Eight years had passed since the last time two New Zealanders shared the same piece of tarmac in the IndyCar Series before today’s season finale in St. Petersburg.
40-year-old sensation Scott Dixon added another career crown to his haul, becoming the second most successful champion in history with six titles to his name.
On the other end of the scale, three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin was making his series debut.
Behind the wheel of a fourth Penske machine around one of the more notoriously challenging circuits on the series calendar, McLaughlin had his race end prematurely after a crash on Lap 47.
Despite their contrasting fates, the Kiwi duo were both upbeat in their performances.
“It definitely got pretty close there,” an elated Dixon told the NBC. “Credit to Josef and Team Penske, they drove the last part of the season flawlessly and scored so many points.
“It was awesome to race them again. We know next year is going to be the same.”
Next year sees Dixon continue an 18-year tenure with Chip Ganassi Racing. There he will be teamed with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson in what is set to be one of the most explosive duos on the grid.
Nonetheless, a seventh championship crown is the only target on Dixon’s 2021 radar.
“Six is good, seven sounds better – that’s going to be the goal.
“It’s tough, as you can see from the competition if you mess up in qualifying. But credit to the team to be able to pull ourselves out of the hole this weekend.
“We needed a smooth race, and that’s what we did. We had the speed when we needed to push.
“Credit to Josef [Newgarden], he drove a hell of a race and put us under a lot of pressure.”
Meanwhile, McLaughlin’s turbulent IndyCar debut ended when he spun after contact with Marco Andretti while dicing for position into Turn 1.
Facing the wrong direction, McLaughlin was then crashed into by Rinus Veekay.
Before the crash, the Kiwi was slowly making progress after a shaky start which had him fall to last.
Regardless of the accident, McLaughlin came out of his debut race with a spring in his step.
“What a day,” said McLaughlin.
“The Shell V-Power Nitro+ IndyCar was going well. Then I just made a move trying to block Marco.
“I felt like I made a half of a rear lock, but I’m not exactly sure.
“Cold tires caught me out a little bit. But I had a lot of fun today.
“I can’t thank my guys, Roger [Penske], Tim [Cindric[, Shell V-Power and the entire organization for the weekend. It was so much fun.
“I wish the 2021 season was starting tomorrow. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of this car.”