Perfect Penske day ends with Pagenaud race win, Newgarden crown

Australian Indy Car driver Will Power has claimed third place at the Grand Prix of Sonoma

Newgarden won his first IndyCar championship by closing out the best year of his career as the top driver at Team Penske.

Tim Cindric on Josef Newgarden's arrival to the team and championship year.

Newgarden is only the second American in 11 years to win the IndyCar title. At age 26, he's the fresh young face IndyCar needed to win. The track was really gripped up from the earlier race.

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.

The leap frogging of positions continued until Pagenaud made his fourth and final stop on lap 64.

Newgarden had the warmer tires, but he couldn't get past the Frenchman, who was making his auto as wide as possible. Newgarden won the championship (the 15 for Team Penske) by 13 points over teammate Simon Pagenaud, who took the checkered flag Sunday. 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.

While Newgarden won four races, the Kiwi managed just one victory, at the Kohler Grand Prix in Wisconsin. Newgarden came in second at Sonoma, but that was enough to give him the season win.

An ecstatic Josef Newgarden, driver of the #2 hum roars in delight during the competition.

Newgarden became the third Penske driver in four years to win the title; the others were Will Power in 2014 and Pagenaud last year. I didn't really know how it was going to work out for me.

"I think we're in a good place right now, but we want to be in an wonderful place".

Pagenaud went on to win the race, his second victory of 2017, just 1.0986 seconds ahead of Newgarden, who won the most races in the series with four. "We crashed out of a few as well and they are all valuable points", he said.

The Toowoomba driver went into the final round fifth in the championship and that is where he stayed as he finished the season 80 points behind champion Newgarden.

"I think he's going to be a tremendous champion", Pagenaud remarked.

"I'm exhausted. That was as hard as I could drive for 85 laps", said Pagenaud, the defending IndyCar champion.

He has one, though, which is one more than a lot of others. There was a lot to gain and a lot to lose, and to be able to win the race and end up first and second in the points is a big day, for sure.

"The tires came up to temp pretty quick, and I knew Josef wasn't going to take any risks".

Castroneves wrapped up fourth in the standings by finishing fifth in the race in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

"We did what we had to do", Pagenaud said. Completing his 20th year racing Indy cars, the 42-year-old Brazilian is still in search of a first series championship.

As it turned out, the race ran caution-free, but the Frenchman didn't need the benefit of a mid-race reset.

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