A controversial call by race officials may have ended Kiwi motor racing driver Scott Dixon's hopes of landing a third IndyCar series title after his car hit a rival crew member in the pits.
The 33-year-old hit a member of Australian rival Will Power's pit crew while accelerating after his stop late in the Grand Prix of Sonoma in California.
Travis Law was sent flying and hit another teammate, but both quickly got to their feet and did not appear seriously injured.
Dixon was leading at the time of the incident on the 65th lap of the 85-lap race with Power second.
Power's car pitted immediately in front of Dixon, who won championship titles in 2003 and 2008.
The New Zealand Chip Ganassi Racing driver was stung with a driver-through penalty, despite it appearing that Power's crew member was carrying a tyre slung on his hip which made contact with the rear of Dixon's car.
Footage also appeared to show the accident victim was not paying attention to Dixon.
Dixon, who was relegated to 20th after completing his penalty and ended 15th, accused Law of a deliberate act to slow his exit form the pits.
"He's walking straight into our car ... he's walking towards us on purpose. That's probably the most blatant thing I've seen in a long time.
"If you watch most pit guys they try to get out of the way of other people. That was a bit of dick move there to be honest.
"If that's the way they want to win it's pretty bad," Dixon told broadcasters.
Power, who went on to win the race, said he did not want to talk about the incident without viewing footage but doubted that it was on purpose.
"I would be very surprised ... it's not really worth commenting on."
Race director Beaux Barfield defended the move to penalise Dixon saying that the safety of pit crew was paramount.
"You look at risk versus reward. The risk of hurting somebody in the pit lane versus gaining a couple of tenths of a second leaving the pit lane is certainly not worth it," he said.
He said Dixon had not exited his pit box correctly which justified the penalty.
Dixon, second in the series standings, had been on course to bring up his fourth win of the season and close the 31-point gap on championship leader Helio Castroneves when he was penalised.
He remains second, but is now 39 points behind Castroneves who finished seventh.
source: newshub archive