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INDYCAR at St. Petersburg: Newgarden wins but Dixon is the champion

St. Petersburg, FL, Oct 25/20 (GRW – with notes from INDYCAR): This was the race that was supposed to have kicked off the 2020 Indy car season but now, thanks to the pandemic, it was the finale – and the championship decider. Scott Dixon had come into this race leading in the points but Josef Newgarden still had a mathematical chance to come away with the title. In the end, Newgarden came home the race winner but Dixon, who finished in third place, had clinched the season title – his sixth Indy car championship.

PHOTO INDYCAR DIXON 4CJ1119AScott Dixon cruises to his sixth Indy car championship (Chris Jones/INDYCAR)

“Well, six is good. Seven is better,” Dixon said. “That’s going to be the goal. But it’s tough. As you can see from the competition, even if you mess up just a little bit in qualifying, we had some problems this weekend and just couldn’t piece it together. Credit again to the team and just being able to pull ourselves out of that hole and stay consistent and just have a smooth race, and that’s what we did.”

For much of the race Newgarden was running towards the back of the top ten – but Dixon was always a bit further back behind him. Coming off the race’s fifth and second last caution on lap 80 of the race’s 100 laps Newgarden got past Colin Herta and Alex Patou to take the lead for the first time but Dixon had also moved up – to third behind Herta.

Herta made contact with a tire barrier and dropped back but now it was Pato O’Ward pushing ahead past Dixon into second place. And that’s the way the final 15 laps wound down, with these three finishing in that order. Sebastian Bourdais finished fourth ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay.

James Hinchcliffe was driving the No. 26 Andretti car which had previously been driven by Zack Veach. He qualified in fourth place but he fell back at the start of the race, making it back up into the top ten by lap 35. He took the lead briefly after the third caution but he had to settle for a 14th-place finish in the end. During the race broadcast, he confirmed that he is in the final stages of settling a deal for a ride for next year and he asserted that his performance in the final three races this year have no bearing on his new deal.

“No doubt, we didn’t need a full green race, so that played into our favor today,” Newgarden said of the hectic race that included six cautions. “We had the flow of the race we needed, but it wasn’t anything they gave us. We had a solid day. We needed to be fairly quick. I think we had a fairly quick car, and we just had to make some moves. That’s all we could do to try and get to the front. We outlasted everybody and did what we needed to do. We knew coming into this that fate wasn’t in our own hands. We weren’t going to be able to decide things. So, we just did what we could and hoped for the best.

“It’s definitely bittersweet. First off, congratulations to Scott and all his guys, his crew. It’s big time to win six championships. I’m sure they’re thrilled. They’re a great competitor. On one hand, I don’t really know what I could do different this year. I don’t know what I could ask my guys to do different. They were flawless. Fastest in the pits all year long. I’m extremely proud to drive for my team.”

• click HERE for the results of this INDYCAR finale from St. Petersburg

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