INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden captured his first career Indianapolis 500 win.
He couldn’t contain his excitement, running into the crowd to celebrate and then climbing a fence.
“Finally!” he could be heard saying on the broadcast. Newgarden started 17th and steadily worked his way up through the field. He stayed within striking distance during an Indianapolis 500 whose ending was marred by crashes and red flags.
The 32-year-old Tennessee native is a two-time IndyCar champion. One thing missing from his racing resume: an Indianapolis 500 title.
Newgarden fended off a hefty challenge from Marcus Ericsson, who looked to win his second straight Indy 500. It took a late restart for the Team Penske driver to take the checkered flag.
Newgarden passed Ericsson during the race’s final restart. Ericsson stayed right on his tail as the two jockeyed for position, with Newgarden barely holding off the 2022 champ.
Newgarden swigged from a bottle of whole milk in Victory Circle and then poured it over his head, the traditional celebration for an Indianapolis 500 winner.
Newgarden said he grew up racing cars in Indianapolis and had been a fan in the stands as a kid. He wanted to win “so bad” and couldn’t be happier to get the win for “The Captain,” Roger Penske. The win was Penske’s 19th.
“We’re going to enjoy it tonight,” Newgarden said.
He said it was his “dream” to win the race and celebrate with the crowd. He thought being in second position on the final restart would allow him to get past Ericsson and win.
For about half the race, it didn’t appear Newgarden would finish first. While he increased his position throughout the race, it looked like either polesitter Alex Palou or No. 2 qualifier Rinus VeeKay would emerge as the winner.
Palou and VeeKay spent the first half of the race trading the top position back and forth. It looked like both drivers had the speed needed to win.
But fortune changes on a dime in the Indy 500.
Just before the race hit the halfway point, VeeKay and Palou collided in the pits. VeeKay got loose and crashed into Palou, sending Palou’s car into the wall. VeeKay was assessed a penalty and finished 10th.
Give credit to Palou, however—the crash didn’t crush his spirit. At one point, he was in 28th position. He finished fourth, showing how good of a car he had during the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The crash in pit lane changed the complexity of the race, opening the door for other drivers, including Ericsson, who looked like he would win the whole thing until Newgarden made his move and held firm late.
The finish is one fans will talk about for a long time to come. After a relatively clean race with a pair of cautions, there were three red flags as the race closed in on the ending.
Felix Rosenqvist hit a wall and spun out near Turn 1. Kyle Kirkwood couldn’t avoid Rosenqvist, leading to contact. Kirkwood’s car went upside down, skidding down the track and kicking up sparks.
A wheel came off his car and sailed over the grandstands, where it hit a parked car. No one was hurt in the tire incident. Kirkwood and Rosenqvist were unhurt.
That led to the race’s first red flag. The next came on the restart, when Pato O’Ward made contact with Ericsson. The two touched wheels; while Ericsson made a nice recovery, O’Ward’s car slid into the wall. That brought an end to his day.
To add insult to injury, rookie Agustin Canapino crashed into his car as it sat disabled on the track. In a separate incident, Simon Pagenaud spun out after making contact with Scott McLaughlin.
Cue red flag No. 2.
The next restart also ended in a red flag, when Benjamin Pedersen and Ed Carpenter were taken out. It looked like the race would end under caution, with Ericsson, who’d narrowly taken the lead during the restart before the yellow came out, winning his second straight 500.
But race officials instead decided to give it a go with a green flag finish.
Ericsson had the lead before Newgarden made his move and passed him. Ericsson tried to find an opening, but Newgarden held him off and took the checkered flag.
The race almost ended before it even began for Graham Rahal, filling in for the injured Stefan Wilson. Rahal’s car experienced a battery problem and stalled before the race began. By the time the green flag dropped, he was already a couple laps down.
Drivers retired earlier in the race included Katherine Legge, whose car slid in the pits before her day ended. RC Enerson went out around Lap 84, while rookie Sting Ray Robb hit the wall about 10 laps before the halfway point.
The pits were particularly problematic Sunday. In addition to the VeeKay-Palou crash and Katherine Legge’s incident, Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean crashed into each other in the pit area. Herta was assessed a penalty.
Here are the unofficial results:
- Josef Newgarden
- Marcus Ericsson
- Santino Ferrucci
- Alex Palou
- Alexander Rossi
- Scott Dixon
- Takuma Sato
- Conor Daly
- Colton Herta
- Rinus VeeKay
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Callum Illot
- Devlin DeFrancesco
- Scott McLaughlin
- Helio Castroneves
- Tony Kanaan
- Marco Andretti
- Jack Harvey
- Christian Lundgaard
- Ed Carpenter
- Benjamin Pedersen
- Graham Rahal
- Will Power
- Pato O’Ward
- Simon Pagenaud
- Agustin Canapino
- Felix Rosenqvist
- Kyle Kirkwood
- David Malukas
- Romain Grosjean
- Sting Ray Robb
- RC Enerson
- Katherine Legge