Josef Newgarden races to victory in Indy 500 – marking second win in a row

The 2023 winner clinched victory in the shadow of a cheating scandal that kept his race strategist from even being inside the speedway for the rain-delayed race

The Associated Press
Monday 27 May 2024 15:32 BST
Comments
Josef Newgarden races to victory in Indy 500 and celebrates with whole family

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Josef Newgarden once again brought his victorious Team Penske car to a stop on the Yard of Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He found that same hole in the fence, climbed through, and was pummeled by fans celebrating his second consecutive Indianapolis 500 triumph.

Everything about his victory Sunday — right down to the last-lap duel, this time with Pato O’Ward — seemed just like last year.

The only difference was the circumstances.

A year ago, Mr Newgarden was the hard-luck driver who had accomplished so much yet never won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

On Sunday, he was the superstar winning the race in the shadow of a cheating scandal that kept his race strategist from even being inside the speedway for the rain-delayed race.

Mr Newgarden put the cheating scandal behind him to become the first back-to-back winner of the Indy 500 since Helio Castroneves 22 years ago and give Roger Penske a record-extending 20th win in the biggest race in the world.

The Tennessean passed Mr O’Ward on the final lap to become the first driver to win consecutive 500s since Mr Castroneves did it for Mr Penske in 2001 and 2002. Mr Newgarden also celebrated last year by climbing through a hole in the fence to celebrate with fans in the grandstands.

“I love this crowd. I’ve got to always go in the crowd if we win here, I am always doing that,” said Mr Newgarden, who earned a $440,000 bonus from trophy-maker BorgWarner for winning consecutive 500s. The award was established in 1995 and only claimed once, by Mr Castroneves.

Indycar Series driver Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday 26 May 2024
Indycar Series driver Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday 26 May 2024 (Reuters)

Mr O’Ward slumped his head over his steering wheel in bitter disappointment. He was trying to become the first Mexican in 108 runnings to win the Indy 500.

He finished sixth in his Indy 500 debut, then fourth and then second in 2022 when he was accused of not being aggressive enough to race Marcus Ericsson for the win.

He refused to back down last year and wound up crashing as he went for the victory. As Mr O’Ward bided his time in the closing laps — he and Mr Newgarden traded the lead several times — he waited to make the winning pass on the final lap.

Mr Newgarden got it right back two turns later.

Mr O’Ward has finished second to Mr Newgarden in six different races and was still struggling with his emotions an hour after the race. He said he’s battled the flu the last week and barely slept the last five days.

“I’m fine. It’s been a tough month, so much goes into this race,” Mr O’Ward said. “I think I’m somebody who wears my heart on my sleeve. I don’t really hide anything. And it’s just, when you come so close, and it just doesn’t seem to happen, it’s just a lot of emotion.”

He said he deliberately took his time getting out of the car and removing his helmet because “I just wanted to calm down. It was wet in there.”

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third as the highest-finishing Honda driver and had empathy for Mr O’Ward. Mr Dixon is a six-time IndyCar champion who is considered the greatest driver of his era, and he has one win in the Indy 500.

The win was an incredible rebound for Mr Newgarden, who last month had his March season-opening victory disqualified because Team Penske had illegal push-to-pass software on its cars. Mr Newgarden used the additional horsepower three times in the win, and it took IndyCar nearly six weeks to discover the Mr Penske manipulation.

Mr Penske, who owns the race team, IndyCar, the Indy 500 and the speedway, suspended four crew members, including Team President Tim Cindric. The Cindric suspension was a massive blow for Newgarden as Cindric is considered the best strategist in the series.

Newgarden was thrilled to have the win and put the push-to-pass scandal behind him.

“Absolutely, they can say what they want, I don’t even care anymore,” he said. “It’s always a team win. This win epitomizes a team victory. I’m thankful for Roger Penske, he stood by me. He’s the man. He’s a legend.”

The start of the race was delayed four hours by rain and it ruined NASCAR star Kyle Larson’s chance to run “The Double.” The delay in Indy made him miss the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Dixon was followed by Alexander Rossi, Mr O’Ward’s teammate at Arrow McLaren Racing. Chevrolet took three of the top four spots.

A first-lap crash took out Mr Ericsson, the 2022 winner, Tom Blomqvist and Pietro Fittipaldi as three Honda drivers failed to complete a lap. In all, Honda drivers finished in the final seven spots.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in