Josef Newgarden captures 2017 IndyCar title at Sonoma

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SONOMA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden is the newest member of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ champion’s club, following a controlled drive to second place in today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma season finale to win the 2017 series title.

Newgarden entered the race weekend with a three-point lead over Scott Dixon, and built that to four points after winning a crucial pole position on Saturday.

Now, Newgarden supplants Dixon as the most recent IndyCar champion under age 30. He’s 26 years old and Dixon was 28 in 2008, when he won his second of four career titles.

The 85-lap race at the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway ran without a yellow flag and Newgarden, who started on pole in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was the dominant driver for most of it.

However, while Newgarden led 41 laps, he was outdone in the race by teammate and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud, who ran a four-stop strategy to perfection in his No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet to push harder throughout the race. The team ran three sets of Firestone red alternate tires.

Pagenaud made his final stop later in the race and then emerged ahead of Newgarden once he did. Newgarden attempted a pass at the Turn 7 hairpin, to the inside of the tight right-hander, but was not able to get past.

Pagenaud then had to encounter slower traffic in the final seven laps, which bunched the field up, and brought Newgarden within a few tenths of a second.

While the race was Pagenaud’s, his second of the year in the No. 1 car, he now loses his No. 1 banner on the car to Newgarden, who brought it home in second place.

Unofficial results are below.

F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.