Josef Newgarden Wins Championship

Josef Newgarden was a Rookie in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012, and a relatively unknown talent. Today, in his 100th career start, Newgarden became the youngest unified open wheel champion since 1995, and the first American to win the title in five years. It is the 15th IndyCar championship for legendary team owner Roger Penske.

While Newgarden wanted to win the race, he didn’t have to. His teammate Simon Pagenaud took the checkered flag at Sonoma, where he celebrated the championship one year ago. The Frenchman came up just 13 points short of his bid to repeat as champion. The 2014 champion, Will Power, joined them on the podium, capping a picture perfect day for Penske. The other two title contenders, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, rounded out the top five on Sunday.

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Box Score

Dixon came up short in his journey for a fifth title, finishing 21 points behind Newgarden. This is the first season since 2005 that Dixon failed to win multiple races. Still, it is the 11th time in his career that he has finished in the top three of the standings. The universal aero kit next season should level the playing field for Ganassi and the other Honda teams.

Castroneves managed to collect one more top-five finish in his 20-year open wheel career. His future will be decided in the next few weeks, but there is no question that he still has what it takes to compete for the championship in IndyCar. This is the 13th time that he has finished in the top four of the final standings. After the race today, Castroneves revealed that he will be testing a sports car tomorrow, but did not provide any further details.

It was a bitter sweet day for Pagenaud, but he did accomplish something that has only been done one time before. He joins Tony Kanaan (2004) as the only driver in IndyCar history to complete every lap in a season. There were three instances where a driver came up just one lap short; Power in 2014, Kanaan in 2010, and AJ Foyt in 1963.

Graham Rahal had a solid sixth place finish on Sunday, which is also where he finished in the final standings. It is the third straight season that Rahal has finished inside the top six. Marco Andretti finished just behind him, in what was his best race of the 2017 season. His Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was behind him in eighth place. Sebastien Bourdais and Conor Daly rounded out the top ten. It was a solid end to the 2017 campaign for Conor. He earned his third top-ten finish of the season, and his final three race results were 5th, 11th, and 10th.

Another season is in the books, and a new champion has been crowned. There were ten different winners this season, including a surprise (Takuma Sato) at Indianapolis, and a popular first-time winner (Alexander Rossi) at Watkins Glen. Team Penske dominated once again, which earned Chevrolet another manufacturer’s title this season.

Team Penske flexed their muscle once again in 2017, winning 10 of the 17 races, and earning pole position 11 times. As a team, the four drivers led 1,462 of the 2,331 laps (63%) and claimed four of the top five spots in the championship. Most importantly, they grabbed the top spot for the third time in the last four years. Newgarden definitely earned it, and will undoubtedly be a tremendous ambassador for the series for many years to come.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “I want to thank everybody on the DXC Technology Chevrolet team today. It was a phenomenal performance, I think, all weekend. I want to congratulate Josef (Newgarden), of course, and Team Penske. I think our team this weekend and the whole season showed how strong everybody is at Team Penske. Back-to-back champions. It’s phenomenal. Great testament to a great team spirit and I’m very happy for him. He deserves it. We did what we had to do. We tried. We won the race; it wasn’t enough. It’s a whole championship. You’ve got to be strong on every race and I guess Josef was a little stronger this year so we’ll come back. Thirteen points (behind). Next year we’ll come back and give him a hell of a competition again.”

Josef Newgarden: “I’m so proud of these guys. I don’t even know what to say. It was all year. It took a lot to make this happen. Thank you to my teammates. 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. It was hard. I was using my natural instincts. 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.”

Helio Castroneves: “I’m always going to focus on the positive thing. I’m not going to focus on Texas when we had a problem, or other races that I missed strategy or made mistakes. You’ve got to think about, again, it was another season that we pushed as hard as we could and another top four. And again, sometimes it’s funny because you see the statistics, finished second – I finished second four times. But it was more times – the P4 is not what it represents because we were in a battle a lot more years than that. And that’s what I look at. I look because each year that’s what kept me motivated to come back and push hard, and that for me was hard. Sometimes it’s – well, I try, but to get one – it’s easy to follow from that position, but to keep up like I’ve been doing all these years, I think it’s the hardest thing to do. But it doesn’t just happen. It comes with a great team. It comes with great dedication from your guys, great trust, and obviously, myself to keep motivated, finding ways to keep pushing and having teammates like I have today, no question, helped me to become a better driver. The Hitachi Chevrolet team was great all season and I can’t thank them enough for their hard work dedication.”

Conor Daly: “I have to thank the boys for keeping faith in the strategy. It was a bold move to make the three-stop call. We were able to make the numbers but we got stuck behind (Jack) Harvey in the third part of that stint which was really frustrating. I think it impeded us from doing a little bit better. In the end, another top-10 which is really positive from where we started this weekend. It was a good consistent race. It was tough – there were a lot of moments of flying through the air and banging wheels with people. It was wild, so I’m just happy to come back in one piece and have another consistent finish to end the year. I’m happy to finally finish a double points race, I’ve never done that, so that was nice.”

James Hinchcliffe: “Obviously not the ending to the race or to the year that we wanted. This weekend has been tough from rolling off the trailer on Thursday, but this team never gives up and we kept fighting. Really had high hopes for the race with some big changes overnight and we were going to go off-strategy to try and make some moves. After a good start, we made up a couple spots and then I was trying to set up someone going through Turn 3, and I guess Spencer (Pigot) just went for a gap that was closing and hit us, spun us out and put us to the back of the field and did some damage to the car. From there on it was tough just hanging on to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics machine. Like I said, we don’t give up, and we kept digging, trying to make up whatever spots we could, but ultimately some damage was done to the electronics on the car and the gearbox electronics stopped working so I was stuck in gear. Very unfortunate, but still a lot to be proud of this season. A lot of bad luck came our way when we were running well, didn’t get the results we wanted, but we already have our eyes on 2018. Looking forward to the new car and going into next season stronger. Thank you to everyone on this SPM team, Arrow and all of our supporters. Big congrats to Josef (Newgarden) on clinching the championship.”

Jack Harvey: “The highlight of our weekend was coming home to the checkered flag (laughs). It was nice to get to the end of the two races that we were able to do with SPM and bring home the AutoNation Sirius XM car in one piece. Although we weren’t very quick today, I’m glad we were able to do that for the guys. I don’t know exactly what, but we seemed to be missing something all weekend, and I think we missed it from the first session which put us on the back foot immediately. The thing is, when you’re racing against some of the best teams in the world, without a doubt some of the best drivers, too, you just can’t afford to have that happen. The race itself, I initially had a good start, picked up three spots, but kind of got caught up in someone else’s debacle in turn 9 which kind of shuffled me back. I think we just lacked pace. In the end, I’m just really grateful for all of the support I’ve had from my partners and the whole SPM team, and I hope I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do this all over again, hopefully in St. Pete next year.”

Max Chilton: “My target for the year was to win the (Indianapolis) 500, finish in the top 10 in the championship, and later it was to catch Tony (Kanaan) in the championship. We nearly won the 500, finished a few points out of the top 10, and Tony finished just in front of me, so we just missed out on our targets barely. But I think the Gallagher team should feel pretty good about what we did accomplish.”

Scott Dixon: “It just seems like the No. 3 car covered us. Every time we short-pitted they followed us and he was just a massive roadblock. Once we got into clean air, we were able to make up ground, but every time we got into traffic we got real loose. Huge credit to everyone on the NTT Data crew obviously not the way we wanted to finish. A big congrats to Penske and Josef (Newgarden) on a job well done.”

Tony Kanaan: “Starting the race being hit from behind on the first lap really took away any chances that we had to have a good race. We had to come in right away for a flat tire and once we got shuffled back with the unplanned stop it was almost impossible to get back toward the front. I’d say overall, it’s been a difficult season for myself and the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. We’ve had a lot of things go wrong that we couldn’t control and some that we could, but I’m going into the offseason very optimistic about next season. NTT Data has been a great partner for me over the last three years and it’s been great to see that partnership grow. I want to thank Chip (Ganassi) and the whole Chip Ganassi Racing team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this team and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Will Power: “It was pretty obvious a couple races ago that we were in trouble after Gateway, so yeah, I mean, it’s great for the team. Obviously, you want to be the one that wins it, but it’s very tough these days, and you’ve got to have a very solid year to get it done, and when I look at this year, no one made mistakes. You see the top six there, top six or seven are the top six or seven almost every race. We had some ups and downs with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team, but it was a good year. We won some races and some poles. We’ll give it another go next year.”

Zachary Claman DeMelo: “Jack Harvey and Tony Kanaan came together and they got stuck and slowed down a bit more than I anticipated. I just clipped Harvey, who was really close, and unfortunately, I broke the front wing which forced us to make an early pit stop. After that, the pace was really good. I just tried to do my own thing, but unfortunately dropped a lap down. I ran with some quick guys like Will Power and Helio (Castroneves), and drove away from Helio. I made some positions back on lapped traffic and ended up finishing 17th. It was a good day. I learned a lot and want to thank Paysafe for the opportunity. It’s nice to complete my first race and get this many laps in. Overall I’m happy with the day.”

Carlos Munoz: “The first pit stop we had a problem and we lost some time there. It maybe cost us three positions. We had quite a good pace compared to the others. It’s been a tough season but I think in the end we finished pretty good. We had some ups and downs. Thank you to all the team and ABC Supply for the season and we’ll see what happens.”

Graham Rahal: “We had a great race and raised more money for United Rentals and the Turns for Troops program. We went out there and pushed as hard as we could. The Honda engine got us great fuel mileage so that made life a little bit easier. We could attack for quite a lot of the race. Obviously tires were key today. They went off a lot. We tried as hard as we could to make some good passes, but I think sixth is the best that we could expect this weekend. I tried to get by Helio (Castroneves) there near the end, but came up a little bit short. I was in front of him but he broke really late, which I would have done too, and just slid across my front. We have finished fourth, fifth, and now sixth in the standings this year. Our team is doing a good job. We have a lot to be proud of this year. We have to just keep pushing as hard as we can. I hope we can come out on top next year.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “We started off pretty strong this week and felt really good the first couple of days but then we lost it on Friday afternoon. I don’t know what we did wrong, or what I did wrong, but we couldn’t find the pace we had earlier in the week. Today’s race was a pretty miserable day with nothing really to fight for. It’s never the kind of race you want to have. It’s disappointing, but it was a bit a reflection of our year with highs and lows. We’ll forget about 2017 and look forward and hope to have a better stretch next year.”

Ed Jones: “I had a good start and gained quite a few positions. I attacked really hard because I knew that would be the best opportunity to make up any ground. After that, we had pretty decent pace. We ran 12th for a long time and we were on course to finish 11th. Maybe we could have even slipped into the top 10. That’s our first technical failure of the whole season. Obviously, it’s frustrating that it happened at the end. But then again, everything has gone so well so far that it’s going to happen eventually. It’s just too bad that it happened at the last one. I want to thank Dale (Coyne) and (his wife) Gail and the whole team for the opportunity they gave me this season. I hope we can do it again next year.”

Spencer Pigot: “I damaged my front wing on the first lap by getting into James (Hinchcliffe) at the top of Turn 3. It was definitely not my intent to ruin their race, so apologies to James and all of his crew. That incident also made a long race for us. We were forced to save fuel and just pound around out there just to see what positions we could make up. Overall, I learned a lot this year and I’m excited to be back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car in 2018.”

JR Hildebrand: “It just felt good to put in a good race. I really enjoy this track and I had a lot of friends and family in the crowd, so that’s always fun. We diced it up pretty good early in the race in the first couple of stints. We had one particularly bad stint. We had a set of (Firestone alternate) reds that just went off big time and lost a lot of track position. After that, we kept getting caught behind cars we were quicker than, but we were catching them too late in the stints to do anything about it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make totally good on what was a pretty good day in terms of overall pace. All in all, I’m glad to be back on track here and had fun out there. We’ll see what goes on from here.”

Takuma Sato: “It was an unforgettable season. I had a great time in the team and we are so bonded for the No. 26 boys. I can’t thank every single person in the entire Andretti Autosport family enough. It was a great time and we achieved something, an unbelievable (Indianapolis 500) win. (Today’s result is) a shame, we wanted to finish strong but this is motor racing. I really appreciate everybody’s support. Thank you for everything. It’s been a tough, roller coaster season but we showed tremendous speed, especially for the last six races. It’s unbelievable, always (being) one of the top Hondas. That’s something I’m really proud of with the No. 26 boys and it was a fabulous year so thank you for everything.”

Marco Andretti: “I think we pretty much maximized our pace today. We probably could have gotten (Graham) Rahal, but I couldn’t hold him on black (Firestone tires). I was on cold blacks and I locked up, so I did the best I could to keep him behind me. It was pretty obvious the Penske cars were in a league of their own so we were just trying to maximize what we had going on. We don’t come here to finish seventh but it’s a decent result, it’s something to build on. I really think the (2018) package will be way more to my strengths. I struggle in the high-speed corners, I struggled in (Turn) 6 today so I need to get a grip on that. I don’t just want to turn the page after not being great this year, I want to figure out why we weren’t great. I have no doubt next year we can be on it. I tidied up my street course game, which was my old weakness, so I think if we get my strength back on the short ovals, where I used to be good, who knows?”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I don’t know what happened on the start, but (our lane) didn’t go and I got jumped by three or four cars there. It was kind of a mess. We were just in recovery mode from there, trying to get back up where we started. We made some setup changes before the race that didn’t work out. Often in this sport it’s trial and error, and we found what didn’t work today. Disappointing finish to the race but all in all, looking at where we were in the championship points leaving Indy, to finish ninth in the championship, we clawed our way back many, many spots. But, we’re here to win races, win championships and we’ve certainly had our fair share of misfortune this year but there’s also a lot we could have done better. We’ll have to put all that together and hopefully have a little bit better luck next year and be a stronger overall effort.”

Charlie Kimball: “I think as predicted by a lot of people, today’s race was a lot about tire fall-off. We fought rear grip and traction for most of the day, especially after about four or five laps in a stint. Overall I’m proud of the guys on the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. They didn’t give up today and they haven’t given up all year. They kept their chins up and kept pushing as hard as they could. I think the 83 crew doesn’t know the definition of giving up. I’m appreciative of everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing for the last seven years and I’m not sure what the future holds. I’ll relax tonight and get back to work on next season tomorrow.”

Alexander Rossi: “It was a pretty disappointing day, to have a mechanical issue after the first stop. I think we were in a pretty decent position to possibly get in the top five after our opening stint but it wasn’t meant to be today. A huge shout out to the NAPA Auto Parts team and the Andretti-Herta boys for the hard work back in the garage to get us back out there, we picked up another spot. To close the season off this way is disappointing but at the same time, there’s a huge amount of positives we can take from the year and I can’t wait to get started again in 2018.”

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