Josef Newgarden Adds to Penske Legacy with Dramatic Indy 500 Win

the 108th running of the indianapolis 500
Newgarden Adds to Penske Legacy with Indy 500 WinJustin Casterline - Getty Images

Despite the disqualifications, the penalties, the suspensions, the rain and the clouds – literal and figurative, Josef Newgarden rolled to a tension-filled victory Sunday in a remarkable Indianapolis 500.

Newgarden won motorsports’ biggest event with a splendidly plotted last-lap pass of Pato O’Ward, whose strength and edge-of-your-seat maneuvers in the dramatic closing miles fell short in his sport’s most important race once again. The decision essentially came down to the top two over the final seven laps, and Newgarden had saved his best for the last. Literally, the last.

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Joseph Newgarden made the final pass for the win with two turns remaining in the 500.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

He whipped around O’Ward with an outside move and put enough distance between first and second that O’Ward had little chance to try to duplicate the move. Newgarden led laps 193 and 194, O’Ward was in front for 195, Newgarden regained the lead from 196 to 198, another bold move by O’Ward gave him the lead at the white flag, and Newgarden took the outside lane to victory on Lap 200.


“There’s no better way to win a race than that,” Newgarden said. “I have to give it up to Pato. He’s an incredibly clean driver. He could easily have won this race, too. It just fell our way.”

The “falling” his way was not simply a matter of good fortune, though. Newgarden and Team Penske had their strategy set up to be strong and in the hunt in the top three with 10 to go. Newgarden’s car seemed best at the biggest moments, this despite key team members being shut out of the preparations and race strategy.

There was no tangle of pit stops or questions about fuel strategies over the final laps. It was simply a shootout featuring two of the series’ best drivers. Newgarden said his team had performed at high levels despite the lingering negatives from the push-to-pass scandal. “I just went for it,” Newgarden said. “I said, ‘All right, the car was good enough. You guys have done your job. Let me drive to the front.’ They backed me the entire way.”

O’Ward, who missed another great shot at a 500 win for the third straight year, was almost inconsolable in the aftermath of the finish. He broke into tears several times.

Newgarden and Penske succeeded despite controversy that has clouded the season. Violation of IndyCar’s push-to-pass rules resulted in race winner Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin being disqualified from the season opener. Later, after a review of the violations, team owner Roger Penske suspended team president (and Newgarden’s strategist) Tim Cindric and team managing director Ron Ruzewski for the series’ two races at IMS this month.

Newgarden Cashes In

Josef Newgarden’s victory made the Tennessean the first driver to score back-to-back wins in the 500 since Helio Castroneves, also driving for Team Penske, won in 2001 and 2002.

The second consecutive victory earned Newgarden a $440,000 bonus to a payoff that will total several million.

The win was team owner Roger Penske’s 20th in the 500. He made his stroll into victory lane in the Indy twilight, the race starting four hours late because of soaking rain at midday. The rain, which swept across the speedway in sheets at times, stopped around 2:30 p.m., and, after track drying, the race started at 4:45 p.m., local time.

the 108th running of the indianapolis 500
Four cars were involved in first-lap incidents on Sunday.Justin Casterline - Getty Images

Cautions: Eight Is Enough

The race was pockmarked by accidents, and several potential winners were parked by race’s end as eight cautions slowed the field.

The oddest accident occurred on Lap 107 when Ryan Hunter-Reay attempted an inside pass on Scott Dixon. Dixon dropped low at almost the same instant that Hunter-Reay accelerated. Their cars touched, and Hunter-Reay went into a spin. He was able to reach the pits, but the front end of his car was damaged significantly.

Not surprisingly, the two drivers saw the incident differently. Series stewards did not penalize Dixon for the contact, a non-decision that shocked Hunter-Reay. Dixon drove on to a third-place finish and after the race said Hunter-Reay tried to pass in a space that wasn’t big enough.

Foyt Presides Over Pit Road for Yet Another Year

A.J. Foyt roamed the grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week for yet another Indy 500, and watched from his team’s pit with uncommon calm Sunday as A.J. Foyt Racing driver Santino Ferrucci rambled around in the top five.

Foyt’s name is synonymous with Indy. No one has won the 500 more times. He has four wins along with Helio Castroneves, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr.

“People want to say that I made this place,” said Foyt, who will turn 90 years old in January. “That’s ridiculous. If anything, it made me.”

Ferrucci finished eighth.