SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In his 12th start, Josef Newgarden finally claimed his first win in the Indianapolis 500 Sunday.
Newgarden overtook Marcus Ericsson in a final one-lap shootout to the finish after a red flag for a crash came out with three laps to go.
The win is Roger Penske’s first win as both a team owner and the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s also his 19th Indy 500 win as a team owner.
“This place is amazing,” said Newgarden. “I’m just so thankful to Roger. They look at you like you’re a failure if you don’t win. I’m so glad to be here (in victory lane).”
Marcus Ericsson came home second, the first driver to win the race the year before and then finish second the following since Castroneves did it in 2003.
Santino Ferrucci drove a valiant race, even leading at one point late in the race. He would finish third. Ferrucci now had five starts in the Indy 500 with five top-ten finishes.
Alex Palou started on the pole and exchanged the lead with Rinus Veekay every so often through the first stint which lasted around 30 laps. Through the first couple rounds of stops as lap after lap dropped, Newgarden slowly clawed his way up through the field after starting 17th.
Palou and Veekay would fall through the field though after colliding with each other in the pits. Palou would end up finishing fourth after restarting 26th on the subsequent restart.
The first caution happened on Lap 93 when Sting Ray Robb collided with the wall in the South Chute of IMS.
The next restart fell in the favor of the Arrow McLaren drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. Both of them would exchange the lead lap after lap over the halfway mark.
The second caution was for Romain Grosjean on Lap 150. After turning a few more laps, Ferrucci, Newgarden, Rosenqvist, and O’Ward led a few laps in that period, things turned crazy when a crash between Rosenqvist and Kirkwood brought out the next caution.
That crash sent a tire over the catch fence that barely missed the grandstands, only causing minor damage to a car parked outside the track. One person in the stands was hit by debris but they were checked and released from the infield care center.
The crash throughout the first of what would eventually be three red flags in the last 15 laps. On the restart, Newgarden gained the lead back on Lap 193, but on that lap O’Ward, fighting for 2nd with Ericsson lost control and crashed collecting several other cars.
The red flag flew locking the field with six laps to go.
On the next restart, Newgarden was overtaken by Ericsson as they came to the Yard of Bricks, but a crash behind them involving Benjamin Pedersen and Ed Carpenter brought out another caution. IndyCar made the decision to red-flag the race again for one last shot at a green-flag finish.
Ericsson scored as the leader with Newgarden second and Ferrucci third. The final restart with just 2 laps to go and the drivers saw the green flag and the white flag the next time by.
Ericsson had a good jump on the restart, holding off Newgarden through the first two turns. But, Newgarden got a good run down the backstretch overtaking Ericsson into Turn 3. That was the winning maneuver as Newgarden held Ericsson off the rest of the lap to take the win.
“I’m happy with our performance,” a disgruntled Ericsson said. “Tough restarts. I think it was a tough way to end the race. I don’t think it was a fair way to end the race. I think it was not enough laps to go when the yellow came. It’s not safe to go green on cold tires right out of pit road. We should have finished under yellow.”
Newgarden was thrilled with how the end played out.
“I mean, P2 is where we needed to be,” Newgarden said of the final restart. “Thankfully we had a fast car. We had exactly what we needed to win today.”
The finish between him and Ericsson is also the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.
It was a memorable celebration by Newgarden who climbed out of his car at the Yard of Bricks, squeezed through an opening in the catch fence, and celebrated amongst a gaggle of racing fans in the front stretch grandstand.
The win is Newgarden’s second win of the season and the 27th of his career. This being his 12th start, he ties Tony Kanaan for most starts in the Indy 500 before getting his first win. Only Sam Hanks in 1957 has more starts before getting the win with 13.
Newgarden is also the 10th driver to win the race sporting the #2 on his car and the first driver of the #2 car to win the race since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 (also with Team Penske).
He is also the 75th different driver to win the race, along with being the 75th American driver to win as well.
“I took my car owner hat off and became a car owner there the last two laps,” said Roger Penske. “But Tim (Cindric) had it under control. I listened to the radio all day long, and quite honestly, to get up there and work our way through the day was amazing.”
On To The Next
IndyCar drivers will not have a lot of time to rest up from the long and enduring Month of May. Next Sunday they will tackle the Streets of Detroit in a new race format in Detroit after spending so many years on Belle Isle before.
Alex Palou maintains the points lead with his sixth-place finish. Ericsson, finishing second, holds on to second in the championship standings.
Newgarden’s win leaps him back into the championship conversation as he will go to Detroit fourth in the standings. Pato O’Ward is still third in the standings despite his 24th-place finish.
Josef Newgarden Wins Wild Indy 500 In His 12th Try was originally published on wibc.com
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