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Newgarden Rolling In Awesomeness

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 28 2017

Josef Newgarden is driving the dream in wake of his IndyCar championship. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Josef Newgarden became the youngest Indy car champion in more than a decade earlier this month, capping one of the most competitive Verizon IndyCar Series seasons in history.

Ten different drivers won during the 17-race season, with seven drivers still mathematically alive for the championship heading into the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Newgarden finished second to Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud on Sept. 17 to clinch his first championship, the Astor Challenge Cup and the $1-million champion’s prize.

Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, out-hustled Newgarden to the finish line by 1.0986-seconds to win the 85-lapper in Northern California’s wine country. It was the Frenchman’s 11th career victory and second straight on the 2.385-mile/12-turn permanent road-course. Pagenaud won the event from pole position one year ago to claim his first championship in his second season of competition for team-owner Roger Penske.

A four-time winner this season, Newgarden one-upped Pagenaud by clinching his first title as a Penske “rookie.” The 26-year-old native of Hendersonville, Tenn., distanced Pagenaud by 13 points in the final standings to become the first American driver to win the championship since Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport in 2012.

“It was all year and it took a lot to make it happen,” said Newgarden, who made his 100th career start in the finale driving the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “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. It’s too awesome.”

Newgarden exited Ed Carpenter Racing to join Team Penske last offseason as the series’ most sought-after free-agent.

“This entire group makes this happen,” Newgarden said. “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.”

The championship was the 15th for Team Penske, easily the most decorated team in Indy car history. Newgarden joined an all-star lineup featuring Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish Jr., Will Power and Pagenaud as Team Penske drivers to have won an Indy car title.

Newgarden’s drive to the title will be reviewed when NBC Sports Network airs “Verizon IndyCar 2017 Championship Reflection” Thursday at 7 p.m. (EDT). The one-hour special will recap the entire campaign and go in-depth with Newgarden on what it meant to become the champion in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The special also will also stream live on INDYCAR’s website (IndyCar.com), YouTube page (youtube.com/indycar) and Facebook page (facebook.com/indycar).

Season-long award winners also will be recognized on the program produced by IMS Productions. The INDYCAR community will honor Newgarden, Team Penske and the award recipients at a special event to kick off the 2018 season on the weekend of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March.

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The complete list of Verizon IndyCar Series 2017 season award winners:

Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup, $1-million): Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
Jostens Championship Driver (ring worth approximately $10,000): Newgarden
Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Team Penske
Championship team manager: Jon Bouslog, Team Penske
Chief mechanic of the year: Vance Welker, Team Penske
Sunoco Diamond Performance ($50,000): Newgarden
Sunoco Rookie of the Year ($50,000): Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing
TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” ($25,000): Carlos Munoz, AJ Foyt Racing
PFC “Fast Brake” ($25,000): Newgarden
Verizon P1: Will Power, Team Penske
Second-place championship driver: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske
Second-place championship team: Team Penske
Third-place championship driver: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing
Third-place championship team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Manufacturer champion: Chevrolet

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 28 2017
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