Josef Newgarden has won the IndyCar championship for the second time after Colton Herta won the final race of the season at Laguna Seca.
Herta led the race convincingly from pole position, resisting pressure from Scott Dixon in the opening stages and Will Power later on. He took the chequered flag half a second ahead of the Penske driver to take the second victory of his rookie season.
While Newgarden slipped back from his second row starting position, his Penske team mate and title rival Simon Pagenaud made a series of forceful moves as he rose up the order in pursuit of the title.
Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi, another title contender, passed Newgarden following the first round of pit stops. Newgarden, struggling for rear grip and anxious to avoid any costly contact, drove a cautious race to collect the points he needed to seal the title.
With his final pit stop, Pagenaud emerged between net leader Herta and Dixon, but couldn’t keep the Ganassi drive behind on cold tyres. Then Power, who had already let Pagenaud by earlier in the race, jumped ahead of him and Dixon for second place.
Pagenaud recovered one place from Felix Rosenqvist, but ran out the final laps of the race testing Dixon’s defences as he tried to take third place. The pair finished the race in sight of the leaders, just six seconds up the road.
Fifth place for Rosenqvist won him the Rookie of the Year honours ahead of two-time race winner Herta and Indy 500 top rookie Santino Ferrucci. The Dale Coyne crashed out of the race during a restart, colliding with Takuma Sato.
Rossi, who arrived at Laguna Seca as the closest threat to Newgarden in the championship, faded to sixth on a poor day for Andretti. Sebastien Bourdais took seventh place off Newgarden in the closing stages having climbed his way forward from 19th.
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