UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- This one, Scott Dixon says, is for -- among others -- fellow Kiwis who on a Sunday afternoon tuned in to SkySports to watch their countryman clinch his third IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
It was just beginning to sink in, Dixon noted, as he entered the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood for the INDYCAR Championship Celebration. It was an appropriate setting as the racing stars, teams and manufacturers were recognized for their accomplishments throughout the IZOD IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy seasons.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR, presented Dixon and Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi a $1 million championship bonus check and replicas of the Astor Challenge Cup, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship trophy.
Dixon, who clinched the title with a fifth-place finish in the wild MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway less than 24 hours earlier, said he shares the accomplishment with New Zealanders who were recently disappointed by their country's entry in the America's Cup finals.
"The America's Cup was a tough one. We're a little country and it's the same when I see other Kiwis doing well. It's exciting to see them on the world stage," said Dixon, who visited the team base in San Francisco in August. "I kind of thought about it; was the end of our season going to be sort of the same situation as the Kiwi team in the America's Cup taking the lead and getting beat in the last minute.
"It was such a crazy year and this is super exciting. At one point we thought were out of it and we came back and then had another two bad races and thought, 'OK, we gave it a good shot but it's not going to happen.'
"The last race of the season was how our season was in general. We started off a bit slow and had some good parts of the race and looked as if we had a chance of winning it, but had some issues at the end. I'm excited for the team. It was one of those years we really had to dig deep.
"This year was a really strange one and special. I think '08 would be tough to top with getting married, winning the '500' and then the championship. This year for me was a real struggle and it felt really rewarding when we took the championship."
In addition to the championship bonus, Dixon accepted the $75,000 Sunoco Diamond Performance Award as the driver with the most race wins and the Jostens Champions Award, a ring valued at $10,000.
Ricky Davis, chief mechanic for Dixon's No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, accepted the IZOD IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year Award. Scott Harner and Barry Wanser of Target Chip Ganassi Racing accepted the Team Manager of the Year Award.
Tristan Vautier of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports accepted the $50,000 IZOD IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, while Josef Newgarden won the Tony Renna Rising Star Award.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the manufacturer's championship award.
Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was honored as the second-place finisher in the championship while Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports was honored for finishing third.
Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske car, fell 27 points in the championship duel that was decided in the final race for the eighth consecutive year.
"To be competitive, you have to have a great team, and Team Penske is amazing," the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion said. "One day the door will be open and we'll walk through to pick up the championship trophy. Ganassi and Scott, it is well-deserved. You keep pushing us and we keep pushing you."
Sage Karam accepted the mini Firestone Firehawk Cup, the Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year, a Jostens Champions Award valued at $5,000, an original artwork by motorsports artist Jim Swintal commissioned by Firestone.
"When I woke up this morning and it really hit me. I was like, 'Wow, we did it,' " said Karam, 18, of Nazareth, Pa. "The season went well and we had an awesome time and I learned a lot. We had some bad luck, but turned it around and came out on top. I love my team at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They do an awesome job and it's an incredible team to be part of." `
Carlos Munoz was awarded the $3,000 "Securing Tomorrow Award" from Gregory & Appel Insurance for winning the most races, while Peter Dempsey was named the winner of the Greg Moore Legacy Award.
Derrick Stepan, chief mechanic for Karam's No. 8 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb Agajanian entry, accepted the Firestone Indy Lights Chief Mechanic of the Year Award.
The Mazda Road to Indy also presented Matthew Brabham, champion of the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, and Scott Hargrove, champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, with Jostens Champions Awards valued at $4,000.
IZOD IndyCar Series award winners
* Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup): Scott Dixon
* Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Scott Dixon
* Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Target Chip Ganassi Racing
* Championship team sponsors: Target
* Championship team manager: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser
* Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Ricky Davis
* Sunoco Diamond Performance Award ($75,000): Scott Dixon
* Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award ($50,000): Tristan Vautier
* Second place championship driver: Helio Castroneves
* Second place championship team: Team Penske
* Third place championship driver: Simon Pagenaud
* Third place championship team: Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports
* Tony Renna Rising Star Award: Josef Newgarden
* Verizon P1 Award: Dario Franchitti
* Manufacturers Championship: Chevrolet
Firestone Indy Lights award winners
* Championship driver (mini Firehawk Cup): Sage Karam
* Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Sage Karam
* Championship team (mini Firehawk Cup): Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb Agajanian
* Chief Mechanic of the Year: Derrick Stepan
* Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year: Sage Karam
* Greg Moore Legacy Award: Peter Dempsey
* Gregory & Appel "Securing Tomorrow" Award ($3,000): Carlos Munoz
Mazda Road to Indy award winners
* Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Matthew Brabham (Pro Mazda Championship); Scott Hargrove (USF2000 Championship).