(Queensland, Australia) - PacWest Racing's Scott Dixon, driver of the ...
(Queensland, Australia) - PacWest Racing's Scott Dixon, driver of the #18 Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota, finished 15th and scoreless Sunday, but clinched the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award in the process.
With a 98-56 championship points lead over Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon holds an insurmountable 42-point advantage heading into the final round of the CART FedEx Championship Series season in Fontana this weekend. Dixon has built his rookie title on six top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes to date, including a victory at Nazareth, which made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel event. Dixon is currently seventh overall in the CART championship point standings.
"I wish I could have finished higher in Australia, but I'm very happy to have earned the Rookie of the Year title this season," said Dixon. "This year has been a big learning experience for me, and I couldn't have done it without the help of a great teammate in Mauricio (Gugelmin), and an excellent crew both at the track and back in the shop. One of my goals heading into this season was to win Rookie of the Year, and the accomplishment is a testament to all the hard work we've put in since the end of 2000. My engineers have given me really good cars all year to compete with and I can't say enough about the Toyota engine and it's reliability. I just want to thank everyone at PacWest, and also my family who have supported my racing career since I was running Karts in 1990. I also want to thank my sponsors, Nextel, Powerware and Panasonic for their support this year. Of course, every driver competes to win championships and I think that next season my PacWest team will be even stronger. I've accomplished this goal, now I'll set my sights even higher for 2002 and the Vanderbilt Cup."
The young Australian-born Dixon clinched the CART Rookie title despite developing a gearbox problem with just two laps remaining in Australia to finish 15th. Earlier in the weekend, Dixon earned his ninth top-10 qualifying effort in the last 13 races with an eighth place starting slot.
"I think Scott has done a tremendous job for us this year," said PacWest Director of Race Operations, Russell Cameron. "It's pretty amazing to watch a young driver develop and mature over the course of a season, but one of the things we saw in his championship performance last year in Indy Lights was a maturity beyond his years. Scott just seems to have that great instinct behind the wheel that all successful drivers possess. He works hard away from the track to keep in top physical shape and his desire to be the best really keeps everyone motivated. I know we're all really looking forward to 2002 to see just what this kid can do with a year of competition under his belt. It's going to be fun to watch."
Dixon and PacWest will compete this weekend in the final race of the CART FedEx Championship Series season in Fontana, California.