the end of the race. Overall, we’re looking forward to the 2014 season and what the future holds.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on tonight’s race and the 2013 IndyCar Series season: “It was an exciting end to an exciting season that saw us win our 200th Indy car race, but somewhat bittersweet, as well. Congratulations to Scott [Dixon] on his third drivers’ championship, and Honda’s 15th Indy car drivers’ title. Congratulations to all of our Honda and HPD associates for their incredible work throughout the season. We’re already looking forward to the start of the 2014 season, which for all of us begins tomorrow.”