Newgarden fends off O’Ward for second Indy 500 victory

Josef Newgarden outdueled Pato O’Ward to become the first driver since Helio Castroneves in more than 20 years to earn back to back Indianapolis 500 victories on Sunday. It was Penske’s 20th Indy 500 win.

On a chaotic day that began with a four-hour rain delay and was punctuated by a seemingly endless succession of yellows, an afternoon of position-swapping among the leaders boiled down to a Penske vs Arrow McLaren battle over the final laps. O’Ward surged up to the rear of Newgarden’s car at Turn 3 with two laps to go but then backed out of the move, opting instead to pass the No. 2 Penske Chevy at Turn 1 instead.

It prompted a huge roar from the grandstand, but O’Ward’s attempt to break the tow to Newgarden down the back straightway was ineffective, and Newgarden got a run on him on the approach to Turn 3. The final pass came around the outside, and O’Ward had no opportunity to respond.



“There’s no better way to win a race than that,” said Newgarden. “I’ve got to give it up to Pato as well, he’s an incredibly clean driver and it takes two people to race like that. He could easily have won this race too. We just had things go our way and I’m so proud of the whole team.”

O’Ward was devasted.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” he said. “I’m proud of the work we did today – we recovered, we went back, we went forward, we went back… Some people were driving like maniacs; we had so many near race-enders. We were so close again…

“I put that car through things I never thought it would be able to do and somehow it came out the other end of the corner. Oh man. It’s so painful when you put so much into it and then… two corners short. This place owes me nothing but it’s always such a heartbreak when you come so close, especially when it’s not the first time and you don’t know how many more opportunities like that you will have.”

Scott Dixon was third and best of the Hondas in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing car thanks to a late pass on Alexander Rossi in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevy, and reckoned that was about the most the car had in it.

“It was like a win,” he said. “We had some ups and downs, we had some weird restarts, then we got on top of the strategy. On that restart when they both got by me I thought, ‘OK man, this is going to be a bit of a problem.’ After that I was just trying to hang on.”

Alex Palou completed the top five in CGR’s No. 5 Honda.

There were two, or sometimes three, strategies in play during the race, dictated by cars towards the back taking advantage of a caution to try and change their fortunes. And there were a lot of cautions to choose from.

The first came in the first corner of the race when Meyer Shank’s Tom Blomqvist dropped a wheel onto the grass and spun into Marcus Ericsson, taking both out. Pietro Fittipaldi tried to avoid the wreck and hit Callum Ilott instead. Ilott, who’d started from the back after pitting during the formation laps to replace his steering wheel, was able to continue; Fittipaldi spun up onto the wall and out of the race. Three cars gone.

The next impact came on lap 28 when CGR rookie Linus Lundqvist was at the bottom of an attempted four-wide move through Turn 1, bumped teammate Kyffin Simpson and spun up into the barrier. He’d have plenty of company over the remainder of the evening, with single-lap crashes later accounting for Marco Andretti, and Will Power.

Colton Herta also hit the wall by himself, but only sustained minimal damage. This wasn’t clear to him at the time though and he climbed out of the car and walked back to the pits, whereupon the team seized the car as soon as it was unloaded from the truck, took it back to the garage, changed the nose, and sent it back out.

Ryan Hunter-Reay also crashed out, although he had an assist from Dixon when contact between the pair sent the DRR Chevy into a 360 spin on the grass and back onto the track into oncoming traffic, all of which miraculously managed to avoid him. The latter insisted that Hunter-Reay was looking for a gap that didn’t exist; Hunter-Reay believed Dixon moved over on him. Race control looked at the incident and took no action, to Hunter-Reay’s chagrin.

“I’ve been racing Scott Dixon for close to two decades and never seen anything like that on a superspeedway,” he said. “It was a shock, and we’d been racing each other clean, so I don’t know what that was about. He knows I was there. I don’t know where he was going. How that wasn’t a penalty is beyond me. That was an odd one from Scott, and also from race control.”


The first quarter of the race was also marked by three identical-looking engine failures, all Hondas, which knocked out Marcus Armstrong, Felix Rosenqvist and Katherine Legge, although those proved to the only terminal mechanical problems all day.

Kyle Larson got an early lesson in the nuances of IndyCar racing when he was completely swallowed up at the first restart and fell to 14th, but he recovered to climb as high as sixth before overcooking it on the entry to the pits and incurring a penalty. He finished 18th.

“I would love to be back next year,” he said. “I feel like I learned a lot. I feel great. Made a couple of mistakes early there on the restart; not sure what I did wrong there, but definitely feel good about what I would do different. I smoked the right-front tire on the green flag stop, so I’m proud to finish but pretty upset at myself.”

Elsewhere, polesitter Scott McLaughlin was in the mix for the first three-quarters of the race but got shuffled back in the final scramble of stops and ended the race chasing Palou across the line for sixth. Kyle Kirkwood salvaged something from an otherwise painful day for Andretti Global with a seventh, made all the more remarkable by the fact he’d been off-strategy early on and then earned himself a penalty for hitting the rear of Ilott in pitlane, punting the Arrow McLaren into Ed Carpenter’s pit box – much to the consternation of Carpenter himself, who arrived for his own stop very much not expecting to find an Arrow McLaren already there.

Santino Ferrucci mixed it up with the leading Penskes in the first half of the race but dropped back later on to finish eighth, leaving Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly to complete the top 10.


Story originally appeared on Racer