Josef Newgarden Goes Back-to-Back in the Indy 500, Pato O'Ward Finishes Second Again

the 108th running of the indianapolis 500
Josef Newgarden Goes Back-to-Back in Indy 500James Gilbert - Getty Images

The 108th running of the Indy 500 included 18 unique leaders, eight cautions, a four-hour rain delay, and two last-lap passes leading up to Josef Newgarden going back-to-back for the first time since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

Newgarden had the lead rounding the corner to the white flag, but Pato O'Ward, who passed him five laps earlier, saw his chance at a last-lap pass; O'Ward safely made the move on the outside of the front stretch and led through the first set of corners. Newgarden responded, entering turn three to pull away for his second victory, outdoing his last-lap pass in 2023. Newgarden beat O'Ward to the line by.3417.

In what he has now decided is a running tradition, Newgarden lept from his seat and ran into the frontstretch grandstands, hugging and celebrating with every fan that he could before grabbing a Penske racing flag and returning to the fence for photos.


“I love this crowd; I’ve got to always go in the crowd when we win this. I’m always doing that," Newgarden told NBC Sports, "Honestly, that wore me out more than the race."

When Newgarden took the checkers, Lee Duffy announced the win, saying, "The year started with a win and followed by a disqualification; Josef Newgarden responded emphatically by winning the biggest motor race in the world!"

Newgarden's second Indy 500 was Team Penske's response to the early season controversy that stripped Newgarden of his St. Pete win.

"They can say whatever they want after this point," Newgarden said of Penske naysayers, "I don't care anymore. I'm so proud of the team; they crushed it. They came here with the fastest cars; they worked their tails off, and team Chevy brought it. Luke [Mason], Tim [Penske], they're not here today but they are a huge part of it. I'm so proud of everybody from Team Penske."

In what was a moment of elation for Newgarden was one of heartbreak for Pato O'Ward who stayed in his car with his head down reflecting on the race before joining the Arrow McLaren team for consolation.

This was the second time that O'Ward has finished one spot short of victory in the Indy 500, first in 2022 when he attempted to pass Marcus Ericsson in the exact same spot where he successfully pulled past Newgarden. He couldn't secure the pass and finished second under caution that year.

"I'm proud of the work we did today; we recovered, we went back, we went forward, we went back," O'Ward to NBC Sports, "Some people were just driving like maniacs. We had so many near-race ends and were just so close again, so fucking close."

O'Ward, along with his teammate Alexander Rossi and fellow Chevy driver Scott Dixon, all had a near-equal chance to be in the final battle. O'Ward's fuel-saving numbers were the strongest, and after hanging back in third for most of the usually chaotic final 20 laps of the race, he knew where his chances would lie.

"I put cars through things I never thought they would be able to do, and I thought, 'Ah, that's it!' and somehow came out of the other side of the corner," Pato recalled. "It's so painful when you put so much into it and to be... two corners short."

The Indy crowd, a place that the Mexican native has taken as a third home, was audible over the broadcast when the 25-year-old made his last lap overtake, something that fills him with joy but makes the heartache greater, "It owes me nothing."

Once Newgarden and Penske made it to victory lane, the No. 2 driver gave Pato his flowers, saying that the final lap would've been what it was if both drivers were not clean racers. Newgarden clearly had the speed for the final pass, but that would've stopped everyone else on the grid from making a last-minute maneuver to block.

"I've got to give it up to Pato as well; he's an extremely clean driver," Newgarden said, "It takes two people to make that work. It's not just a good pass; it's someone that you're working with and racing clean."

Dixon finished third after an alternative fuel strategy almost paid off for the 2008 Indy 500 winner. Rossi finished fourth, followed by defending champing Alex Palou. Scott McLaughlin started on the pole and led the most laps of the race; McLaughlin had not led a single lap before the day and settled for sixth.

You Might Also Like