18/09/2017

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LACHLAN CUNNINGHAM/ GETTY IMAGES

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Kiwi IndyCar driver Scott Dixon has finished the 2017 season in third place overall

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Scott Dixon finishes fourth at the Sonoma Grand Prix to be third overall in a dramatic year of IndyCar racing for the Kiwi driver.

A downcast Scott Dixon lamented "a massive road block" in the form of Josef Newgarden's Team Penske sidekick after the Kiwi driver had to settle for third in the IndyCar championship.

Dixon finished fourth in the double-points season finale in Sonoma, California on Sunday (Monday NZ time), with 26-year-old Newgarden finishing second behind team-mate and defending champion Simon Pagenaud to seal his maiden title after starting from pole position.

Chip Ganassi Racing gun Dixon battled through multiple challenges, including surviving a spectacular crash at the Indy 500, to trail Newgarden by just four points coming into the last race.

But another come-from-behind effort to take the title, as he did at Sonoma in 2015 en route to his fourth championship, was not to be.

Third still represented a creditable effort in a year where he claimed an impressive 10 top-five finishes.

Dixon not only had to adjust to his team's return to Honda engines and aerodynamics kits, he was also robbed at gun-point after winning pole at the Indy 500 before crashing out of the prestigious race in frightening fashion.

Travelling at about 350kmh, a trailing Dixon had almost no time to react as his car launched into the air off the back of another car, spinning and colliding hard with the safety barrier before the splintered wreck slid to a rest.

But while the south Auckland-raised star acknowledged, given all they had faced, it had been a "strong season" for the No 9 car, there weren't many smiles post-race.

"It's obviously not where we wanted to finish in the championship but congrats to Josef and Team Penske on a job well done," Dixon said.

"We had good speed [this year] but should have won more races and got crashed out of a few as well and those are all valuable points. You can look back and blame 10 different things.

"As a group we learned a lot ... going back to Honda the team made some good gains. We're looking forward to next season."

Dixon started the final race from sixth, with Newgarden and the three other Team Penske title contenders (Will Power, Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves) ahead.

The Kiwi slipped by Takuma Sato off the line but, as the race settled, found it tough get past one of his oldest rivals Castroneves.

Dixon briefly sneaked by after the opening pit stops but ran wide on the exit to the same corner, allowing the Brazilian veteran to reclaim fourth as Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power pulled away further up the road.

When he finally got by with around 20 laps to run, Dixon made good ground on the front three. But it proved too late as Newgarden had a brief tussle with Pagenaud before eventually backing off to secure second-place and overall honours.

"I don't know, it seemed like the three car (Castroneves) just covered us all day," Dixon said after finishing third in the championship for a fifth time.

"Whenever we pitted short they pitted with us. It was a massive road block.

"We were good into [turn] six and you needed a run into seven, it was just circumstance. Once we got clear track we were able to hunt them down, but all day once we got in traffic, the car got really loose."

Newgarden said it was hard to go against his natural instincts and back off in the latter stages.

But, having bagged his first IndyCar crown in only his first season driving for American motor racing mogul Roger Penske, the Tennessee native was understandably delighted.

"So cool, I'm so proud," he said. "I don't even know what to say.

"It took a lot to make this happen. Thanks to my team-mates, they gave me a lot of help to get this done. It was a full team effort today.

"To finally get it done is a dream come true."​

https://www.stuff.co.nz