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Scott Dixon coming up fast in IndyCar standings as Sonoma finale looms

Scott Dixon is seen during driver introductions for the IndyCar Honda Indy 200 Sunday, July 30, 2017, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

PETER FOURNIER,

Four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Sonoma Raceway winner Scott Dixon knows he’s the party crasher in the Penske Racing parade that is the top five points leaders heading into the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma series finale this weekend.

He also knows that if he wins the title this weekend, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s spoiled a Penske weekend at Sonoma.

Dixon, a 37-year-old New Zealand native and Chip Ganassi Racing driver, heads into Sunday’s final race of the season just three points behind current points leader Josef Newgarden.

Dixon has erased much larger deficits to win the series title at Sonoma in the past. In 2015, he overcame a 47-point deficit heading into the race with a victory at Sonoma to edge out Juan Pablo Montoya for the title via tiebreaker. What broke the tie?

Dixon’s third win of the season at Sonoma versus Montoya’s two in 2015.

He wouldn’t say he has an advantage on his Penske rivals this year, though, despite the double points being offered for finishers this weekend.

“I think you can look at it in two different ways,” Dixon said. “It’s guys that maybe haven’t been in the championship hunt. They don’t know what to expect. People like myself and Helio (Castroneves) and even Simon (Pagenaud), we’ve all been in the scenario multiple times, so we all know what to expect.”

Pagenaud won last year’s title and race at Sonoma — and was followed by his three other teammates — in the top four of the IndyCar standings. The points standings weren’t nearly as close then as they are this weekend. Pagenaud had a 43-point lead on Will Power heading into last year’s finale. This year he is only 34 points behind Dixon in fourth place.

“I don’t know what’s better or worse,” Dixon said.

“Sometimes it’s better not knowing the processes or how it can it ultimately change. I think experience can help in some fashion, but all of us who are in the fight right now … it’s not something new.”

In addition to Pagenaud’s success last year, Castroneves — currently third in the standings — has finished second in the standings four times and Power — currently fifth — is the 2014 IndyCar champion.

Dixon isn’t necessarily complaining about his place in the standings even though he’s won only one race this year.

“When you look at points and the championship, you kind of remember races that should’ve gone a little different,” Dixon said.

“I think we should have won St. Pete, we should have won Long Beach, we should have been first or second at Texas and got crashed out; we should have had a lot more points in Indianapolis if we didn’t get crashed out.

“You kind of reflect a little more on the lost opportunities that you had opposed to maybe the positives of winning Road America and having some good second-place finishes coming up to the last race.”

Although most of the weekend’s focus is on winning championship No. 5, Dixon plans on enjoying the Sonoma County area once the race is finished.

“It will be nice to take in the Sonoma area, which I haven’t done before. Looking forward to that,” Dixon said.

If the weekend goes well enough, he’ll have to bring his fifth IndyCar title along for a scenic wine-tasting tour, too.