Newgarden secured only his second pole position of his Verizon IndyCar Series career, and now sits four points ahead of Scott Dixon in the championship heading into the double points finale, although Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power also remain in contention.
Penske teammate and defending series champ Simon Pagenaud won the race after adopting a four-stop strategy that proved the better option and saw him claim runner-up honours in the title fight. If he didn't finish off a first championship in his first season with the power team, well that would be disappointing, at age 26, but he planned on having many future campaigns ahead.
From there, Pagenaud and team hoped that the race ran without incident, as a caution would potentially doom their efforts.
The final IndyCar standings show Newgarden with 642 points, Pagenaud with 629, Dixon with 621, Castroneves at 598 and Power with 562. Despite that success, Penske grabbed Newgarden when he became a free agent and booted Indianapolis 500 victor Juan Pablo Montoya from his ride to make room for the young driver.
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. "We tried. We won the race".
"Honestly, I wasn't sure we'd get this one, but we knew the auto was fast and it was good to get it done".
"We did what we had to do", Pagenaud said. Although his strategy was different from his teammates, it put Pagenaud out front after his final stop. "I was really surprised on the second stint how strong we were compared to everybody". A victory for Dixon would give him the second most championships all-time behind only the legendary A.J. Foyt. That broke the previous track record of 1:16.2565 (112.594 mph) set by Pagenaud in Round 1 of last year's qualifications. Tim (Cindric) was telling me to be patient and not do anything stupid.
"I was using my natural instincts", Newgarden said. The key lap came with 23 laps to go, when Pagenaud exited in front of Newgarden. "I was steaming in the auto because I didn't win when I was doing everything to win".
Fitting for IndyCar's newest champion. "Right now let's celebrate the championship".
He has one, though, which is one more than a lot of others.
"We're not NASCAR, we're IndyCar racing, and there's only one race in the world like Indianapolis", Penske said. "We need to come back tomorrow and complete the job". I thought we did just that today as a team, myself as a driver, my engineer, my strategist, my guys, my crew in the pit stops.
Josef Newgarden finished second at Sonoma to claim his maiden Indycar title.