With an uncharacteristically challenging race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Josef Newgarden finished in the eighth position while his closest championship competitors finished fourth or worse, securing the Team Penske driver his second NTT IndyCar Series championship in three years.
Newgarden needed to finish fourth or better to clinch the championship but making it into the top five at the race’s conclusion was not in the cards for 2019’s only four-race winner. After starting from the fourth position and holding it through the first 12 laps, Newgarden’s early pit stop on Lap 13 dropped him to 10th.
While the ongoing pit stop cycle quickly moved Newgarden back up to sixth, a pass by Felix Rosenqvist dropped him to seventh prior to his second pit stop. During his third stint, Newgarden’s No. 2 Chevrolet ran in the eighth position — still within striking range of the championship — until the final pit stop exchange on Lap 64 put him back on track in seventh between Alexander Rossi and Sebastien Bourdais.
With an understanding that his two primary championship competitors needed to be victorious in order to overcome the 41-point advantage he entered the race with, Newgarden cruised to the checkered flag in the eighth position having been passed by Bourdais on Lap 85.
Ending the season with 641 points, Newgarden’s second championship came with a 25-point buffer between he and teammate Simon Pagenaud. With a race victory, Pagenaud may have been celebrating his own second title but his fourth-place finish behind Colton Herta, Will Power and Scott Dixon gave him a total of 616 points.
Rossi also struggled throughout the race, finishing in the sixth position and adding 56 points for a total of 608, ranking him third in the standings at season’s end.
Dixon, the only other championship contender, was mathematically eliminated after Lap 51 when both Santino Ferrucci and Ed Jones were listed has having retired from the race. The inability for points leader Newgarden to finish in either of the last two positions coupled with Colton Herta’s clinching of three of the four available bonus points cut Dixon from contention.
Newgarden’s triumph gave Penske its 16th Indy car title as a team and its third in four years with Pagenaud in 2016 and Newgarden in 2017 and 2019.
The now two-time champion will begin his title defense when the series returns from its long winter break in March for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.