Dixon Speeds to his Third Championship
Saturday night at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana set the 2013 IndyCar season finale. Though the historical auto racing division isn’t as popular as NASCAR, I personally find it more exciting for its faster speeds, aggressive drivers, and increased competition. Having the chance to attend the championship race for the second year in a row was quite the honor, and while the championship showdown wasn’t as down-to-the-wire as last year, the race itself certainly was.
Going into the season finale, it was a battle between two drivers for the championship, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. Castroneves had held the point lead for almost the entire season until the second-to-last race of the season, while Dixon mounted a mid-season surge to put himself back into the running. All Dixon had to do was finish fifth or better, and he would capture his third series championship.
When the race started, everything went smooth for the first 68 laps, up until the first caution came out for a two-car accident. After the crash, the field was bunched up for the first restart, and the action never stopped for those many remaining laps.
For the remainder of the race, five more accidents marred the event, one of which took six cars out of the competition. British driver Justin Wilson was injured in the big crash and was taken to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured pelvis and pulmonary contusion. His back injury was the second in the past two races for IndyCar, one after where Scottish driver Dario Franchitti broke two vertebrae and fractured his right ankle in a horrific crash at the Houston doubleheader.
In the midst of all the on-track drama, Castroneves ran in the top five for the majority of the race. Dixon on the other hand struggled to make his way to the top during the first half, but found himself in the top five close to the halfway distance.
It was the final half of the 250-lap race where the excitement and drama was never-ending. While the lead changed every few laps, even featuring several 2 and 3-wide battles for the top spot, Castroneves and Dixon ran within each other up until the final 30 laps.
However, up until a caution with 20 laps to go, car owner Roger Penske ordered Castroneves on the radio to pit, but it was at a point where the pits were closed. A drive-through penalty for that didn’t affect him much since there were only eight cars on the lead lap, but contact with another driver on the next restart broke his front wing, which effectively put him out of the championship race, leaving Dixon with the top crown.
The race itself, on the other hand, was a wild showdown that featured a prolonged string of crashes, mechanical failures, and lead changes. Eventually, Australian driver Will Power went on to win the race, but it didn’t come without some controversy where he chop-blocked another driver into the wall when he was in a 3-wide battle for the lead.
Surprisingly in the end, out of the 25 cars that started the race, only eight of them finished. There were reports of a building amount of dust on the track, which makes sense for both the five drivers that retired from mechanical problems, and that I rarely saw the sweepers going around the full length of the track when under caution. Not your smartest tactic there, Indy officials.
To cap off an exciting season, the IndyCar Championship race at Auto Club Speedway certainly didn’t disappoint. It delivered on all the aggressive driving, championship drama, and crashing that both the fans and drivers expected, however nobody could’ve predicted how the race itself was about as exciting as the two-man race for the sport’s crowning achievement. Congratulations to Scott Dixon for winning his third championship, and here’s a toast to another great IndyCar season.