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Dixon, Newgarden Set for St. Pete Showdown after Challenging Race at IMS

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship fight will go to the season’s final race – again! -- after title contenders Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden delivered as much as they could in the second race of the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Dixon salvaged an eighth-place finish in Saturday’s end to the doubleheader after mid-race contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay damaged the left-side underwing of his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Newgarden finished fourth in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet after winning Friday’s first race.

Dixon’s lead that was 117 points after he won at World Wide Technology Raceway five races ago is now 32 heading to the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Oct. 25. Dixon remains confident he’ll secure his sixth series championship. Newgarden is happy to still have a chance at a third title in the past four years.

“As always, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points title comes down to the last race,” Dixon said.

This will be the 15th consecutive year the Astor Challenge Cup will be decided at the last race of the season.

“We’re going to go to St. Pete now and try to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “I just wish we were in a little closer position. That’s all you can ask for, though, is a shot.”

Dixon will win the championship by finishing ninth or better in St. Petersburg regardless of what Newgarden does. If Newgarden wins and earns maximum points – with pole and most laps led – and Dixon finishes ninth, the drivers would end up in a tie, both with four wins this season, which is the first tiebreaker. But Dixon wins the second tiebreaker, which is the number of second-place finishes. He has two, Newgarden one. All other drivers have been eliminated from title contention.

Dixon’s confidence rests in finishing second in last year’s St. Petersburg race; Newgarden’s optimism lies in winning last year’s race there.

Event history and recent momentum is on Newgarden’s side as Team Penske has won a record nine races on the St. Petersburg street circuit, and Newgarden sliced 40 points out Dixon’s lead during the Indianapolis weekend and 85 points over the past five races.

The separation between the two drivers might have been closer right now had the damage to Dixon’s underwing been more significant. At that point, he was stuck in the pack with points slipping away. But in typical form, Dixon kept battling and made up four positions, a gain of six points.

“It’s definitely been a trying last few race weekends between Mid-Ohio and Indy,” Dixon said. “I’m still mad at myself for making that mistake at Mid-Ohio and letting those points get away.”

Newgarden got stuck in the initial charge to Turn 1 and lost a couple of positions. Already disappointed in his 10th-place qualifying position, he had to charge through the field just to get back to fourth at the end.

“We were a little shy of where we needed to be,” Newgarden said. “If we could have had a phenomenal day like we had yesterday, we’d be in really good shape (in the title pursuit), but we were just mediocre today.

“I think we had a car to compete with Will (Power) and (Colton) Herta and (Alexander) Rossi there, but we didn’t start high enough.”

It all boils down to St. Petersburg now. Dixon and Newgarden now know their path to the title.

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