IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, right, celebrates his season title… (Robert Laberge / Getty Images )
As a youngster racing in his native New Zealand, Scott Dixon would drive with a pillow strapped to his behind because he was too short to see above the cockpit.
Now the reserved Dixon, known as the "Iceman" because he prefers to let his racing do the talking, stands above all his peers after winning his third IndyCar series championship.
As Team Penske driver Will Power was winning the MAVTV 500 on Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Dixon finished fifth to capture the title by 27 points over Helio Castroneves.
Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner who is still seeking his first series title, finished in sixth place, one lap down to the leaders.
Not only did a mere five cars finish on the lead lap at the end of the 250-lap race, only eight cars were still running out of a starting field of 25. Crashes and mechanical woes knocked out the others.
Ed Carpenter, who won the race last year, finished second behind Power. Tony Kanaan, winner of this year' Indianapolis 500, was third and James Hinchcliffe finished fourth.
Dixon, 33, also showed the tenacity needed to add to the championships that the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver earned in 2003 and 2008.
He began the season sluggishly, and was eighth in the point standings after the Indianapolis 500. But then he won three consecutive races (in Pocono and a doubleheader in Toronto) and won one of the two Houston races two weeks ago to arrive in Fontana with a 25-point lead over Castroneves.
All Dixon had to do Saturday night was finish fifth or better to win the championship, regardless of how Castroneves finished.
Comparing this title with his others, Dixon said, "This year I think has been far different just in the fact midseason we didn't think we had a shot at the championship."
"I feel for Helio," Dixon said. "He ran a strong year. I want to thank him for having a great race tonight and keeping it clean, pushing as hard as he could."
Castroneves, 38, kept his chin up after the race. "We did everything we could," he said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish [in] the position we wanted. I was driving my heart out there."
Power's win, meanwhile, was a major reversal of what happened a year earlier, when the Australian came to Fontana with the point lead and poised to win his first title. Instead, Power crashed early in the race and lost the championship by three points to Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"For what happened last year, I had this race in mind all year ... to do a very good, solid job," Power said.
In one of the crashes Saturday night, Justin Wilson spun in Turn 2 and was hit hard by the car of Tristan Vautier, triggering a chain-reaction accident that collected several other drivers.
None were hurt except Wilson, who was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. Wilson said Sunday on Twitter that he had three fractures of his pelvis but that doctors believe he won't require surgery.
It was a disappointing end to a strong season for Wilson, who started the race fourth in the standings.