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Despite finishing second in championship, IndyCar’s Scott Dixon continues his excellence

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon (9) gestures to the crowd Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, after winning the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Scott Dixon earned his best points finish since his 2020 championship (Kristin Enzor/For IndyStar / USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

MONTEREY, California – With six NTT IndyCar Series championships and 55 career IndyCar wins, Scott Dixon earned his status as one of IndyCar’s greatest drivers a long time ago.

This year, the 43-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand, proved he continues to race at a championship level.

Though he finished second in the 2023 IndyCar Series championship battle to Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou, Dixon’s second-place finish in the standings remains noteworthy.

His six championships are second on the all-time IndyCar list, just one title behind the legendary AJ Foyt. His 55 career IndyCar wins are also second on the career list behind Foyt’s record of 67 wins.

This is the third time in Dixon’s career that he has finished second in the championship. The other two came in close battles with Dario Franchitti from Andretti Autosport in 2007 and with Franchitti as his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate in 2009.

In 2007, Franchitti and Dixon were in a wheel-to-wheel, winner-take-all all race for the title at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. As the two cars were side-by-side coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap, Dixon’s No. 9 Honda ran out of fuel, and Franchitti won the race and the championship.

In 2009, Dixon finished 11 points behind Franchitti in another last-race title fight at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Franchitti won the race and the championship, Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe finished second and Dixon third.

Last Sunday, teammate Alex Palou locked up the title with a win in the Grand Prix of Portland with an insurmountable 91-point lead over Dixon. There are a maximum 54 points available in each IndyCar race, and Dixon was the last driver eliminated from championship contention.

Dixon has a 57-point lead over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, so Dixon has locked up second in the standings.

In a 21-year IndyCar career, Dixon has finished in the top two in the standings nine times. Six times, he has finished third in the standings, meaning in 15 seasons, he has finished in the top three in the championship.

It becomes even more impressive when his three fourth-place championship finishes are factored in, giving him 18 out of 21 seasons that he has finished fourth or better in the IndyCar Series championship.

Dixon has never finished fifth in the title, so the last time he has finished lower than fourth in a season championship race is sixth in 2016. The last time Dixon finished worse than sixth was 13th in 2005 and 10th in the standings in 2004.

Dixon came on strong at the end of the season, winning back-to-back races in the Gallagher Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Aug. 12 and the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway on Sept. 27.

Dixon fought to the finish this past Sunday at Portland and finished on the podium, but with Palou the race winner, his championship battle was over.

Disappointed, but not disheartened, because Dixon knew Palou had an outstanding season with a series-high five wins, no finishes below eighth and deserved to win the title.

“Huge for the team,” Dixon told NBC Sports after the Portland race. “Obviously a big congrats to them. You always want a little bit more, but considering the year that we had, which wasn’t that great, it was nice to clinch second place as well.

“To have the top two going into the last race, the team is pretty special. Huge congrats to them and huge congrats to Honda.”

Palou, Dixon, and the rest of the IndyCar Series closes the 2023 season in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca on the central coast of California.

By finishing second to his teammate, it’s the third time in Chip Ganassi Racing history the team has swept the top two in the standings. Alex Zanardi won the title over Ganassi teammate Jimmy Vasser in 1998 and Franchitti won the title over Dixon in 2009.

“The goal is to get as many up as possible, it would have been nice to have 1-2-3 in that situation, but all in all, pretty good, man,” Dixon said. “All of us can go for the win at Monterey, which is a nice position to be in for Alex and myself.”

Palou’s championship is the 15th IndyCar championship for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Congrats to Chip on his 15th Championship and Alex’s second,” Dixon said. “They had a fantastic race today. it was definitely a great milestone to have first and second totally sewn up before going into the last race. It’s very special.

“Yeah, positives, huge weekend for the team; and, I don’t know, it’s kind of cool. I can’t really change anything in the championship. I shouldn’t say cool, but relaxing I guess going into the last one.

“I can only be second, so maybe go on vacation.”

Follow Bruce Martin at @BruceMartin_500