Josef Newgarden may have finished second on the day at Sonoma Raceway, but that result was all he needed to clinch his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series title.
The Team Penske driver came into the weekend leading a quintet of drivers still in with a chance of the championship, and he did himself no harm by securing his first pole position of the season, and then led the early stages from team-mate Will Power.
Despite his three-stop pit strategy being usurped by Simon Pagenaud’s aggressive four-stop strategy on Sunday, Newgarden was able to shadow his team-mate until the chequered flag to clinch the title by thirteen points, and he immediately thanked everyone within his team for helping him achieve it.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” said Newgarden. “I don’t even know what to say. It was all year. It took a lot to make this happen.
“Thank you to my team-mates. They were giving me a lot of help today in making sure that we got this done. It’s a huge team effort at Team Penske. So, it’s cool to do this with Verizon. Verizon does so much for the IndyCar Series. They’ve given fans such great access over the years. I’m happy to have this car for the championship.
“It’s super fitting; and all the other partners we’ve had at Team Penske. It’s just been phenomenal working with Team Chevy. We’ve had so many great partners on this car. And to finally get it done is a dream come true. It’s too awesome.”
Newgarden admitted his instincts during the final stages of the race was to take the fight to his team-mate, but he was calmed down by his team on the pit wall to ensure the championship was won.
“It was hard. I was using my natural instincts,” confessed Newgarden. “I was trying to get (Simon) Pagenaud there because that’s what I normally do. I try to win the race whenever possible.
“They were telling me to be patient and not do something stupid. I tried to get him, but I also tried not to do anything dumb for the team. Like I said, this has been a team effort.
“So, I’m happy for Pagenaud. He had the pace to win today, for sure; he’s very deserving. This entire group makes this happen. I’m so thankful and happy with everything that Team Penske has done.
“Congrats to everyone at the factory. This is an amazing amount of work that goes into this.”