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Dixon wins IndyCar season

Newly crowned series champion Palou settled for third

SAN FRANCISCO: New Zealand’s Scott Dixon won a wild IndyCar season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway on Sunday as newly crowned series champion Alex Palou settled for third. Spain’s Palou had seized the lead on lap seven and led 51 laps before he came out on the wrong side of a pit-lane closure during one of the race’s eight cautions. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was canny six-time champion Dixon who emerged from the chaos with a third win in four races despite a penalty for a collision on the opening lap.

Dixon crossed the line 7.3180sec in front of fellow New Zealander Scott McLaughlin, driving a Penske. The multi-car crash on the first lap proved a harbinger of things to come. Felix Rosenqvist, who started on pole, led Palou, Will Power and Pato O’Ward at the restart on lap seven, but Palou dived past him on the final turn of the lap to take the lead as Rosenqvist dropped back to third. A spin by Josef Newgarden brought the yellow flag out again, Palou maintaining the lead as drivers jockeyed behind him and tried stay out of the gravel.

Brazilian veteran Helio Castroneves, in his final race as a full-time IndyCar driver, spun, left the track and narrowly avoided hitting Palou as he found his way back onto the circuit. Marcus Ericsson tangled with Rosenqvist to bring out another caution. They got underway again on lap 42 with Palou leading O’Ward and Sebastien Grosjean. O’Ward pitted on lap 58, moments before David Malukas made contact with Devlin DeFrancesco to bring out the caution flag. It proved disastrous for Palou, who pitted under yellow and with pit-lane closed dropped to 15th.

Two more re-start attempts saw more crashes before O’Ward led Grosjean out of a clean re-start with 23 laps remaining. Two laps later, however, Castroneves made contact with Colton Herta to bring out the yellow flag for an eighth time. Dixon cycled to the front and when they re-started again with 17 laps remaining, he took firm control of the lead. “It’s a credit to the team, they’ve been executing like that all season,” Dixon said.

“But we won. That’s all that matters. We won.” Two-time series champion Will Power of Australia finished fourth for Penske and Callum Ilott was fifth for Juncos Hollinger Racing. Palou and Chip Ganassi teammate Dixon had already locked up first and second place in the season points race in Portland last weekend. Their teammate Marcus Armstrong finished eighth on Sunday to grab Rookie of the Year honors.- AFP

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