SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Scott Dixon used a steady Sunday drive to win his fifth IndyCar championship with ease.
Dixon needed an uneventful finale at Sonoma Raceway to lock up the title and got it on the opening lap of the race. Alexander Rossi, his challenger, made contact with teammate Marco Andretti seconds after the start and broke his front wing.
Rossi had to pit for a new part, dropped to last in the field, and the championship was decided. Dixon held a 29-point lead over Rossi at the start of the day, and even though the race was worth double points, Rossi needed to be perfect to catch "The Iceman."
Dixon finished second, the same place he started, behind winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. His fifth title moves him into second in IndyCar history, two behind A.J. Foyt.
"You always doubt these situations and think they are never going to happen," Dixon said. "It's all about the people and I'm the lucky one that gets to take it across the line," Dixon said. "We had a lot of grit. Rossi did a hell of a job, he's been pushing so hard this year and he's going to be a star."
The 38-year-old New Zealander also won titles in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015, all with Chip Ganassi Racing.
"What an incredible ride it's been with this guy," said Ganassi, who has 12 IndyCar titles as a team owner.
Dixon's final points margin was 57 points over Rossi, who rallied to finish seventh. Rossi ended his third season in IndyCar second in the standings.
"It was going to be a tough day to beat Scott anyway," Rossi said. "It's unfortunate to go out like that. I wish I could replay that a million more times. We have to look at 2018 and be pretty happy with it, even though we go away second and the first loser."
Hunter-Reay won for the 18th time of his career and the first this season.
"To end this way is unreal," said Hunter-Reay, who dedicated the win to injured IndyCar driver Robert Wickens. "We wish he was here, he would have made my life a lot more difficult on the track today."
Hunter-Reay also praised Dixon as the greatest driver of this IndyCar generation.
"To share the track with him is awesome and to beat him is, too," Hunter-Reay said.
Will Power and Simon Pagenaud finished third and fourth for Team Penske, which picked up its 500th organizational win earlier Sunday when Brad Keselowski won NASCAR's opening playoff race in Las Vegas. Roger Penske watched those closing laps from atop Power's timing stand as the end of NASCAR overlapped the start of IndyCar. Penske pumped his fist in the air several times after the Keselowski win.
Power's finish gave the Indianapolis 500 winner third in the championship standings.
Other events from Sonoma:
KANAAN's 300th: Tony Kanaan is IndyCar's "Iron Man" and extended his streak Sunday with his 300th consecutive start. Kanaan made his debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March 1998, before current teammate Matheus Leist was even born.
Kanaan finished 12th in the memorable start.
SATO SIGNS: Takuma Sato has signed a contract extension to stay at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next season. Sato won two weeks ago at Portland and team owner Bobby Rahal said the organization enjoys working with the driver.
"He has always been very popular around the team whether he was driving for us or not," Rahal said. "The team has really gelled around him. His guys have done a great job as the season has progressed and of course Portland showed that."
OLD NAMES: Colton Herta made his IndyCar debut with Harding Racing and gave the race a very throwback feel. Herta is the son of former IndyCar driver Bryan Herta and his debut marked the first time a Herta, Rahal, Andretti and Fittipaldi were on the same track since 1998.
Those names dominated open wheel through the '90s with Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Bryan Herta and Emerson Fittipaldi. On Sunday they were represented at Sonoma by sons Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Colton Herta, and Fittipaldi's grandson, Pietro Fittipaldi.
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