Josef Newgarden wins second straight Indianapolis 500

Josef Newgarden overcame his cheating controversy to become the first repeat champion of the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves 22 years ago, delivering Roger Penske a record-extending 20th triumph in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The Tennessean overtook Pato O’Ward on the last lap of the rain-delayed race on Sunday, achieving consecutive 500 victories, a feat last accomplished by Castroneves for Penske in 2001 and 2002. Similar to last year, Newgarden halted his Chevrolet-powered vehicle on the track and climbed through a gap in the fence to revel with the 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,” Newgarden expressed.

O’Ward slumped in his seat in sheer dismay. He aimed to be the first Mexican victor in 108 runnings to claim the Indy 500. When he finally took off his helmet, it seemed as if he had shed tears. He secured sixth in his Indy 500 debut, then fourth, and subsequently second in 2022 when he was criticized for not being assertive enough to compete against Marcus Ericsson for the win.

The 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500

Josef Newgarden, driver of the #2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske, celebrates in Victory Circle after securing victory in the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Getty Images

He stood firm last year and ended up crashing as he competed for the win. As O’Ward waited patiently during the final laps — he and Newgarden exchanged the lead several times — he planned to make his winning move on the last lap.

Newgarden reclaimed the lead two turns later. “It’s challenging to describe – we went back, we went forward, we went back, some people were driving insanely,” O’Ward remarked. “We faced many near-race enders. Just so close again. … I pushed that car beyond expectations. It’s always heartbreaking when you’re so close, especially since it’s not the first time and it’s uncertain how many chances you have left.” The victory represented a significant comeback for Newgarden, whose March season-opening win was nullified because Team Penske utilized illicit push-to-pass software on its vehicles. Newgarden employed the extra horsepower three times in the win, and it took IndyCar almost six weeks to identify Penske’s tampering. Roger Penske, the team owner, IndyCar, the Indy 500, and the speedway, suspended four crew members, including Team President Tim Cindric. Cindric’s suspension was a significant setback for Newgarden, as Cindric is regarded as the top strategist in the series.

Newgarden was ecstatic to secure the win and leave the push-to-pass scandal in the past. “Absolutely, people can say what they please; I don’t even care anymore,” he stated. The race kicked off four hours late due to rain, which derailed NASCAR star Kyle Larson‘s opportunity to perform “The Double.” The delay at Indy made him miss the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

IndyCar Indy 500 Auto Racing

Spectators exit the stands after a severe thunderstorm warning affected the area around the Indianapolis 500 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 26, 2024.

AJ Mast / AP

Although Larson performed decently most of the day, two rookie errors caused him to finish 18th. He was in a helicopter headed to a plane for North Carolina shortly after the race concluded. “I’m proud to have completed it but disappointed in myself,” said Larson, who has a two-year agreement with Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports for Indy and may return in 2025. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third as the top-finishing Honda driver, followed by Alexander Rossi, O’Ward’s teammate at Arrow McLaren Racing. Chevrolet secured three of the top four positions.

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