Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden in the No.2 Hum by Verizon Chevrolet celebrated his 100th start in the Verizon IndyCar Series in style on Sunday as he won his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Starting the race from pole position the Tennessee native flew out front but with an alternate strategy to his team mate’s he took the advice of his strategist, Team Penske president Tim Cindric and stayed calm coming home in second place which was enough for him to win his first championship by 13 points from 2016 champion Simon Pagenaud who took the win.
On a perfect day for Roger Penske which saw his team sweep the podium, Newgarden commented by saying:
I don’t even know what to say. “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.
Speaking following the race, as they celebrated, Roger Penske commented by saying:
I’ve had so many great drivers, and as I said, I don’t have a favorite. “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.
Newgarden went on to say:
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.
Simon Pagenaud who won his first championship with Penske last season won the race and speaking following the event the Frenchman commented by saying:
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 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.
Pagenaud went on to say:
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.
Will Power in the No.12 Verizon Chevrolet completed the podium sweep for Penske and in doing so finished the season in fifth place in championship and speaking following the event he commented by saying:
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.
Helio Castroneves in the No.3 Hitachi Chevrolet finished the race in fifth place behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and in doing so he finished the championship in what might have been his final season in the Verizon IndyCar Series in fourth place in the championship.
Speaking following the race he commented by saying:
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 (in the final standings) 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 (a championship) — 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 and dedication.
Of note: Simon Pagenaud who won Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma was the only driver this season to have completed every lap of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.