SONOMA, California – Josef Newgarden did everything he needed to do to claim the Verizon IndyCar Series championship except win today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. That honor went to Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, but Newgarden’s second-place race finish was enough to wrap up his first series title.
Pagenaud, driving the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, beat Newgarden to the finish line by 1.0986 seconds to win the season finale for the second straight year. But by finishing second in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Newgarden wrapped up the championship.
GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA: Unofficial results
The 26-year-old Tennessean wrapped up the championship in his 100th career Verizon IndyCar Series race, in his sixth season and first with Team Penske. He becomes the first American to win the Verizon IndyCar Series crown since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and earned the 15th Indy car season title for Team Penske. Unofficially, Newgarden won the championship by 13 points over Pagenaud, the 2016 champion.
Will Power gave Team Penske a podium sweep by placing third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske. Scott Dixon finished fourth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing to clinch third in the standings, 21 points behind Newgarden.
The race ran caution-free for the first time in Sonoma Raceway history. Newgarden and Pagenaud each led 41 of the 85 laps on the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course. Pagenaud opted for a four-stop strategy to Newgarden’s three pit stops, but the Frenchman made up the time by running faster laps on open track.
The decisive moment of the race came when Pagenaud made his final stop for fuel and tires from the lead on Lap 64. He returned to the track just ahead of the charging Newgarden and held on to first place as the teammates battled around the track. Once Pagenaud’s tires reached proper temperature, he was able to keep Newgarden in his mirrors to the finish.
Helio Castroneves wrapped up fourth in the championship by finishing fifth in the race. Completing his 20th year racing Indy cars, the 42-year-old Brazilian is still in search of a first series championship.
By finishing third in the race, Power – the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion – earned fifth place in the standings.