(Reuters) - American Josef Newgarden clinched the 2019 IndyCar Series title by finishing eighth in the final race of the season in Monterey, California on Sunday.
Needing to place fourth or better in the Grand Prix of Monterey at the Laguna Seca road course to be certain of the championship, Newgarden did not manage that but the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for the 28-year-old from Tennessee.
The Team Penske driver, who won four races this year, also won the 2017 championship. He won four races that season too.
Newgarden, fellow American Alexander Rossi, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and New Zealander Scott Dixon all went into Sunday’s race with a chance of capturing the season-long points race.
American teenager Colton Herta won the race from Australian Will Power, while Dixon placed third, Pagenaud fourth and Rossi sixth.
“I tried to be as smart as I could today,” an emotional Newgarden said after climbing out of the cockpit and hugging his pit crew, as well as his mother and his fiancee.
“I didn’t want to throw it away at the end, do something silly. I’m so happy, I was crying the whole (last) lap. I’m glad it’s over.
“I was so nervous to mess this up today. I haven’t slept the last two weeks. I feel I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.”
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Ken Ferris