Josef Newgarden became a two-time series champion today at Laguna Seca. The young American driver captured his second title in three years while holding off teammate Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi. Neither of those two drivers finished on the podium on Sunday, so Newgarden’s cautious approach to the 90-lap race worked out well as he managed an 8th place finish to win the championship officially by 25 points over Simon. It is the 16th NTT IndyCar Series championship for Team Penske and their fourth in the last six years.
Colton Herta won the race from pole position, leading 83 of the 90 laps en route to his second victory of the season. Will Power was just behind Herta in 2nd place, and Scott Dixon captured his 10th podium of the season, the most in the series this year. Pagenaud battled hard all afternoon but finished in 4th place. Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five after starting the race in 14th position. The Ganassi driver edged out Herta by five points to capture the Rookie of the Year Award for the 2019 season. Felix and Colton also finished 6th and 7th in the overall standings.
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Box Score
Despite finishing 2nd in the championship to his teammate, Pagenaud was able to see the big picture, and just how special his 2019 season was. “I thought we gave a great show for the fans, and it was a great crowd out here today, and there’s nothing to be disappointed about. I tried as hard as I could all weekend. You saw me drive with my heart. I won Indianapolis this year. There’s nothing to be disappointed about. We finished second. That’s the second time we’re second in the championship. We won the championship in ’16. I think the numbers talk for themselves.”
After finishing runner-up last year, Rossi was 3rd this season just 33 points behind Josef. Fortunately for himself and Simon, they have their future driving plans all locked up. The Indianapolis 500 winners will be competing for championships for the foreseeable future. “Josef came into this thing with a pretty big lead and if it had gone away on double points I would have loved it, but ultimately it probably wouldn’t have been the outcome that should have happened. Josef did a great job, Simon did a good job there at the end, and we just were a couple points short.”
Sebastien Bourdais had been battling neck pain all weekend, and not only was able to drive, but he raced his way up to a 7th place finish after starting back in the 19th position. It was a solid afternoon for the Frenchman, who just completed his first full season without a win since 2013. James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay had quiet days, but both scored top-ten finishes. Hunter-Reay was also winless this season, for the third time in the last four years.
For the first time since his rookie year in 1998, Tony Kanaan failed to lead a single lap all season. Despite rumblings of a possible new home next season, Kanaan has a handshake agreement with AJ Foyt to return to the team next year.
Despite not winning the Indianapolis 500 or the series championship, it wasn’t all bad for Honda. They won eight races this season and scored their second consecutive Engine Manufacturer’s championship.
Between Herta winning his second race as a rookie, Newgarden winning his second championship at the age of 28, and the likes of Rossi, Rosenqvist, and Indy Lights drivers moving up, the future of IndyCar looks brighter than ever.
Another season is in the record books, and the attention now turns toward 2020. The first step comes in just ten days when Dixon and Power will be testing the new aeroscreen on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
COLTON HERTA: “Yeah, it was a perfect race. Whenever you win an INDYCAR race, it has to be a perfect race. You can’t really make mistakes and get away with it, just because there’s always two or three other guys on that day that can win. For sure there was a few guys that could win today, and we just outdid them. We had the pace on them, and we were definitely the best today, so we definitely deserved to win.”
WILL POWER: “It was very impressive. Yeah, I mean he (Colton Herta) does a great job. I was hoping he would make a little mistake, but no mistakes. Man, I was giving it everything I got. I think we had a slightly quicker car, but he hung on. Yeah, he’s going to be tough when he gets a bit of experience.”
SCOTT DIXON: “The car was by far better on the red Firestone tires than the black primaries. There was a ton of tire degradation and it kind of threw us for a loop. Great result for PNC Bank, great for Honda winning the manufacturer title and great for Felix for the Rookie title. It was a hard-fought battle with Simon at the end and hope it was a good show as we haven’t been back at Laguna Seca for some time.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Overall I thought it was an amazing race. I thought we gave a great show for the fans, and it was a great crowd out here today, and there’s nothing to be disappointed about. I tried as hard as I could all weekend. You saw me drive with my heart. I won Indianapolis this year. There’s nothing to be disappointed about. We finished second. That’s the second time we’re second in the championship. We won the championship in ’16. I think the numbers talk for themselves. Do I want to win the championship? Of course. But I’m just equally happy for Josef and the whole team, to wrap up the Indy 500 and the championship in one year is just absolutely incredible. I had a blast. I had a blast today. It was disappointing not to get Dixon because I really thought I had a shot for the win and Herta. But it is what it is. I tried everything I had and it didn’t work out.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “Today was exciting with Colton starting P1 and us in 14th for the Rookie battle. He led almost every lap. We managed to pass a ton of cars and executed perfectly. Well-deserved for all the NTT DATA guys on a season-long effort. I think I used a lot of anger from yesterday to move forward. It was a great way to finish the season and I can’t wait until next year with this team.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “It is the way it goes. We started on the used Firestones. We knew ultimately the guys were Scott (Dixon) and Colton (Herta) because we knew we needed to win the race. We went opposite of them on tire choice on the grid. It was a gamble. We made the decision this morning if we were going to go for it, we would rather finish third than second and be complacent. It is the way the chips fell. Nonetheless, I think the (No.) 27 NAPA Andretti Honda had some highlights this year. Ultimately, we just weren’t good enough. We need to regroup and work hard this offseason.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “It was a wonderful way to finish the season for the No. 18 SealMaster Honda team. It was a heck of a race for us. We started 19th and about lap 11 I got in a groove. The car was clearly good and we started to show our pace. Then we gained a lot of positions on the overcut (pitting later) and we did that pretty much the whole race. The yellow also really benefitted us. It regrouped everyone and at the end, we were on new red tires (Firestone alternative tire). It was a really positive note to end the season, going from 19th to seventh in a straight-up fight. We’ll definitely take that and move into 2020 looking for more success.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “I’m just happy it’s done with, to be honest with you. I’ve been dreading the last couple weeks because I don’t think it really hits you until you get finally to Laguna or after Portland I should say, two weeks to go, because then you really realize the points situation. It’s just such a stressful deal with double points. I hated it. I hated thinking about it, and I know we didn’t build up enough of a gap to make it super easy on ourselves, and I was just kind of dreading it, to be honest with you. Just didn’t know what was going to happen today, and I just wanted to make sure we secured the championship because I felt like our guys deserved it. Everyone works really hard in this paddock. It doesn’t matter which team or what driver you are. I think everyone works really hard. I’m pretty intimate with my guys and know how hard they work personally, and I just wanted them to be rewarded with the championship. That was weighing on me a lot. I was just happy we were able to get through today. It was kind of a chaotic event. There were moments where I didn’t think it was going to go our way. We kind of set a strategy and stuck to it, and I don’t know that it was working out part way through, but then you saw towards the end, the way things were positioned, it ended up being okay, which made me really pleased. But I think we were trying to cover our bases as a team. The most important thing was for a Team Penske car to win the championship, and that’s the way we devised our strategy, and you hope it works out in your favor, but ultimately what’s important is the team winning the championship, and that was our plan. Just really proud of everybody. I’m just so thankful to have the opportunity, and I’m just happy it’s over with, to be honest with you. I can’t wait to go into this offseason. I think it’s going to be a nice little rest before next year.
10th – RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “We had a good start and picked up a spot. On our first stop, we had an issue where the car stalled. Not sure what the reason yet – looks like a timing issue with selecting first gear or potentially a boost issue. We fell to last and had to pass 12 cars to make it up to where we finished in 10th. We had a fun day out there and I passed a lot of cars. But it made it more work than it needed to be. We picked up a position in points but then tied with Colton (Herta).”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “We just didn’t get all of the fuel in on the first stop. We had to drive a defensive race with an arm tied behind our back the whole time. The potential was so much greater. The U.S. Concrete car was hooked up. We had a monster start. We did everything we needed to do. We just didn’t get all of the fuel in on that first stop and that set the day.”
MAX CHILTON: “I felt like I drove a technically perfect race today. I was aggressive off the start and really good around Turn 2. Unfortunately we got sandwiched in (Turn) three, which gave me some damage and I got swamped a little bit. Once the race settled down three or four laps in, I did the best overtake of my life in Turn 5 around the outside of Daly, then we were on good pace and toward the end of the stint, I was able to get Rahal. Unfortunately I think that we pitted too early because then Rahal ended up getting back past us on the stops, which should’ve never happened. After that I was behind too many people and it took all race to get past them. We had one minor issue in the pits as well where we had to wait to come out that cost us some time. I think those things combined cost us a top-10 finish. The good thing is that we showed solid pace all weekend and we can be proud of that heading into next season.”
CONOR DALY: “After sort of getting shoved off the track at the beginning, I think we had a pretty good car. Our car conserved tires really well and treated our tires nicely to be able to make some moves back forward. I misjudged trying to go around Marco (Andretti). I thought he was giving me the position then I got in the marbles too much in the brake zone. That was my fault. It’s a shame, that’s on me. After that, I was just driving around. It was great to represent U.S. Air Force this weekend. We had a few difficult times but just tried to the best we could.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “We were having a good race but then on the restart I forgot to put the brake bias back to the rear, and going into Turn 1 I locked the fronts. I knew I was going to hit (Takuma) Sato, so I just tried to hit him square to do the minimal amount of damage, but sadly I ended up with most of it. I’m sorry to him and his team for messing up their race. It was my mistake. Looking back, I feel pretty good about our season as a whole. I feel it went exceptionally well. It’s just unfortunate because I think today is the only mistake I made all year. It’s not the way I wanted to end the season but overall we’ve had a great year and I think we can be proud of that.”
JACK HARVEY: “It’s a bit obvious to say that this weekend is not how we wanted to end our year. We’ve been on such a good momentum swing and there’s really only two places where we have lacked pace. I’m just sad that we tested so well here and we weren’t able to replicate that during the race weekend. Overall we’ve learned a lot as a team this year and we’ve come a long way as a team and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
ED JONES: “It was a frustrating weekend and even though we didn’t quite have the pace, we worked hard during the race. Obviously the restarts are quite eventful, when it goes green you are allowed to pass and it seems a lot of people didn’t realize that going into Turn 11. I made up a few places, then again into Turn 2 I was making up some more. We were on the outside of the track when another car just drove straight into us. Unfortunately, it damaged the car and we had to retire from the race.”
TONY KANAAN: “It was an okay race for us. I think we were actually pretty competitive in the beginning. We struggled with the race pace all weekend long, so I think by the end of the day we should have been a couple tenths quicker a lap to be able to be more competitive, but we did what we could do. Looking forward to what’s next. I want to thank ABC Supply for all the years that they helped this team. We have a long offseason now, so we have a lot of time to work on the things that we think are going to have to be better. We’ll be back next year, reset and start again.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL: “A huge credit to the Carlin guys – they’ve worked so hard all year. Unfortunately we weren’t able to give them a couple of top-10 finishes to close out the season, which are the results that they deserve with all of the effort they put in week in and week out. It was a hard race. The tires degraded as we expected. I think not everyone knew what tire to be on between the Firestone alternate and primary tires, which created some really good racing. The guys did a great job in pit lane and I’m proud to be able to bring it home in 15th after starting 20th , especially with some of the on-track battles I had. I’m just really proud of the (No.) 23 crew. Everyone at Carlin works so hard from management to engineering to business ops and especially the mechanics.”
MATHEUS LEIST: “Overall a difficult race today, I thought we had a better pace. We made some changes after qualifying and I feel like we didn’t go in the right direction today. Our tire degradation was pretty high with both types of tires. Still it was a fun race, I think we were in the mix back there, not where we wanted to be but still in the mix and not so far off the pace. I felt that towards the end of the year we gained some pace with the car and the car setup overall. We’re still far away from where we want to be but we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully we will be back next year.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “It was not a very strong race for us. I am disappointed to end the season on this kind of note. There were some positives throughout the year that we can look back on, but also some areas we need to work on. I want to thank everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing for always trying their best and making the most of every situation! We’ll work to be better next time.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “Today was a tough day. I thought at times that we had decent pace and at other times we really struggled with the rear of the car. We’re just missing a little something. We’ve been close this year but not quite there. I’m proud of our mechanics and all of the guys for keeping their heads down and continuing to work hard. It wasn’t the easiest of years but everyone stayed positive and fought until the end. We’re thankful for all of our partners and looking forward to 2020.”
TAKUMA SATO: “I think the season was great. It was a little bit up and down of course but we achieved a couple of pole positions, a couple of podiums and two wins and I think it was a great season. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support. We had some difficult circumstances but the team was fully behind me and I was able to push all the way through the season. In the race, we had some issues and a mechanical failure in the end. It is a shame that we couldn’t finish high and try to get fifth in the championship. In the end we dropped significantly in the standings. The No. 30 car ran beautifully this season with Graham and I pushing each other all season. We will come back even stronger next season and I’m really looking forward to that. Thank you to everyone for their support.”
ZACH VEACH: “We were a bit of a pinball out there today. We made a mistake on our side, had the car way too low with the fuel load. We really struggled the first five to six laps of a stint because the bottoming was so bad. The team did an awesome job to combat that with tire pressures and other things. We figured it out after our first stop and were on our way moving forward and got up to 14th, running right behind Marco (Andretti), then was just under fire from Spencer Pigot. He just cooked it a little too hard in the corner and punted both of us off of Turn 2. That was frustrating. We lost a few spots in that incident then when I got to the Corkscrew, I got hit again and pushed off the track and lost another three spots. It was a bad lap but we did the best we could with what we had. I can’t thank Gainbridge enough for everything this year. My entire crew and Mark Bryant and everything he has done to help me for these last four races. It has been such a good end of the year for us as far as getting things done.”