On a night where crashes and mechanical failures claimed more than half of the 25-car starting field, Scott Dixon did exactly what was needed to claim his third career IZOD IndyCar Series Drivers’ Championship, as the Honda-powered driver finished fifth in Saturday night’s MAVTV American Real 500 to claim the title over rival Helio Castroneves.
Dixon came to the 19th and final race of the 2013 season with a 25-point lead over Castroneves, including a series-leading four wins this year. A finish of fifth or better would have secured the title for Dixon, but he worked his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda to the front of the field, and battled for the leadfor much of the night, until backing off in the final laps due to rising engine temperatures as Will Power went on to claim the victory.
Overheating issues affected several cars, as sand and debris affected both Honda and Chevrolet-powered entries and resulted in several retirements during the course of the 500-mile contest. A multi-car crash on Lap 110 eliminated five more cars, including four Hondas, and resulted in Dale Coyne Racing driver Justin Wilson being transported to a local hospital for further examination of a possible hip injury.
Despite the attrition, the race was fiercely contested, with 11 different drivers leading one or more laps, including Mid-Ohio race winner Charlie Kimball, who led three times for a total of 22 laps, and appeared to be in contention for the victory until a late-race mechanical problem sent him to the pits. Kimball still was scored 10th, despite dropping out of the contest with 12 laps remaining.
Stepping in for the injured Dario Franchitti, veteran Honda driver Alex Tagliani also ran near the front of the field for much of the night, and led five laps before spinning and making light contact with the wall to end his race on lap 209.
Driving for Bryan Herta Autosport, JR Hildebrand appeared headed for at least a second-place finish in the closing laps, as he ran in lock-step behind fellow Honda driver Kimball until he, too, was felled by debris-related overheating issues with just 13 laps remaining.