Dixon elated with sixth title, for Newgarden loss is bittersweet

IndyCar champion Scott Dixon says he’ll be gunning for a seventh crown in 2021, as outgoing champ Josef Newgarden described his St. Pete race win and title loss as “bittersweet.”

Newgarden and Dixon survived an often chaotic and bruising 100-lap Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to move from eighth and 11th on the grid to finish first and third respectively.

But the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda driver’s lead going into the race was enough to leave him with a 16-point cushion at the head of the championship table. Even with Newgarden of Team Penske-Chevrolet winning his second consecutive St. Pete race, Dixon needed only to finish in the top nine – and survive the countless restarts

“It definitely got pretty close there!” the six-time champion told NBC after the race. “Credit to Josef and Team Penske, they drove the last part of the season flawlessly, and scored so many points.

“It was awesome to race them again. We know next year is going to be the same.”

Dixon is now only one championship from matching legend A.J. Foyt at the top of Indy car racing’s all-time record.

“Six is good, seven sounds better – that’s obviously going to be the goal.

“It’s tough, as you can see from the competition, if you mess up in qualifying. But credit to the team to be able to pull ourselves out of the hole this weekend.

“We needed a smooth race, and that’s what we did. We definitely had the speed when we needed to push.

“Credit to Josef, he drove a hell of a race and put us under a lot of pressure.” 

Newgarden, IndyCar champion in 2017 and ’19, told NBC his day was “definitely bitter-sweet” after scoring his fourth win of the year, a tally that matches Dixon’s.

He went on: “Congrats to Scott and his crew; it’s big-time to win six championships. They were a great competitor.

“On one hand, I don’t know what I’d do differently this year, or what I’d ask my guys to do differently. They were flawless, fastest in the pits. Extremely proud to drive for my team. It’s an incredible crew, and we just came up short.  

“We weren’t good enough, we’ll reset and hit them harder next year, and I promise you, we’ll be in the fight. We were just a little short on points.”

The caution flags and subsequent restarts, he said, played into his hands as he had to rise from eighth on the grid. He also said he enjoyed his final-stint fight with Arrow McLaren SP’s young gun Patricio O’Ward, who scored his second runner-up finish of the season.

“We didn’t need a full-green race, so that played into our favor today,” said Newgarden. “We had the flow of the race that we needed. It was fun to race Pato, even when it was really difficult at the end of the race and the pickup on the tires was really tough to clean. I’ve really enjoyed driving against him.

“We had a fairly quick car, had to make some moves and outlasted everybody. We did what we needed to do… but we knew fate wasn’t entirely in our hands. We did what we could and hoped for the best.” 

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