Newgarden clinches maiden IndyCar title in Sonoma finale

Josef Newgarden

The order in the standings was Dixon in third followed by Castroneves and Power.

Newgarden looked certain to win after starting the race from pole position and leading much of the race. His strategy and Pagenaud's finally converged during the last sequence of stops. "Thirteen points. Next year we'll come back and give him a hell of a competition again".

The decisive moment of the race came when Pagenaud made his final stop for fuel and tires from the lead on Lap 64.

You wouldn't have known it from Newgarden's aggression over those first couple of laps of the final stint, though.

Pagenaud didn't make it easy on Newgarden, who needed to finish in the top three at Sonoma to claim the season crown.

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

"I was 100 percent ticked off", he said. I am so proud of my team, said Newgarden, age 26 of Nashville, TN.

"It was hard [at the end]; I was using my natural instinct, trying to get Pagenaud because that's what I naturally do - try to win". That broke the previous track record of 1:16.2565 (112.594 mph) set by Pagenaud in Round 1 of last year's qualifications. He felt silly, he said, like a boxer at a title fight. "It was a long shot, but I was in a very attacking mood this weekend and I thought, 'Why not, let's try.' The strategy worked out really, really well and it was impressive". I can barely lift my arms.

"It was a strong season - obviously not where we wanted to finish in the championship". Once we got clear track, we were able to hunt them down. "I know I've been on the other end of that". We came up short this year, but we defended really well. I think we did just that.

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Sunday's championship was the culmination of a dream for Newgarden, who despite his rapid rise to prominence has remained remarkably humble and level-headed.

Australia's Will Power gave Penske a podium sweep and Chip Ganassi Racing's Dixon finished fourth - and third in the title chase, 21 points behind Newgarden.

"It seemed like the (No.) 3 (Castroneves) just covered us", Dixon said. "We were just going to do what Josef did and hang behind him all day unless something happened".

But he did not have the speed to match Newgarden and Pagenaud, who finished one-two in the title standings, while New Zealand's Scott Dixon was third after his fifth placing.

"That's the most I've ever pushed in an IndyCar race", he added.

"My job was to keep Josef focused", said Cindric, president of Team Penske. Andretti Autosport secured the next three positions in the championship, with Alexander Rossi seventh, Takuma Sato eighth and Ryan Hunter-Reay ninth.

Remarkably, the entire race was completed without a caution.

IndyCar debutant Zachary Claman DeMelo was 13 for RLLR.

James Hinchcliffe's day was derailed when he was helped into a spin by contact with Spencer Pigot.

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