Newgarden And Dixon Come Home Winners In Chaotic NTT IndyCar Series Finale At St. Petersburg

Scott Dixon and owner Chip Ganassi celebrate INDYCAR Series championship number six. © [Kenneth Midgett/ Spacesuit Media]

Scott Dixon and owner Chip Ganassi celebrate INDYCAR Series championship number six. © [Kenneth Midgett/ Spacesuit Media]

By Joe Jennings

With the NTT IndyCar series season championship on the line, reigning champion Josef Newgarden needed a win and have point leader Scott Dixon falter in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but when the checkered flag dropped, both did what they needed to do == Newgarden winning the 100-lap event on the narrow 1.8-mile street course and Dixon copping his sixth championship with a solid third-place finish. The champion’s margin of victory was 16 points.

Newgarden drove the Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet and Dixon steered the PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon’s sterling season yielded the 2020 manufacturers’ championship for Honda.

In winning the crown, Dixon is now one championship behind all-time leader A. J. Foyt, who leads the way with seven. At age 40, Dixon became the first champion over the age of 40 since Nigel Mansell in 1993.

Chip Ganassi Racing chalked up its 13th championship and its second in last three years.

“Well, six is good but seven is better,” exclaimed Dixon. “That’s going to be the goal, Dixon went on to compliment Newgarden and his team for their flawless performance, especially during the second half of the season.

The finish saw Newgarden in first, Pato O’Ward in second followed by Dixon. Fourth and fifth were Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Rounding out the top-10 were Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal and 2020 Indy 500 champ Takuma Sato.

Rinus VeeKay, the 20-year old, walked off with rookie-of-the-year honors.

The race was anything but tame with chaos prevailing, particularly in the second half of the day. Spins, wall bangs, crashes and just plain old wrecks dotted the action, bringing to a close the unique 14-race season. Among the unique scenes for the race was the presence of 20,000 fans on a hot and humid day in sunny Florida.

Will Power started from the pole for the 62nd time but led only five laps before being slowed with downshifting problems. Subsequently, he then became the race’s first casualty when he slapped a wall while running fourth, bringing to a close a frustrating season for the Australian.
Alexander Rossi, who started alongside the Team Penske hotshot, raced into the lead at this point and dominated the event for 61 laps before crashing out.

Each blamed himself for their misfortune. “Just human error,” Rossi said.

The next 15 laps showed the lead being swapped among James Hinchcliffe, Colton Herta, Rahal and Alex Palou with yellow flags and pit strategies affecting the running order.

On a restart on lap 80, Newgarden sat in third but barged under Herta and Palou in the tricky Turn 1 to take the lead, one he never relinquished in winning for the fourth time in the season.

“No doubt, we didn’t need a full green race,” the winner said. “We had the flow of the race we needed. We had a solid day with a fairly quick car, and we just needed to make some moves to get to the front. We outlasted everybody and did what we needed to do and hope for the best.”

The likable driver was one of the first ones to congratulate Dixon in victory circle.

Newcomer Scott McLaughlin exited on lap 46 after making contact with another car. His presence will be seen throughout the new season as he will be the fourth member of the powerful Team Penske operation.

With the season finished for 2020, the new edition starts here on March 7, 2021.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Results
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 1.8-mile Streets of St. Petersburg, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (8) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
2. (6) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (11) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
4. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 100, Running
5. (19) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 100, Running
6. (12) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 100, Running
7. (15) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
8. (20) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 100, Running
9. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 100, Running
10. (13) Takuma Sato, Honda, 100, Running
11. (3) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (24) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 100, Running
13. (16) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
14. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 100, Running
15. (9) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 98, Running
16. (10) Oliver Askew, Chevrolet, 98, Running
17. (14) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 98, Running
18. (22) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 98, Running
19. (5) Jack Harvey, Honda, 97, Running
20. (23) Marco Andretti, Honda, 74, Contact
21. (2) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 69, Contact
22. (21) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 46, Contact
23. (18) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 40, Contact
24. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 35, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 85.572 mph
Time of Race: 02:06:12.5948
Margin of victory: 4.1409 seconds
Cautions: 6 for 26 laps
Lead changes: 7 among 7 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Power, Will 1 – 4
Rossi, Alexander 5 – 65
Hinchcliffe, James 66 – 67
Herta, Colton 68 – 69
Rahal, Graham 70 – 71
Herta, Colton 72 – 78
Palou, Alex 79
Newgarden, Josef 80 – 100

NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: Dixon 537, Newgarden 521, Herta 421, O’Ward 416, Power 396, Rahal 377, Sato 348, Pagenaud 339, Rossi 317, Hunter-Reay 315.

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