Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

Pagenaud stars, Newgarden is champion

Josef Newgarden: “We need to come back tomorrow and complete the job” Sonoma IndyCar: Rahal heads warm-up, Dixon leads title contenders
Spencer Simpson | 19 September, 2017, 00:51

Newgarden made several attempts to get by his teammate until Cindric got on the radio and firmly reminded him that that he didn't need to win the race to win the championship.

There is no way to know whether Newgarden will win another or if he will be first driver to win back-to-back titles since Dario Franchitti, who won three in a row from 2009-11. At age 26, he's the fresh young face IndyCar needed to win.

The point he gained for the pole saw him stretch his lead atop the standings to four points over New Zealand's Scott Dixon going into Sunday's race, which was worth double points. At one point, Pagenaud was out front by 31.1993 seconds over Newgarden when he made his final pit stop on Lap 64.

Will Power, who was the lowest-placed among the Penske drivers going into the weekend, was tasked with shadowing Newgarden and acting as a shield against any potential threat from Scott Dixon. 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.

Ryan Hunter-Reay gave America an IndyCar Series champion in 2012 - the only driver from the United States that won the championship between Hornish's last title in 2006 until Newgarden's championship in 2017. The mission to use strategy to leapfrog his way into the lead had paid off, but Newgarden could still afford to finish second without costing himself the championship.

Josef Newgarden gets honest on stage during the Astor Cup presentation and reveals he hasn't slept because of the nerves and is looking forward to a winter off.

Teammate Simon Pagenaud won his title in a brisk two seasons, Will Power required five after three runner-up finishes to begin his Penske career, and three-time Indianapolis 500-winner Helio Castroneves has none in 17 seasons with the team. I didn't really know how it was going to work out for me. I'm proud of my guys and we carried the number one well. Newgarden and Pagenaud each led 41 laps on the varying strategies. "We crashed out of a few as well and they are all valuable points", he said. But he is the present as champion and future at seven years younger than Pagenaud and a decade younger than Power.

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.

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.

Dixon said it was a season of lost chances.

"So cool", said Newgarden as he stepped out of the auto. Completing his 20th year racing Indy cars, the 42-year-old Brazilian is still in search of a first series championship.

Power finished third in the race, Dixon fourth, Castroneves fifth.

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