Pagenaud wins race, Newgarden title at Sonoma
Simon Pagenaud used a 4 pitstop strategy to get out ahead of then race leader Josef Newgarden after the final pitstop to win the Sonoma Go-Pro Grand Prix, but it was not enough to overtake Newgarden for the 2017 IndyCar title.
Will Power was right behind Newgarden at the end to give Team Penske a 1-2-3 finish and a 1-2-3 in the championship.
Scott Dixon came home 4th while Helio Castroneves rounded out the top-5 in what might be his last IndyCar race.
Pagenaud, the 2016 champion driving the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, beat Newgarden to the finish line by 1.0986 seconds to win the 85-lap race at Sonoma Raceway. It was the Frenchman's 11th career victory and second straight on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn permanent road course. A year ago, Pagenaud won from the pole position at Sonoma to sew up his first championship.
"I don't even know what to say," said Newgarden, the driver of the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who made his 100th career start today. "It was all year and it took a lot to make it happen. Thank you to my teammates. They were giving me a lot of help to make sure we got this done. It's a huge team effort at Team Penske.
"To finally get it done is a dream come true."
The championship is the 15th for Team Penske, the most decorated team in Indy car history. Newgarden joins the likes of Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish Jr., Will Power and Pagenaud as Team Penske drivers to win an Indy car title.
"I've had so many great drivers, and as I said, I don't have a favorite," team owner Roger Penske said. "I can't compare (Newgarden) to anyone exactly. He's an American, which is special in this sport because many of the other drivers have come from overseas and different parts of the world. To see Josef kind of take this route and be at the top right now is pretty exciting."
The race ran caution-free for the first time in Sonoma Raceway history, which now spans 14 Indy car events. Newgarden and Pagenaud each led 41 laps. Pagenaud opted for a four-stop strategy to Newgarden's three pit stops, but the Frenchman made up the extra time in pit lane by turning faster laps on an open track.
The decisive race moment came when Pagenaud made his final stop from the lead for fuel and tires on Lap 64. He returned to the track just ahead of the charging Newgarden and held on to first place as the teammates battled around the track. From there, Pagenaud kept Newgarden in his mirrors to the finish.
Pagenaud completed all 2,331 laps this season, becoming just the second driver to finish every lap in a season. Tony Kanaan was the first, when he completed all 3,305 laps when he won the 2004 championship.
"We did what we had to do," Pagenaud said. "We tried. We won the race; it wasn't enough. It's a whole championship. You've got to be strong in every race and I guess Josef was a little stronger this year, so we'll come back. Thirteen points. Next year we'll come back and give him a hell of a competition again."
Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, gave Team Penske a race podium sweep by placing third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske. Scott Dixon finished fourth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing to clinch third in the standings, 23 points behind Newgarden. It is the 11th time in his 17-year career that Dixon, a four-time champion, has finished in the top three in points.
Helio Castroneves wrapped up fourth in the standings by finishing fifth in the race driving the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Completing his 20th year racing Indy cars, the 42-year-old Brazilian is still in search of his first series championship.
By finishing third in the race, Power - the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion - earned fifth place in the standings.
An hour-long special documenting the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season and Newgarden's championship will air at 7 p.m. ET Sept. 28 on NBCSN.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 HUM BY VERIZON CHEVROLET – 2017 Champion
YOU ARE AN INDYCAR CHAMPION. HOW DOES THAT SOUND?
“Oh, that’s awesome. It’s just so cool. I’m so proud of these guys. I don’t even know what to say. It was all year. It took a lot to make this happen. Thank you to my teammates. They were giving me a lot of help today in making sure that we got this done. It’s a huge team effort at Team Penske. So, it’s cool to do this with Verizon. Verizon does so much for the IndyCar Series. They’ve given fans such great access over the years. I’m happy to have this car for the championship. It’s super fitting; and all the other partners we’ve had at Team Penske. It’s just been phenomenal working with Team Chevy. We’ve had so many great partners on this car. And to finally get it done is a dream come true. It’s too awesome.”
YOU ARE THE FIRST CHAMPION IN THEIR 20’S IN ALMOST A DECADE. AND YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD A CAR THAT COULD WIN THIS RACE. HOW HARD WAS IT TO NOT TRY TO ATTACK AND WIN THIS RACE AT THE END AND JUST DO WHAT YOU NEEDED?
“It was hard. I was using my natural instincts. I was trying to get (Simon) Pagenaud there because that’s what I normally do. I try to win the race whenever possible. They were telling me to be patient and not do something stupid. I tried to get him, but I also tried not to do anything dumb for the team. Like I said, this has been a team effort. So, I’m happy for Pagenaud. He had the pace to win today, for sure; he’s very deserving. This entire group makes this happen. I’m so thankful and happy with everything that Team Penske has done. Congrats to everyone at the factory. This is an amazing amount of work that goes into this.”
YOU HAVE BEEN A POPULAR CHAMPION. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE FANS?
‘Thank you so much to the IndyCar fans. They are the best in the world. It’s only getting better. I swear. The IndyCar Series is growing. People know that we have great motorsports here, so tune-in. If you don’t know, and people don’t know, tell them what’s up with IndyCar racing. Come to the Indy 500 next year. Come watch the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. You will not be disappointed. Thank you for all your support.”
DID YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO TALK TO YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS?
“They’ve done so much for me. My dad put it all on the line, just like my mom. It’s a dream come true. I’m sure they’re happy, too!”
SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 1 DXC TECHNOLOGY CHEVROLET – Race Winner:
YOU SAID YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. YOU WENT WITH A FOUR-STOP STRATEGY, AND YOU HAD TO WORK FOR THIS ALL DAY
“I’m exhausted. That was as hard as I could drive for 85 laps nonstop. I can barely lift my arms right now. But I want to thank everybody on the DXC Team. It was a phenomenal, I think, all weekend. I want to congratulate Josef (Newgarden, 2017 Champion) of course, and Team Penske. Our team this weekend and all season showed how strong everybody is at Team Penske. It’s been phenomenal. It’s a great testament to a great team spirit. I’m very happy for him. He deserves it. We did what we had to do. We tried. We won the race. It wasn’t enough. But it’s a whole championship. You’ve got to be strong at every race and I guess Josef was a little stronger this year. We’re going to come back. Thirteen points makes you come back for the competition again.”
THE TWO OF YOU WERE VERY CLOSE ON YOUR FINAL PITSTOP WHEN YOU EXITED. YOU WERE AHEAD ON COLD TIRES. HOW DIFFICULT? AND YOU HAD TO PROTECT BUT MAKE SURE THERE WAS NOT CONTACT
“Yes. When I was in a preferred position, I was ahead. The tires came up to temperature really quick and I was really pushing the envelope all day. It just worked out. The tires came up to temp pretty quick and I knew Josef wasn’t going to take too many risks, either. It was a little difficult with the backmarkers, because we couldn’t get up and going. But, overall, what a beautiful day.”
WHAT DO YOU PASS ON TO YOUR TEAMMATE ABOUT THE JOB YOU’VE DONE AND THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A CHAMPION?
‘Well, I think obviously it’s a very competitive championship. It’s very rare to see a domination for many years. We came up short this year, but we defended really well. I’m so proud of our guys. I think we represented really well. But overall, I think it’s a team effort. But I think he’s going to be a tremendous champion. He’s American, which is great for the sport. And, he’s a kid. And I’ll tell you what, he’s very smart already.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): "I want to thank everybody on the DXC Technology Chevrolet team today. It was a phenomenal performance, I think, all weekend. I want to congratulate Josef (Newgarden), of course, and Team Penske. I think our team this weekend and the whole season showed how strong everybody is at Team Penske. Back-to-back champions. It's phenomenal. Great testament to a great team spirit and I'm very happy for him. He deserves it. We did what we had to do. We tried. We won the race; it wasn't enough. It's a whole championship. You've got to be strong on every race and I guess Josef was a little stronger this year so we'll come back. Thirteen points (behind). Next year we'll come back and give him a hell of a competition again."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I'm so proud of these guys. I don't even know what to say. It was all year. It took a lot to make this happen. Thank you to my teammates. They were giving me a lot of help today in making sure that we got this done. It's a huge team effort at Team Penske. So, it's cool to do this with Verizon. Verizon does so much for the IndyCar Series. They've given fans such great access over the years. I'm happy to have this car for the championship. It's super fitting; and all the other partners we've had at Team Penske. It's just been phenomenal working with Team Chevy. We've had so many great partners on this car. And to finally get it done is a dream come true. It's too awesome. It was hard. I was using my natural instincts. I was trying to get (Simon) Pagenaud there because that's what I normally do. I try to win the race whenever possible. They were telling me to be patient and not do something stupid. I tried to get him, but I also tried not to do anything dumb for the team. Like I said, this has been a team effort. So, I'm happy for Pagenaud. He had the pace to win today, for sure; he's very deserving. This entire group makes this happen. I'm so thankful and happy with everything that Team Penske has done. Congrats to everyone at the factory. This is an amazing amount of work that goes into this."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "I'm always going to focus on the positive thing. I'm not going to focus on Texas when we had a problem, or other races that I missed strategy or made mistakes. You've got to think about, again, it was another season that we pushed as hard as we could and another top four. And again, sometimes it's funny because you see the statistics, finished second - I finished second four times. But it was more times - the P4 is not what it represents because we were in a battle a lot more years than that. And that's what I look at. I look because each year that's what kept me motivated to come back and push hard, and that for me was hard. Sometimes it's - well, I try, but to get one - it's easy to follow from that position, but to keep up like I've been doing all these years, I think it's the hardest thing to do. But it doesn't just happen. It comes with a great team. It comes with great dedication from your guys, great trust, and obviously, myself to keep motivated, finding ways to keep pushing and having teammates like I have today, no question, helped me to become a better driver. The Hitachi Chevrolet team was great all season and I can't thank them enough for their hard work dedication."
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "I have to thank the boys for keeping faith in the strategy. It was a bold move to make the three-stop call. We were able to make the numbers but we got stuck behind (Jack) Harvey in the third part of that stint which was really frustrating. I think it impeded us from doing a little bit better. In the end, another top-10 which is really positive from where we started this weekend. It was a good consistent race. It was tough - there were a lot of moments of flying through the air and banging wheels with people. It was wild, so I'm just happy to come back in one piece and have another consistent finish to end the year. I'm happy to finally finish a double points race, I've never done that, so that was nice."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "Obviously not the ending to the race or to the year that we wanted. This weekend has been tough from rolling off the trailer on Thursday, but this team never gives up and we kept fighting. Really had high hopes for the race with some big changes overnight and we were going to go off-strategy to try and make some moves. After a good start, we made up a couple spots and then I was trying to set up someone going through Turn 3, and I guess Spencer (Pigot) just went for a gap that was closing and hit us, spun us out and put us to the back of the field and did some damage to the car. From there on it was tough just hanging on to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics machine. Like I said, we don't give up, and we kept digging, trying to make up whatever spots we could, but ultimately some damage was done to the electronics on the car and the gearbox electronics stopped working so I was stuck in gear. Very unfortunate, but still a lot to be proud of this season. A lot of bad luck came our way when we were running well, didn't get the results we wanted, but we already have our eyes on 2018. Looking forward to the new car and going into next season stronger. Thank you to everyone on this SPM team, Arrow and all of our supporters. Big congrats to Josef (Newgarden) on clinching the championship."
JACK HARVEY (No. 7 AutoNation Honda): "The highlight of our weekend was coming home to the checkered flag (laughs). It was nice to get to the end of the two races that we were able to do with SPM and bring home the AutoNation Sirius XM car in one piece. Although we weren't very quick today, I'm glad we were able to do that for the guys. I don't know exactly what, but we seemed to be missing something all weekend, and I think we missed it from the first session which put us on the back foot immediately. The thing is, when you're racing against some of the best teams in the world, without a doubt some of the best drivers, too, you just can't afford to have that happen. The race itself, I initially had a good start, picked up three spots, but kind of got caught up in someone else's debacle in turn 9 which kind of shuffled me back. I think we just lacked pace. In the end, I'm just really grateful for all of the support I've had from my partners and the whole SPM team, and I hope I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do this all over again, hopefully in St. Pete next year."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "My target for the year was to win the (Indianapolis) 500, finish in the top 10 in the championship, and later it was to catch Tony (Kanaan) in the championship. We nearly won the 500, finished a few points out of the top 10, and Tony finished just in front of me, so we just missed out on our targets barely. But I think the Gallagher team should feel pretty good about what we did accomplish."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "It just seems like the No. 3 car covered us. Every time we short-pitted they followed us and he was just a massive roadblock. Once we got into clean air, we were able to make up ground, but every time we got into traffic we got real loose. Huge credit to everyone on the NTT Data crew obviously not the way we wanted to finish. A big congrats to Penske and Josef (Newgarden) on a job well done."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "Starting the race being hit from behind on the first lap really took away any chances that we had to have a good race. We had to come in right away for a flat tire and once we got shuffled back with the unplanned stop it was almost impossible to get back toward the front. I'd say overall, it's been a difficult season for myself and the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. We've had a lot of things go wrong that we couldn't control and some that we could, but I'm going into the offseason very optimistic about next season. NTT Data has been a great partner for me over the last three years and it's been great to see that partnership grow. I want to thank Chip (Ganassi) and the whole Chip Ganassi Racing team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this team and I wish them nothing but the best."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was pretty obvious a couple races ago that we were in trouble after Gateway, so yeah, I mean, it's great for the team. Obviously, you want to be the one that wins it, but it's very tough these days, and you've got to have a very solid year to get it done, and when I look at this year, no one made mistakes. You see the top six there, top six or seven are the top six or seven almost every race. We had some ups and downs with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team, but it was a good year. We won some races and some poles. We'll give it another go next year."
ZACHARY CLAMAN DEMELO (No. 13 Paysafe Honda): "Jack Harvey and Tony Kanaan came together and they got stuck and slowed down a bit more than I anticipated. I just clipped Harvey, who was really close, and unfortunately, I broke the front wing which forced us to make an early pit stop. After that, the pace was really good. I just tried to do my own thing, but unfortunately dropped a lap down. I ran with some quick guys like Will Power and Helio (Castroneves), and drove away from Helio. I made some positions back on lapped traffic and ended up finishing 17th. It was a good day. I learned a lot and want to thank Paysafe for the opportunity. It's nice to complete my first race and get this many laps in. Overall I'm happy with the day."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "IThe first pit stop we had a problem and we lost some time there. It maybe cost us three positions. We had quite a good pace compared to the others. It's been a tough season but I think in the end we finished pretty good. We had some ups and downs. Thank you to all the team and ABC Supply for the season and we'll see what happens."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals / SoldierStrong Honda): "We had a great race and raised more money for United Rentals and the Turns for Troops program. We went out there and pushed as hard as we could. The Honda engine got us great fuel mileage so that made life a little bit easier. We could attack for quite a lot of the race. Obviously tires were key today. They went off a lot. We tried as hard as we could to make some good passes, but I think sixth is the best that we could expect this weekend. I tried to get by Helio (Castroneves) there near the end, but came up a little bit short. I was in front of him but he broke really late, which I would have done too, and just slid across my front. We have finished fourth, fifth, and now sixth in the standings this year. Our team is doing a good job. We have a lot to be proud of this year. We have to just keep pushing as hard as we can. I hope we can come out on top next year."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): "We started off pretty strong this week and felt really good the first couple of days but then we lost it on Friday afternoon. I don't know what we did wrong, or what I did wrong, but we couldn't find the pace we had earlier in the week. Today's race was a pretty miserable day with nothing really to fight for. It's never the kind of race you want to have. It's disappointing, but it was a bit a reflection of our year with highs and lows. We'll forget about 2017 and look forward and hope to have a better stretch next year."
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "I had a good start and gained quite a few positions. I attacked really hard because I knew that would be the best opportunity to make up any ground. After that, we had pretty decent pace. We ran 12th for a long time and we were on course to finish 11th. Maybe we could have even slipped into the top 10. That's our first technical failure of the whole season. Obviously, it's frustrating that it happened at the end. But then again, everything has gone so well so far that it's going to happen eventually. It's just too bad that it happened at the last one. I want to thank Dale (Coyne) and (his wife) Gail and the whole team for the opportunity they gave me this season. I hope we can do it again next year."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "I damaged my front wing on the first lap by getting into James (Hinchcliffe) at the top of Turn 3. It was definitely not my intent to ruin their race, so apologies to James and all of his crew. That incident also made a long race for us. We were forced to save fuel and just pound around out there just to see what positions we could make up. Overall, I learned a lot this year and I'm excited to be back in the Fuzzy's Vodka car in 2018."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It just felt good to put in a good race. I really enjoy this track and I had a lot of friends and family in the crowd, so that's always fun. We diced it up pretty good early in the race in the first couple of stints. We had one particularly bad stint. We had a set of (Firestone alternate) reds that just went off big time and lost a lot of track position. After that, we kept getting caught behind cars we were quicker than, but we were catching them too late in the stints to do anything about it. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make totally good on what was a pretty good day in terms of overall pace. All in all, I'm glad to be back on track here and had fun out there. We'll see what goes on from here."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It was an unforgettable season. I had a great time in the team and we are so bonded for the No. 26 boys. I can't thank every single person in the entire Andretti Autosport family enough. It was a great time and we achieved something, an unbelievable (Indianapolis 500) win. (Today's result is) a shame, we wanted to finish strong but this is motor racing. I really appreciate everybody's support. Thank you for everything. It's been a tough, roller coaster season but we showed tremendous speed, especially for the last six races. It's unbelievable, always (being) one of the top Hondas. That's something I'm really proud of with the No. 26 boys and it was a fabulous year so thank you for everything."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "I think we pretty much maximized our pace today. We probably could have gotten (Graham) Rahal, but I couldn't hold him on black (Firestone tires). I was on cold blacks and I locked up, so I did the best I could to keep him behind me. It was pretty obvious the Penske cars were in a league of their own so we were just trying to maximize what we had going on. We don't come here to finish seventh but it's a decent result, it's something to build on. I really think the (2018) package will be way more to my strengths. I struggle in the high-speed corners, I struggled in (Turn) 6 today so I need to get a grip on that. I don't just want to turn the page after not being great this year, I want to figure out why we weren't great. I have no doubt next year we can be on it. I tidied up my street course game, which was my old weakness, so I think if we get my strength back on the short ovals, where I used to be good, who knows?"
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "I don't know what happened on the start, but (our lane) didn't go and I got jumped by three or four cars there. It was kind of a mess. We were just in recovery mode from there, trying to get back up where we started. We made some setup changes before the race that didn't work out. Often in this sport it's trial and error, and we found what didn't work today. Disappointing finish to the race but all in all, looking at where we were in the championship points leaving Indy, to finish ninth in the championship, we clawed our way back many, many spots. But, we're here to win races, win championships and we've certainly had our fair share of misfortune this year but there's also a lot we could have done better. We'll have to put all that together and hopefully have a little bit better luck next year and be a stronger overall effort."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "I think as predicted by a lot of people, today's race was a lot about tire fall-off. We fought rear grip and traction for most of the day, especially after about four or five laps in a stint. Overall I'm proud of the guys on the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. They didn't give up today and they haven't given up all year. They kept their chins up and kept pushing as hard as they could. I think the 83 crew doesn't know the definition of giving up. I'm appreciative of everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing for the last seven years and I'm not sure what the future holds. I'll relax tonight and get back to work on next season tomorrow."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): "It was a pretty disappointing day, to have a mechanical issue after the first stop. I think we were in a pretty decent position to possibly get in the top five after our opening stint but it wasn't meant to be today. A huge shout out to the NAPA Auto Parts team and the Andretti-Herta boys for the hard work back in the garage to get us back out there, we picked up another spot. To close the season off this way is disappointing but at the same time, there's a huge amount of positives we can take from the year and I can't wait to get started again in 2018."
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