Josef Newgarden wins Indy 500 for second straight year

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Josef Newgarden as soon as once more introduced his victorious Crew Penske automotive to a cease on the Yard of Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He discovered that very same gap within the fence, climbed by means of, and was pummeled by followers celebrating his second consecutive Indianapolis 500 triumph.

All the things about his victory Sunday — proper right down to the last-lap duel, this time with Pato O’Ward — appeared identical to final yr.

The one distinction was the circumstances.

A yr in the past, Newgarden was the hard-luck driver who had achieved a lot but by no means received “The Biggest Spectacle in Racing.” On Sunday, he was the celebrity successful the race within the shadow of a dishonest scandal that saved his race strategist from even being contained in the speedway for the rain-delayed race.

Newgarden put the dishonest scandal behind him to turn into the primary back-to-back winner of the Indy 500 since Helio Castroneves 22 years in the past and provides Roger Penske a record-extending twentieth win within the largest race on the earth.

The Tennessean handed O’Ward on the ultimate lap to turn into the primary driver to win consecutive 500s since Castroneves did it for Penske in 2001 and 2002. Newgarden additionally celebrated final yr by climbing by means of a gap within the fence to have a good time with followers within the grandstands.

“I like this crowd. I’ve obtained to all the time go within the crowd if we win right here, I’m all the time doing that,” stated Newgarden, who earned a $440,000 bonus from trophy-maker BorgWarner for successful consecutive 500s. The award was established in 1995 and solely claimed as soon as, by Castroneves.

Penske had been watching the race excessive above the speedway and pumped his arm in celebration as Newgarden crossed the end line. He then hugged his spouse. It took lower than an hour for the placard that designates Penske’s parking spot contained in the speedway to be modified from “19” to “20.”

O’Ward slumped his head over his steering wheel in bitter disappointment. He was attempting to turn into the primary Mexican in 108 runnings to win the Indy 500.

It regarded as if he had been crying when he lastly eliminated his helmet. He completed sixth in his Indy 500 debut, then fourth after which second in 2022 when he was accused of not being aggressive sufficient to race Marcus Ericsson for the win.

He refused to again down final yr and wound up crashing as he went for the victory. As O’Ward bided his time within the closing laps — he and Newgarden traded the lead a number of occasions — he waited to make the successful cross on the ultimate lap.

Newgarden obtained it proper again two turns later.

“It’s exhausting to place it into phrases — we went again, we went ahead, we went again, some individuals have been driving like maniacs,” O’Ward stated. “We had so many near-race enders. Simply so shut once more. … I put that automotive by means of issues I by no means thought it was going to have the ability to do. It’s all the time a heartbreak if you’re so shut, particularly when it’s not the primary time and also you don’t know what number of alternatives you may have.”

O’Ward has completed second to Newgarden in six totally different races and was nonetheless struggling together with his feelings an hour after the race. He stated he’s battled the flu the final week and barely slept the final 5 days.

“I’m wonderful. It’s been a troublesome month, a lot goes into this race,” O’Ward stated. “I feel I’m anyone who wears my coronary heart on my sleeve. I don’t actually conceal something. And it’s simply, if you come so shut, and it simply doesn’t appear to occur, it’s simply quite a lot of emotion.”

He stated he intentionally took his time getting out of the automotive and eradicating his helmet as a result of “I simply needed to settle down. It was moist in there.”

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing completed third because the highest-finishing Honda driver and had empathy for O’Ward. Dixon is a six-time IndyCar champion who is taken into account the best driver of his period, and he has one win within the Indy 500.

“It’s a privilege to race right here, proper? I’m in a state of affairs the place I’m fortunate to have received, however Pato has come shut just a few occasions,” Dixon stated. “It may go in cycles. As I’ve stated many a occasions, ending second sucks. It’s horrible. You’d slightly end final I feel nearly at this place and be out of the race early. He’ll be wonderful. He’s obtained loads of time on his arms.”

The win was an unimaginable rebound for Newgarden, who final month had his March season-opening victory disqualified as a result of Crew Penske had unlawful push-to-pass software program on its automobiles. Newgarden used the extra horsepower 3 times within the win, and it took IndyCar practically six weeks to find the Penske manipulation.

Roger Penske, who owns the race crew, IndyCar, the Indy 500 and the speedway, suspended 4 crew members, together with Crew President Tim Cindric. The Cindric suspension was a large blow for Newgarden as Cindric is taken into account the perfect strategist within the sequence.

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

“Completely, they will say what they need, I don’t even care anymore,” he stated. “It’s all the time a crew win. This win epitomizes a crew victory. I’m grateful for Roger Penske, he stood by me. He’s the person. He’s a legend.”

The beginning of the race was delayed 4 hours by rain and it ruined NASCAR star Kyle Larson’s likelihood to run “ The Double.” The delay in Indy made him miss the beginning of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Though Larson was respectable many of the day, two rookie errors led to an 18th-place end. He was on a helicopter headed to a aircraft for North Carolina inside minutes of the race ending.

“I’m proud to have completed however disenchanted in myself,” stated Larson, who has a two-year take care of Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports for Indy and will return in 2025.

Dixon was adopted by Alexander Rossi, O’Ward’s teammate at Arrow McLaren Racing. Chevrolet took three of the highest 4 spots.

A first-lap crash took out Ericsson, the 2022 winner, Tom Blomqvist and Pietro Fittipaldi as three Honda drivers failed to finish a lap. In all, Honda drivers completed within the remaining seven spots.


AP auto racing:

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