Josef Newgarden's 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship was another classic case of Penske perfection from the young American.

He led the 17-race championship nearly from start to finish and only lost the lead when teammate and title rival Simon Pagenaud scored a win in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

His four-win season will go down as his most rewarding to date – and it hit him hard when he broke down crying after the race.

"I don't know why, but it feels more special," he said. "It just really, really hit me on the in-lap. I don't know why. I was just so emotional.

"I didn't quite get that way in the first one. I don't know if you don't have quite the respect for it or what it is. Maybe the way you said it is more appropriate. You just have more perspective on how difficult it is to be -- you can win a race every week."

Newgarden entered today's race with the championship mostly being his lose with a 41 points lead over fellow American Alexander Rossi. Double points made that seemingly secure points lead a lot less safe.

He started the race alongside Rossi in fourth and flexed throughout the top ten for much of the day before finishing eighth.

He felt that his car was not good enough to challenge for the lead and opted to stick to the plan – keep r Rossi in his sights while also hedging the team's championship bets for Simon Pagenaud in case he fell too far down.

"We were shadowing Rossi. That's what I was doing. There was a lot of moments where I think I could have blown by him and I didn't, and I just really tried to just stay around him all day, and in some ways that's really good because we were right there with him, but then in other ways he could suck us into a bad situation, and there was parts of the race where I thought that was happening."

"I thought, you know, we had set out the routine that this is what I'm going to do and this doesn't seem like it may be working for us, specifically, but if that wasn't going to be the case, then the most important thing would have been for Simon to win the championship.

"I think as a team member you just have to understand that. We work as a team, we work as a group, we try and prepare for all scenarios and, most importantly, win as a team. You hope that's you and the team that's going to win, but if it's not you, it has to be the team."

His drive earned him high praise from team owner Roger Penske, whom Newgarden delivered his 14th series title in the team's 53-year history. Being no stranger to winning championships, Penske related to Josef's nervous attitude with a title on the line.

"You have a 41-point lead, you've got double points, which we never knew what was going on. I think I ran into John Barnes today and I said, you know, what it's like, you're leading the last lap of the Indy 500, you hit the wall in the last corner, well, could have happened to us today, too, but fortunately it worked out.

"I think Josef is a pro. He led throughout this whole season, came off right away with victories. I know he was on edge a little bit, but I know he's glad it's over."

 

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