Colton Herta claimed an impressive victory at Laguna Seca, while Josef Newgarden did enough to become a two-time IndyCar Champion.
Herta Ends Rookie Season in Style
Colton Herta started the weekend in the best way and claiming his third pole position of the 2019 season.
At the start, the 18-year-old maintained the lead, as Scott Dixon defended second place from fellow championship contender Alexander Rossi.
As the race wore on, well-timed tyre stops from Harding Steinbrenner Racing kept Herta in first place.
In the latter stages, Team Penske’s Will Power came through the field to challenge Herta for victory.
However, before the start of the penultimate lap, Power went too deep into the final corner and lost momentum.
As a result, Herta used his remaining ‘push to pass’ to pull a significant gap and win at Laguna Seca.
After the race, Herta was asked about he managed to keep a hold of the lead:
“I don’t know, a really good strategy. We had to save a little fuel at the end, which hurt us a little bit, but we were really quick.”
Herta will officially become a member of Andretti Autosport for 2020, and is hopeful that the team can provide him with ‘a championship run.’
Championship Battle Summary at Laguna Seca
At the start of the weekend, Josef Newgarden led Alexander Rossi in the IndyCar standings by 41 points.
Newgarden’s Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud was a further point adrift, while Scott Dixon also held a slim chance of defending the championship.
For the majority of the race Dixon ran in second place, knowing that he needed to win. However, the Kiwi dropped to third after being passed by Will Power.
Subsequently, Dixon settled for third ahead of Pagenaud, after the latter desperately attempted to pass through, but to no avail.
After starting third, Rossi struggled with tyre wear on the soft compound tyres. Because of this, the Andretti Autosport dropped down the order to sixth, behind Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist.
Despite being passed by Sebastien Bourdais late on, eighth place was enough for Newgarden to win 2019 IndyCar Championship.
Emotional Newgarden Reflects on 2019 Season
After the race, an emotional Newgarden explained the race from his perspective:
“I was so pissed earlier, I thought we were throwing it away, but we were trying to think of the team [and Penske’s changes with Pagenaud] to divide and conquer.”
“They just did such a great job and I just didn’t want us to throw it away in the end. They called a great race and I tried to be as smart as I could today.
“I’m just so proud of everybody.”
Newgarden also thanked Team Penske and Chevrolet of the duration of the 2019 IndyCar season:
“Team Chevy’s done a great job winning the Indy 500 with Simon, which has been fantastic. And to now to win both championship is as much as you can ask for over the year.”
“I’m just so thankful to the team and I’ve had the best people around me taking care of everything.”
“I couldn’t ask for more than what I have, and you know, it’s just amazing to win races and drive for this team.”
“It’s been my dream to drive for this team since I was a kid, I’m just really thankful for everything that’s been done for me.”
2019 NTT IndyCar Drivers’ Standings (Top Ten Only):
Josef Newgarden (USA), Team Penske 641 Points
Simon Pagenaud (FRA), Team Penske 616 Points
Alexander Rossi (USA), Andretti Autosport, 608 Points
Scott Dixon (NZL), Chip Ganassi Racing, 578 Points
Will Power (AUS), Team Penske, 550 Points
Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), Chip Ganassi Racing, 425 Points
Colton Herta (USA), Harding Steinbrenner Racing, 420 Points
Ryan-Hunter Reay (USA), Andretti Autosport, 420 Points
Takuma Sato (JPN), Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 415 Points
Graham Rahal (USA), Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 389 Points