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Josef Newgarden wins 2019 IndyCar title with 8th-place finish at Laguna Seca

Josef Newgarden (2) races through Turn 3 during the start of an IndyCar auto race at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/David Royal)

Josef Newgarden didn’t have a great day in IndyCar’s return to Laguna Seca. He also didn’t have to have a great day either.

Newgarden finished eighth to clinch the 2019 IndyCar Series title ahead of Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon. Newgarden entered the race — won by Colton Herta — with a 41-point lead over Rossi and a 42-point lead over Pagenaud. And all three of Dixon, Pagenaud and Rossi finished ahead of him on Sunday.

It didn’t matter because the points lead was that large. Newgarden cruised around in the back half of the top 10 for most of the day and had plenty of cushion because none of his three title challengers were serious threats for the race win in the double-points season finale.

Newgarden won four races

Newgarden’s second title is no fluke. He won a season-high four races and finished in the top three in seven of the season’s 17 races. He seized the points lead after winning the first Detroit race in June and never gave it up the rest of the season.

The championship is the second of Newgarden’s career. Coincidentally, he won four races when he won the 2017 title.

He had nine podium finishes in that season but he was also less consistent. Newgarden had an average finish of 6.1 when he won his first title. In 2019, he finished the season with an average finish of 5.6.

Newgarden and his two Team Penske teammates Pagenaud and Will Power combined to win nine of the season’s 17 races. Pagenaud won the Indianapolis 500 to essentially save his job with the team for the 2020 season.

Sunday was IndyCar’s first race at the historic California road course since CART raced at the track in 2004. It replaced Sonoma on the IndyCar schedule and will again be the site of the 2020 finale as the IndyCar Series schedule is largely unchanged, save for Richmond replacing Pocono on the calendar.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports

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