MONTEREY, Calif. – Josef Newgarden clinched his second championship, and Colton Herta scored his second career victory as the NTT IndyCar Series wrapped up its 2019 season Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Newgarden started fourth and finished a nondescript eighth in a fairly uneventful day for the Team Penske driver. The No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet faced little trouble aside from a Lap 16 battle for position with fellow championship contender Alexander Rossi (Newgarden backed off rather than force the issue under breaking heading up the hill to Turn 8).
A lap later, teammate Simon Pagenaud went by Newgarden, who settled into a quiet race to clinch Team Penske’s 16th championship and third in the past four seasons.
Newgarden, who won the season opener at St. Petersburg in March and led the standings after all but one race this season, also won the title in 2017 for Penske, which has 35 titles overall.
An emotional Newgarden told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider that he cried on the final lap.
“I thought we were throwing it away; (the team) just did such a good job,” Newgarden said. “I didn’t want to throw it away at the end and do something silly. I tried to be as smart as I could today. To win championships is as much as you can ask for; we have such a great group. I’m so happy it’s over.”
“The whole Team Penske just has done an outstanding job this year,” team owner Roger Penske told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “He held up. He had some butterflies this morning, but he’s a real pro and a great driver.”
Pagenaud (fourth), who delivered the 18th Indianapolis 500 win to Penske in May, finished runner-up in the championship standings. Rossi (sixth) took third in points ahead of Scott Dixon, who finished third in the race behind Herta and Will Power.
Herta, who already had a newsworthy weekend, started from the pole and was rarely challenged in leading 83 of 90 laps with his No. 88 Dallara-Honda. The 19-year-old rookie joined his father, Bryan, as a winner at the famed 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course that was playing host to Indy cars for the first time in 15 years.
“Everything just went so smooth today, just throughout the whole season, we’ve been learning really well,” said Herta, who also won the inaugural race in March at Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
Colton Herta still came up short in the Rookie of the Year battle to Felix Rosenqvist, who put on an impressive drive from 14th to fifth after a penalty in qualifying.
The race was largely incident-free, featuring only one midrace caution flag for a spin by Conor Daly.