Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden was crowned the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion after a second-place finish at last weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, ceding first to fellow Team Penske driver and runner-up in the driver’s championship Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden, 26, won four races this season, and is the first American to win an IndyCar championship in five years.
This was Newgarden’s first year with Team Penske – a team that, humorously enough, he assumed he’d never have the privilege of driving for. “The more years I drove in IndyCar, the more I thought I would never get hired by a team like Team Penske,” he said. “I never thought that would really happen. It seemed like those guys didn’t want me a part of their team, which was fine with me in some degree because I’ve worked with a lot of great groups before and we’ve had a lot of success.
“But having been a part of Team Penske for a year now, I can’t tell you how amazing they are as a group. I’m so honored to drive for Roger and Tim and the entire team and all our partners. They’re the best of the best.”
Chevrolet engines propelled both Newgarden and Pagenaud to the first and second spots in the points championship, and Team Penske/Chevrolet claimed all three podium spots at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, with Pagenaud in first, Newgarden in second, and Will Power in third. Simon Pagenaud was 2016’s IndyCar champ by points, and 2017 represented his third year racing with Team Penske.
He says he’ll be back, “punching even harder” next year to keep pace with Newgarden, who is seven years his junior.
“This young kid who just won the championship, you’re just starting to see him,” Roger Penske said of newly-crowned champ Josef Newgarden. “He’s going to be great.”