Josef Newgarden has won the Indycar Championship after finishing second in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in California this afternoon.

Penske teammate and defending series champ Simon Pagenaud won the race after adopting a four-stop strategy that proved the better option and saw him claim runner-up honours in the title fight.

Kiwi Scott Dixon had to settle for third in the championship after finishing fourth. He started from sixth and did his best to overhaul the four Penske cars in front of him but ultimately had no answer to their domination.

Newgarden, who took a three-point lead into the final round, becomes the first American driver to win the championship since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and the second in the past 11 years.

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In his first season with the high-powered Penske outfit the Tennessee native adjusted perfectly and claimed his maiden title.

"That's awesome. So cool," an emotional Newgarden said. "I am so proud of these guys. I don't even know what to say - it was all year. It took a lot to make this happen. Thank you to my teammates. They were giving me a lot of help today.

"It is a dream come true."

Josef Newgarden finished second at Sonoma to claim his maiden Indycar title. Photo / Getty Images
Josef Newgarden finished second at Sonoma to claim his maiden Indycar title. Photo / Getty Images

Starting from pole position Newgarden skipped clear off the start while the rest of his Penske teammates fought each other without contact. Dixon too, made a solid start but was unable to make any serious progress.

Pagenaud was the first of the title contenders to blink, opting to jump out of sequence and commit to a four-stop plan. It paid off when he came out in front of Newgarden after his final stop. The pair briefly battled for position but the American gave it up realizing that he didn't need to win the race to claim the title.

The 26-year-old was tempted to fight for the race win in the closing stages but the calming influence of engineer Tim Cindric over the radio kept him focused on the bigger picture.

"It was hard," he said. "I was using my natural instincts because that is what I normally do - try and win the race - but Tim was telling me to be patient."

Dixon just couldn't find a way past the other Penske cars to have a crack at Newgarden.

"It seemed like the three just covered us - whenever we pitted short they pitted with us," the four-time champion said.

"It was circumstance. Once we got clear track we were able to hunt them down but in traffic all day the car got really loose.

"It was a strong season - obviously not where we wanted to finish in the championship.

"Congrats to Penske and Josef on a job well done."

Dixon had mixed views on the season as a whole.

"I think we had good speed - we should have won more races and got crashed out of a few too and those are all valuable points. You can look back and blame it on 10 different things.

"I am looking forward to next season."