Monday , 23 October 2017

Scott Dixon: Worthy Champion or Just Lucky?

So that was that. The 2015 IndyCar championship did indeed get decided by the completely unnecessary usage of double points at the final round of the season at Sonoma. That is not taking anything away from the overall victor however – Scott Dixon, who at the end of the day, won more races than anybody else, and with the system exactly the same for everybody, he delivered when it absolutely mattered with his brilliant victory at the winding Sonoma circuit.

The validity of his championship has been questioned by some, with Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished second to Dixon on a tiebreak (Dixon had three wins to Montoya’s two) being some fan’s moral victor. Whilst mine was neither of those two (I will elaborate on this in a future post), I feel that some will claim that Dixon only won this title due to the unnecessary usage of double points. That’s not strictly true. Whilst the numbers below will show that the outcome of the championship would have been different if the points system from both 2014 and 2013 were used, Dixon was able to take advantage on almost every occasion where Montoya faltered – be it through his own doing or through no fault of his own.

To avoid question marks being hung over Dixon’s fourth title – which puts him level with Sebastien Bourdais, Dario Franchitti and the legendary Mario Andretti, the easiest way would have been to scrap the unnecessary double points altogether in a series which absolutely does not require the somewhat gimmicky system. 2015 was the tenth season in a row that saw the championship go down to the wire, regardless of the unnecessary double points or not in the last two years. That alone should be enough reason to show why IndyCar really should not need this system. There was a similar situation in Formula One last season, where some claimed that Nico Rosberg’s title would have been ‘tainted’ had he won it via the unnecessary usage of double points at the final round at the uncharismatic and uninteresting Abu Dhabi. At least last year in IndyCar, the usage of double points was nowhere near as bad, as it was the three 500-mile races which had double points, and those races are generally twice (or more) of the distance of a ‘normal’ race, in length, and notably longer in time than a normal race too. However this year, I find it inconceivable to believe that Will Power’s seventh place at Sonoma was worth more than twice as much as Graham Rahal’s win at Fontana, it simply makes absolutely zero sense from a purist perspective.

IndyCar 2015 Stats

After crunching the numbers, you can see who would have gained and who would lose out through the previous two points systems. It would have been good news for Montoya fans, whilst the likes of Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay would lose out. It should also be worth noting that under a proposed ‘medal system’, or ‘countback ranking’ as I have it down in the table, Montoya would have been a lowly fifth.

Scott Dixon had a typical Scott Dixon season, with flourishes of Dario Franchitti in there too. He typically picked up what points he could, asserted dominance within the Chip Ganassi camp, and with his rear gunners and his crew, worked his way up through the field. He hadn’t led the points all season – nobody had except for Montoya, but Dixon was on top when it counted, at the chequered flag of the final race. Both Dixon, Montoya et al are all exceptional drivers, despite heading towards the twilight of their careers, and they are all able to still deliver absolutely exceptional drives and hold off the charging youngsters. Missing out on the championship despite having three drivers in with a shout at the title will not make Roger Penske pleased in the slightest, but with four world class drivers at his disposal, it was clear that they would have tripped over one another at some point. I just find it slightly ironic that the season would finish in the same manner that it would start, with needless contact between Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power.

Hopefully IndyCar will drop the unnecessary usage of double points for 2016, and there will be no need for arguments over ‘moral victors’ and so forth. Scott Dixon is well and truly a worthy champion. He always has been, and with his fourth title, his overdue win at Long Beach and winning on an oval and a road course too this year, he is cementing his status as one of the greatest racers in American open-wheel history, and perhaps the most versatile open-wheel racer active today.

About Craig Woollard

Craig Woollard is an avid motor racing fan and freelance journalist and writer. A mathematics graduate from the University of Essex in 2013, Woollard has ambitions to work within motor racing. He is a member of Autosport's academy programme. In his spare time, he listens to music, sim races, wears hats and drinks cranberry juice.

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