Newgarden, Penske honored at INDYCAR ‘Victory Lap Ceremony’

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INDIANAPOLIS – An incredible week for Team Penske and Josef Newgarden culminated Thursday night in Indianapolis as the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series champions were honored at the annual season-ending “Victory Lap Ceremony.”

The event was held at Union 50 in the popular “Mass Avenue” district of Indianapolis. NBC Sports Kevin Lee served as the master of ceremonies.

The team was honored by INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles. Newgarden and his team were officially award the championship check, worth in excess of $1 million in total prizes. Also, he received a replica of the Astor Cup. The permanent Astor Cup is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

It was Newgarden’s second-career NTT IndyCar Series champion. He also won the title in 2017 in his first season with Team Penske.

“I didn’t feel like I got to do this right in 2017, so I want to make sure I get this one right,” Newgarden said in his victory speech. “It’s been an amazing year with a lot of pressure, and I felt the pressure more this season. I don’t know why, but certainly coming to the end I had not had such good runs and I felt like it was ours’ to lose at the end when we got to the finale.

“But our team shined, like they always do.”

Newgarden credited his team and his competitors including second place in the championship finisher Simon Pagenaud, one of his two teammates, and racing rival Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport, who finished third in the championship after finishing second in 2108.

He also singled-out race engineer Gavin Ward and crew chief Travis Law.

Newgarden tied his career high with four race wins in 2019. He won two street races (St. Petersburg and Detroit 1) and two ovals (Texas Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway). He also won a pair of poles (Detroit 2 and WorldWide Technology Raceway at Gateway).

For team owner Roger Penske, it was his record-extending 16th career IndyCar “National Championship.”

“The difference is they are different drivers and to see the emotion of the different drivers and the team itself is the most rewarding to me,” Penske told NBC Sports.com before the ceremony began.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist, who finished sixth in the standings, was named Rookie of the Year and received a $50,000 bonus.

Honda was the Manufacturer Champion for the second year in a row.

The list of awards included the following:

Mini Astor Cup (Championship Driver): Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

Mini Astor Cup (Championship Owner): Roger Penske

Championship Team Manager: Kyle Moyer, Team Penske

Championship Chief Mechanic, Travis Law, Team Penske

Rookie of the Year: Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing

Second Place in Championship: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske

Third Place in Championship: Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport

NTT P1 Season Award: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske

Manufacturer Champion Award: Honda

TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award ($25,000): Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Indy Family Foundation Award: Seeds of Hope (Father Glenn O’Connor, INDYCAR Ministry)

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”