Simon Pagenaud takes Sonoma victory as Josef Newgarden takes title

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Accomplished Kiwi driver Dixon crossed the line fourth at the Grand Prix of Sonoma, allowing second-placed American Josef Newgarden to claim a maiden series crown.

"This is so cool".

"To finally get it done is a dream come true". "It is just awesome".

Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, earned fifth place in this year's standings, with Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sixth. His three teammates were the only other contenders for the title.

The Team Penske driver blistered the 12-turn, 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway with a track record lap of 1:15.5205 for a speed of 113.691 miles per hour in the No. 2 Chevrolet.

While Power, Newgarden, Castroneves and most of the other contenders opted for the standard three pit stops, Pagenaud and team strategist Tim Cindric made a decision 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. Once we got clear track, we were able to hunt them down. Pagenaud opted for a four-stop strategy to Newgarden's three pit stops, but the Frenchman made up the time by running faster laps on open track.

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. "I was trying to get Pagenaud there because that's what I normally do, I try to win the race whenever possible", Newgarden said. They were giving me a lot of help today.

Power finished the race in third to give Team Penske a podium sweep.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Dixon just couldn't find a way past the other Penske cars to have a crack at Newgarden.

"I was 100 percent ticked off", he said. I think we did just that.

Penske has seen many pivot points in his 51 years as team owner of the most successful racing operation in history.

"Without a doubt", said Team Penske president Tim Cindric. "I'm so proud of these guys".

Simon Pagenaud won the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma to conclude the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, while Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden finished second to wrap up the championship.

In a rather straightforward affair to round out the season, Newgarden did not let the pressure get to him in qualifying, taking pole position to extend his points lead over Scott Dixon with an additional bonus score. He knows all about success - Newgarden's title was the 15 Indy vehicle championship for Team Penske and the third in the last four season. "Obviously not where we want to finish in the championship, but congrats to Penske and Josef on a job well done".

"I can't say enough about the driver", said Cindric, who presides over Roger Penske's multifaceted racing operation, which also includes entries in NASCAR and Australian Supercars.

Asked if he would trade one of his Indy 500 wins for a championship Castroneves quickly replied with a big smile, "Heck no!"

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