We did what we had to do - we won the race, and it wasn't quite enough. "I just told him to be smart, that we weren't racing [Pagenaud] for the championship right now".
Newgarden seemingly had every reason to be concerned entering the weekend, after allowing a 31-point lead to melt to just three after a self-induced incident exiting the pits two weeks ago at Watkins Glen relegated him to an 18th-place finish.
The race ran caution-free for the first time in Sonoma Raceway history. "I want to congratulate Josef on an fantastic year". He knows all about success - Newgarden's title was the 15 Indy auto championship for Team Penske and the third in the last four season. It's a huge team effort at Team Penske.
"Last night my engineer texted me and said we were going to try four stops, because he said that's the best way for the championship if there's a yellow", Pagenaud related. "Whenever we pitted short, they pitted with us and he was just a massive roadblock". The teammates battled hard and raced wheel-to-wheel before Cindric reminded Newgarden he didn't need to win the race to win the championship.
The Tennessee driver held off Dixon, as well as teammates Pagenaud, Will Power and Helio Castroneves to win the championship.
Pagenaud emerged from his late final stop ahead of Newgarden, who couldn't find a way past, finishing 1.0986 behind Pagenaud - but 13 points ahead of him in the final season standings.
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.More news: May hopes to boost Bombardier on trade mission to Canada
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Newgarden has the charisma to relieve some of the face-of-the-sport burden from James Hinchcliffe, and doing so as a champion would certainly have more cachet.
While Power, Newgarden, Castroneves and most of the other contenders opted for the standard three pit stops, Pagenaud and team strategist Tim Cindric chose to go with a four stop strategy, which allows a driver to be more aggressive by having fresher tires and not having to stretch fuel mileage.
"This means so much to me and the sport", said Newgarden, a United States flag draped over his shoulders. "I was trying to get Pagenaud there because it's what I normally do".
He became the third Penske driver in four years to win the title, along with Power in 2014 and Pagenaud last year. I tried to win the race.
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. "And I plan on getting at least one more".
"To me, I see it on a very upward motion today, and we're going to do everything we can in order to support that from a Team Penske perspective". "And as long as we put our arms around the Indianapolis 500 and have the ability to go and come back each year, we've got a great series, and I think the media is starting to pick that up".
Josef Newgarden's family celebrates his IndyCar championship with happy tears.