SAN FRANCISCO -- Less than 24 hours after a scintillating, gripping and heart-wrenching season finale at Sonoma Raceway -- in which the driver and entrant championships hung in the balance until the completion of the 2,232nd and final lap of the 16th race -- the Verizon IndyCar Series honored its champions, award winners and partners.
The Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration at the Nob Hill Masonic Center began with a video tribute to seven-time Indy car winner Justin Wilson, who succumbed to a head injury Aug. 24 sustained in a race a day earlier. His brother, Stefan, former teammate and training partner JR Hildebrand and James Hinchcliffe addressed the audience on the seventh anniversary of Wilson's victory at Belle Isle. Stefan accepted the Fan Favorite Driver Award on behalf of his brother.
"The outpouring of support that has occurred for Justin and his family creates at least a small window for us to peer into and see the impact this man has had on those around him and people all over the world," Hildebrand said. "I spoke with (Wilson's wife Julia) this morning. She simply said how overwhelmed she is by how big the INDYCAR and racing community is and that she doesn't have enough words to truly say thank you. She wants everyone to know that they're going to be OK, and that Justin will be there and try to guide them."
Click it: Learn how to contribute to the Wilson Children's Fund in many different ways
The Verizon IndyCar Series championship, which has been decided in the season finale for 10 consecutive years, was contested in California for the fourth year in a row and the first at Sonoma Raceway.
Scott Dixon, who entered the double-points race on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course 47 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya in the standings, charged to the front of the 25-car field on Lap 63 of 85 and cruised to his field-high third victory of the season and 38th of his career (fifth all time). That victory, which combined the double base points and bonus points for laps led, and Montoya's sixth-place finish left the veteran drivers tied in points. Dixon earned his fourth title on the first tiebreaker of one more race win that Montoya.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, presented Dixon and team owner Chip Ganassi with a $1 million championship bonus check and replicas of the Astor Challenge Cup, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ championship trophy. The Indy car championship is the 11th for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, and Dixon at Sonoma Raceway delivered the team's 100th Indy car win.
“I’m fortunate to drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series and with this team for 14 years,” Dixon said. “With the depth of the competition, winning a championship in INDYCAR is challenging and gratifying. It’s all the small pieces that you have to get out of the car, and this year especially with the introduction of the aero kits. As a team, I think we really do a good job. I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team’s efforts.”
In addition to the championship bonus, Dixon accepted the Jostens Champions Award, a ring valued at $10,000. He also won the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award and its $75,000 prize for winning the most races.
"It was a complete team effort," Ganassi said. "We fought through some struggles throughout the year and we clawed through it. (Dixon) is a champion's champion and a class act. He has a job to do and he does it, no questions asked."
Gabby Chaves of BHA with Curb-Agajanian accepted the $50,000 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.
"I am happy with the way our Bryan Herta Autosport team worked out this year. It was a fun season and I look forward to what 2016 has to bring," said Chaves, 22, who was the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion.
All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series will contest their season finales with doubleheader races Sept. 12-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterrey, Calif.
Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, finished third in the championship in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Graham Rahal won two races and finished a career-high fourth in the championship in his third season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, while Helio Castroneves of Team Penkse placed fifth.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the Manufacturers Championship award on behalf of Chevrolet, which recorded 10 of the 16 victories.
The Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration, hosted by NBCSN Verizon IndyCar Series lead announcer Leah Diffey, was streamed live on IndyCar.com.
Verizon IndyCar Series award winners
* Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup): Scott Dixon
* Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Scott Dixon
* Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
* Championship team sponsors: Target
* Championship team manager: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser
* Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Blair Julian
* Sunoco Diamond Performance Award ($75,000): Scott Dixon
* Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award ($50,000): Gabby Chaves
* TAG Heuer "Don't Crack Under Pressure" Award ($25,000): Graham Rahal
* Verizon P1 Award: Will Power (six earned pole starts)
* Second place championship driver: Juan Pablo Montoya
* Second place championship team: Team Penske
* Third place championship driver: Will Power
* Third place championship team: Team Penske
* Manufacturers Championship: Chevrolet
* Firestone “Drive to the Finish” Award: Ryan Hunter-Reay
* Dan and Susie Wheldon "Make a Difference" Award ($1,000 charitable donation): Denise Titus, INDYCAR Medical
* Verizon IndyCar Series Fan Favorite Driver: Justin Wilson