The final in NTT IndyCar Series 2019 was run at the returning WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which was back on the calendar for the first time in fifteen years.
Already in the qualifying, there was a reference to the past. Colton Herta, the son of Bryan Herta, had taken Pole Position ahead of Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud. Thus all four championship contenders were in the top six: Newgarden, Rossi, Pagenaud, and Dixon.
As it was in the previous seasons, there would be double points in the finale.
The field would have twenty starting drivers this time. Conor Daly would drive as the fifth driver for Andretti Autosport, which was the first for the team since Indy 500 in May.
Felix Rosenqvist was leading the rookie championship, in front of Santino Ferrucci and Colton Herta. And actually Rosenqvist had set the fastest laptime of the weekend in the qualifying, but the time got deleted when he made a mistake and spun on the track, and hence keeping James Hinchcliffe from improving his time – yes, that is the rule in IndyCar. So, instead of starting from top six, he would have to start from P14.
Dixon attempted to overtake Herta from the outside in Turn 1, but had to merge behind him and instead he got under pressure by Rossi, but the latter didn’t make it past.
Otherwise the start was quite uneventful throughout the field.
Sebastien Bourdais tried to improve his position, but ended up losing a lot of places and was all the way down to P21.
Simon Pagenaud was amongst the first ones to pit, after 12 laps out of 90. It made Rossi, Newgarden and Marco Andretti pit again. Newgarden got past Rossi, and both of them came out in front of Pagenaud, who already had heat on his tires. Rossi blocked Pagenaud hard between Turn 3 and 4, where the Frenchman retaliated in Turn 4, sending the American through the gravel. The stewards looked into it and decided that it was a 1-1 race incident and wouldn’t do anything about it.
Pagenaud also got past Newgarden on the next lap, and right away Rossi went to attack the championship leader. The two drove side by side between Turn 5 and 6, where Newgarden played it smart by letting Rossi get past. As long as he was right behind Pagenaud and Rossi, the title would still be his.
Dixon waited for two more laps before he pitted, and came out miles ahead of the three others. Herta pitted one lap later and came out of the pits almost side by side with Dixon, and even managed to keep the New Zealander behind him, although he had already heated up his tires.
Rossi started to have problems with his tires, seventeen laps into his stint, which allowed Will Power to drive past and claim P4.
Herta also began to have problems with his tires, so top three was within 1,2 seconds of each other. Pagenaud however had used plenty of Push2Pass to catch up with Herta and Dixon, so it could cost the Frenchman at the end of the race.
Rosenqvist was really fast and up to P6 after one third of the race.
Rossi and Newgarden were amongst the ones pitting for new tires, for the second time. Dixon, Pagenaud and Dixon chose to pit one lap later.
Hinchcliffe got a pulled muscle in the middle of the race, as he complained about severe pain on his neck. The team put an extra support in the car under their second pitstop. Earlier in the weekend, the same thing happened to Sebastien Bourdais.
The first Full Course Caution came 45 laps into the race, when Conor Daly spun in Turn 2 after an overtake attempt on his teammate Marco Andretti. There was a bit of contact between the two and Daly’s car got stuck in the gravel.
The race got restarted shortly afterwards, and there was a contact between Santino Ferrucci and Takuma Sato. Ferrucci hit the Japanese’s car from behind and damaged his own car. He had to retire a few corners later.
Newgarden fell back to P8, right behind Rossi. It was a bit alarming for him that Pagenaud was up to third place.
Takuma Sato, Matheus Leist and Zach Veach tried to drive three-way wide through the Corkscrew combo. It didn’t go well and Veach had a tour through the gravel, as well as lost two places.
Rosenqvist, Ericsson, Rahal, Hunter-Reay and Andretti came in for their last regular pitstop. It caused Herta, Dixon and Newegarden to pit one lap later, in case there was another FCY.
Pagenaud pitted one lap after that and came out in front of Dixon, but he had to give up the position due to his cold tires.
Twenty laps before the finish, Rosenqvist drove past Pagenaud and was up to fourth, after starting from P14.
Five laps later Pagenaud had gotten more heat in the tires and got past the Swede again.
Will Power was flying at the last stage of the race, and put Herta under intense pressure, while Dixon and Pagenaud battled for third place. Things almost went wrong between Dixon and Pagenaud in Turn 2, but they managed to avoid too much contact.
Bourdais overtook Newgarden with six laps left. It didn’t matter for him, as long as Pagenaud didn’t finish higher than P3.
Four laps before the chequered flag, Power made a driving error while being in second place, and he lost one second to Herta out in front.
Colton Herta got his second victory of the season – and his NTT IndyCar career – ahead of Will Power, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais, and Josef Newgarden.
Thus the Herta family made a history, with both the father and son on Pole Position four times and won three races on this particular track.
Josef Newgarden is the 2019 NTT IndyCar champion, ahead of his Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, and the third Team Penske driver – Will Power.
Felix Rosenqvist wins Rookie of the year, in front of Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci.
It was the conclusion of a fantastic NTT IndyCar Series season. Newgarden took the lead already after the first race weekend, lost it later but then came back and won it.
The NTT IndyCar Series 2020 will start on 15 March.