By Aaron Bearden, Staff Writer
Motorsports Tribune reviews the season of the top 12 drivers from the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Our list wraps up with the champion, Scott Dixon.
Scott Dixon, No. 9 PNC Bank/NTT Data Honda
- 2018: 1st in the championship
- Wins: 3, Top 5: 13, Top 10: 15, Poles: 0, Laps Led: 357
- Best Finish: 1st (Belle Isle, Texas, Toronto)
Tasked with topping a host of emerging stars while fending off retirement questions, Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Scott Dixon put together one of the greatest seasons of his decorated career.
Dixon entered the 2018 IndyCar season with little fanfare. The New Zealander was fresh off his first single-win campaign in 12 years, and talk for the future centered around his eventual exit from the sport over his continued success.
The year got off to an inauspicious start, at least by Dixon’s standards. The 37-year-old started the season with four results outside of the podium, with a pair of sixth-place finishes and an 11th-place run at Long Beach. Dixon’s subpar opening stint dropped him to seventh in points heading into the Month of May, keeping him off the radar heading into the sport’s biggest month.
That would be the only time Dixon wasn’t a central story.
A second-place run in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis lifted Dixon back into relevance. While he couldn’t parlay it into a second Indianapolis 500 win, a podium effort in the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ pushed the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing team to fourth in the standings ahead of the summer stretch.
Dixon won his first race of the year in the next event, claiming the opening leg of the Belle Isle doubleheader and tying Michael Andretti for third on the all-time wins list. He failed to sweep the weekend, finishing just outside of the podium in fourth in Race 2. But just one week later Dixon returned to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
The four-time champion’s quartet of top-four runs in Indiana and Michigan pushed him into championship contention. His victory in Lone Star State elevated him to the top of the standings.
Dixon wouldn’t relinquish the points lead for the rest of the year.
One oval struggle — a 12th-place disappointment at Iowa Speedway — threatened to knock Dixon off of his perch. But a host of consistent drives down the stretch ensured his championship drive was rarely in question. After opening the year with three finishes of sixth or worse in the first four races, Dixon finished fifth or better in 12 of his final 13 starts. He added a third victory at Toronto en-route to his fifth-career IndyCar title.
Young prospects Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens challenged Dixon’s reign, and veterans Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and defending champion Josef Newgarden also tested the veteran’s mettle along the way. But in the end, Dixon and CGR were too consistently strong to outperform – a feat they’ve managed many times throughout the years.
Statistically 2018 was one of Dixon’s best seasons. His 4.2 average finish was the best of any of his championship seasons – though down a tick from a second-place performance in 2007 (4.0). Dixon’s 357 laps led were the most he’d managed since 2012, and his nine podium drives tied his best effort of the 2010s.
Dixon’s latest title run cemented his legacy as one of IndyCar’s all-time greats. The veteran notched his fifth-career IndyCar championship, placing him just two titles behind A.J. Foyt for the most all-time. He moved to third on the wins list, trailing only Foyt and Mario Andretti.
By being included with IndyCar’s two most legendary figures statistically, Dixon has made a case to be considered one of the greatest open wheel drivers of all-time.
He is to IndyCar as Jimmie Johnson is to NASCAR, LeBron James is to the NBA and Tom Brady is to the NFL. An all-time great, whose mastery continues to show even as he grows older.
The 2018 season proved that Dixon still has the skill to beat any in the paddock under the right circumstances.
There’s no reason to think 2019 can’t play out the same way.
Check out our other IndyCar driver reviews: