Newgarden goes for 2nd IndyCar title in 3 years in finale

MONTEREY, Calif. — The IndyCar championship will be decided in Sunday's season finale for the 14th consecutive year, and points leader Josef Newgarden needs only a trouble-free race to capture his second title in three years.

The American, who is from Tennessee, needs only to finish fourth at Laguna Seca Raceway to clinch the title for Team Penske. Alexander Rossi trails him by 41 points, teammate Simon Pagenaud is 42 points out and reigning series champion Scott Dixon is 85 points back.

But the finale is worth double points and there are 103 points available. Dixon overcame a 47-point deficit in 2015 to capture the title by winning the race.

Colton Herta starts from the pole. The 19-year-old rookie has impressed in his debut at Laguna Seca. The track returned to the IndyCar circuit this year for the first time since 2004, and only four drivers in the field have ever raced an Indy car on the road course.

Herta is third in the rookie of the year standings, with Felix Rosenqvist leading that tight contest. Rosenqvist met with IndyCar officials to discuss his penalty in Saturday qualifying that cost him a shot at racing for the pole. The Swede is also among the fastest drivers at Laguna Seca and felt a strong starting spot would give him a shot at his first IndyCar win.

Instead, he was penalized for interfering with another drivers' qualifying lap, and the punishment prevented him from advancing into the next round. Rosenqvist said IndyCar told him during a Sunday morning meeting that the penalty might have been "harsh" but was the rule.

Sebastien Bourdais won in 2004, the last time IndyCar raced at Laguna Seca, but the Frenchman tweaked his neck in Friday practice and had Tristan Vautier on standby for him.

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