Newgarden gives Team Penske a 15th IndyCar championship

Lynette Rowe
September 19, 2017

New Zealand driver Scott Dixon has had to settle for third in the IndyCar series after young American driver Jospeh Newgarden finished second at Sonoma to take his first IndyCar championship.

Newgarden has the charisma to relieve some of the face-of-the-sport burden from James Hinchcliffe, and doing so as a champion would certainly have more cachet.

Newgarden is only the second American in 11 years to win the IndyCar title. The track was really gripped up from the earlier race.

Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden had led the field away from pole and was looking completely comfortable up front, quickly opening up a gap on the pursuing Will Power. However, a lap 63 pit stop put him on his final set of tires before Simon Pagenaud cycled through the pits. Despite making one more stop than pole man Newgarden, who ran a standard three-stop strategy, Pagenaud won the race on pure pace without the benefit of a full-course caution.

Newgarden wanted to pass Pagenaud for the win, but he and his team knew there was more on the line than just a race-winning trophy. NBC Sports' commentators noted that nearly all of Newgarden's push-to-pass capacity was left at end-something that's nearly unheard-of for an Indy race.

Josef Newgarden has won the Indycar Championship after finishing second in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in California this afternoon.

Pagenaud completed all 2,331 laps this season, becoming just the second driver to finish every lap in an Indy auto season. "Right now I want to celebrate Josef's championship".

"My natural instinct is to beat everyone who is in front of me", Newgarden said. I think we did just that. Newgarden and Pagenaud each led 41 laps on the varying strategies.

"I'm exhausted", he said.

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Pagenaud won the race in a last gasp effort to defend the IndyCar title he won past year for Penske.

Pagenaud emerged from his late final stop ahead of Newgarden, who couldn't find a way past, finishing 1.0986 behind Pagenaud - but 13 points ahead of him in the final season standings.

"I'm exhausted. That was as hard as I could drive for 85 laps", said Pagenaud, the defending IndyCar champion.

The Team Penske driver blistered the 12-turn, 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway with a track record lap of 1:15.5205 for a speed of 113.691 miles per hour in the No. 2 Chevrolet. He seemingly has a lot more time to consider it. "I knew we had it".

"He was just a massive roadblock", Dixon said about Castroneves.

"We did what we had to do", Pagenaud said.

Power finished third in the race, Dixon fourth, Castroneves fifth. There was a lot to gain and a lot to lose, and to be able to win the race and end up first and second in the points is a big day, for sure.

The 36-year-old Power, who won the championship in 2014 for Team Penske, went into the race with a slight chance to steal the title this year.

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