The IndyCar Series closed out its season at Sonoma, a race that followed Justin Wilson’s untimely death earlier in the week. The paddock was a mixture of celebration and remembrance, with a delicate balance to strike between honoring Justin’s legacy and enjoying the excitement of a title-deciding race. The series hit a home run in both areas.
First, there were numerous opportunities for fans to honor Justin Wilson and to support his kids. Whether it was a charity t-shirt, a massive poster for Justin signed by his fans, a half-mast Union Jack, or his sticker on every car and driver helmet. Like many fans, Justin’s death hit me hard because I had known him and interacted with him as a blogger. This weekend was cathartic for everyone.
I had a chance to speak to some members of the media, who were very happy to be racing at Sonoma. One NBC staff member said “When Dan [Wheldon] died [in 2011], the season ended and we went home. This was better. We needed this.”
Indeed. What the series also got was one race for all the marbles, and Scott Dixon did a masterful job of racing his way into a championship. One could argue that Will Power ruined Juan Pablo Montoya’s chances for a title, but I disagree. Power was trying to get ahead of Newgarden when he made contact with his teammate, not Montoya, and Power ahead of Newgarden could only have helped Montoya by slowing Newgarden and allowing Montoya to set up a pass. It was a racing incident.
For Dixon, one of the coolest guys in the paddock and the “forgotten” championship contender, Sunday’s win was even sweeter. That makes it two wins in a row in the wine country for the Kiwi turned Indianan. On a weekend drenched in emotion, there was no denying the sweetness of Scott’s win.