The 2013 America’s Cup involved a comeback for the ages – although not in New Zealand’s favour – and the All Blacks’ revival against Ireland will not be quickly forgotten.
By comparison, Scott Dixon’s incredible IndyCar Series ride may have been overlooked by the wider sports public. However, our Indy ace’s comeback was every bit as remarkable, and perhaps even more so given the high octane world of American motor racing.
The 33-year-old recorded his third series win, to go with victories in 2003 and 2008. He finished with the most wins (four) and top-five (nine) finishes in the 19-race series, but at the halfway point Dixon looked beaten. A series of mishaps and mistakes had him in seventh place after 10 races, 92 points behind Brazil’s Helio Castroneves.
What followed was a true sporting miracle. The dramatic improvements and calls made by Dixon and his Ganassi/Honda team make Oracle’s yachting u-turn look like child’s play.
You name it, and the south Auckland-raised Dixon experienced it in terms of disasters this season. This included a potential win being wrecked by a penalty, back to 15th, after knocking the tyre from a rival crewman’s hands on a pit exit. There were flashes of anger from the normally controlled Kiwi as the bloopers kept coming.
The revival was built on three consecutive race victories, within eight July days, at Pennsylvania and Toronto. By the end of the penultimate weekend in Houston, where Castroneves suffered gearbox disasters, Dixon had turned a 49-point deficit into a 25-point advantage. Dixon had overheating issues during the final race at California but his fifth placing ensured the Brazilian was kept at bay.
What impressed many observers, besides Dixon’s unquestioned skill, was his toughness, the ability to hang in when the going was rough to keep himself in the title race. Dixon said: “It’s been a hard year on a lot of people … I still can’t believe that we’ve actually won the championship.” One American motor racing writer claimed: “There’s no question the three-time champ earned himself a permanent seat among the legends.”