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Indianapolis 500 Race Report: Newgarden wins second consecutive Indianapolis 500 with last-lap pass

Written by Sean McKean

Credit - Justin Walsh / Penske Entertainment

After hours of delays and a caution-filled race, the driver to take the chequered flag first was Josef Newgarden. With his second consecutive victory in the prestigious race, he becomes the first driver to achieve the feat in over 20 years, the last being Hélio Castroneves from 2001 to 2002. Newgarden joins this elite list with names such as Al Unser Sr, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose and Bill Vukovich.

The race as it unfolded

On the morning of this year’s Indianapolis 500, rain loomed in the air early. With a downpour soon following in the afternoon, there were many question marks around the running of the race. 

Thankfully, it cleared up in time to get the 500-mile race on Sunday, but question marks still loomed around Kyle Larson’s double for the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, which started at 6 PM local. However, these questions were also answered in the afternoon, when Larson stated his commitment to running the Indianapolis 500.

One more issue occurred pre-race, with Callum Ilott suffering a gear-shifting issue as the pace laps began. Considering the reliability of Chevrolet machinery had already been getting called into question, alarm bells were likely ringing early; however, Ilott solved these issues in time to take the start.

McLaughlin led the field to the green flag | Credit - Walt Kuhn / Penske Entertainment

At the start, polesitter Scott McLaughlin got away well as his teammates slotted in behind. But before they could even complete two corners, a big crash occurred in Turn 1. Rookie Meyer Shank driver Tom Blomqvist clipped the grass and spun around. He collected Marcus Ericsson as they both slammed the wall. Although he initially avoided the accident, Pietro Fittipaldi got a tap from Callum Ilott – who had just rejoined the grid – sending him into the wall and out.

Following was a lengthy clean-up period, but this didn’t come without drama either. Under caution, Chip Ganassi’s Marcus Armstrong suffered an engine failure on lap seven. Unfortunately for the Kiwi, he had to retire from the race.

The race restarted on lap 10, and on the restart, Kyle Larson missed his shift and fell from sixth to 14th – stacking up many drivers behind. In this run, Felix Rosenqvist began making his way through the field, getting by Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta.

Only 13 laps were run before another caution came out for another Honda power unit failure. This time, it was Katherine Legge who had her race undone, pulling off into the pits and retiring on lap 23. This caution also led to pit stops, but little change was seen – aside from Conor Daly, Sting Ray Robb, Christian Lundgaard and Graham Rahal staying out.

The green flag came back out on lap 27, but only one lap later it was yellow again. Going into Turn 1, Linus Lundqvist was in a three-wide situation and lost it on the inside lane – his second and final crash of the weekend.

On lap 33, a long green flag run finally started. Although the frontrunners had fresh tires, it wouldn’t stop the guys who stayed out from butting their heads, as Conor Daly briefly took the lead from McLaughlin.

Though it was the longest green flag run of the race, pit cycles couldn’t start due to another caution on track. Yet again, a Honda-powered entry – this time Meyer Shank’s Felix Rosenqvist – suffered another engine failure. After this, many of the remaining Honda entries were on high alert.

Under caution, nearly everybody came into the pits. For the first time, an Arrow McLaren driver butted their heads into the conversation, with Alexander Rossi being the first out of the pits. Colton Herta also moved into net-third and Alex Palou net-fifth. Since they were already on an alternate strategy, Conor Daly and Sting Ray Robb stayed out to take the top two spots back. Also, Rinus VeeKay would receive a drive-through penalty following a collision coming out of his pit stall.

On the lap 65 restart, Scott McLaughlin wouldn’t let a bad pit stop sour the day, as he surged back into the lead by the first corner with a triple-overtake. However, Robb soon retook the lead from the Kiwi driver – presumably letting him by to save gas.

McLaughlin then dispatched Robb and took the lead ahead of Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden. But yet again before pit cycles could begin, the race’s complexion was completely flipped on lap 85. Coming out of Turn 1, a suspected lock-up from the drivetrain resulted in him nosing into the outside wall. Though the impact only damaged the nose – which meant he could have driven the car to the pits for repair – Herta got out of his car, thus going out of the race.

In the pits, McLaughlin had a solid stop, but he was yet again usurped by another team, this time Josef Newgarden. Also in the pits, Kyle Larson was hit from the rear going into his stall, resulting in him overshooting and stalling in the Ed Carpenter pit box. Subsequently, this affected both Larson’s and Carpenter’s stops. Staying out this cycle were Christian Lundgaard, Rinus VeeKay and Sting Ray Robb.

The lap 92 restart saw Lundgaard take control of the race – albeit on an alternate strategy. Surprisingly, Santino Ferrucci got by McLaughlin to move into net-second while Newgarden maintained net-first. Only ten laps later, the two on the alternate strategy pit, and the new top three were Newgarden, Ferrucci and McLaughlin.

Though he spent a few laps in the garage, Colton Herta was told by his team to get back in the car to return to the race. While he was many laps down by this point, this could prove imperative in the drivers’ standings.

The theme of cautions continued on lap 107. Going down the backstretch, Ryan Hunter-Reay fancied a move on Scott Dixon, but the Kiwi – not seeing the driver to his inside – slammed him into the grass and a spin. Thankfully he was okay, but Hunter-Reay retired from the race.

Most of the front-runners stayed out under this caution, but some notable takers were Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter and Pato O’Ward.

A famous saying in NASCAR says that “cautions breed cautions,” and it’s been proven to be true in IndyCar, too. On the lap 114 restart, Marco Andretti started to lose the rear of his car but couldn’t save it as he reared into the wall in Turn 1. This put Andretti out of the race.

Andretti's crash in Turn 1 | Credit - IndyStar

The lap 119 restart saw Alexander Rossi start carving his way through the field, as he passed Ferrucci and Newgarden to move into second. However, last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner took the position back shortly thereafter en route to the lead on lap 127. 

For the first time in this race, green flag pit cycles began on lap 130. All pit stops remained clean except for Kyle Larson's – the 2021 NASCAR champion getting caught for speeding on entry.

After these pit stops, however, the frontrunners began pack-racing – all of them trying to conserve fuel by staying behind one another. There were some near misses in this pack, most notably Christian Rasmussen, who came mere inches from a race-ending crash in Turn 2.

On the alternate strategies, Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon found themselves at the front, having overcut the rest. Not only did they have track position, but they also had better numbers on fuel.

Before the strategy race could begin between O’Ward, Dixon and the rest, Will Power brought out the yellow flag on lap 147. While trying to make the move on Rasmussen in Turn 1, the Aussie lost the rear of his car and hit the wall hard – putting him out of the race.

Power's race-ending crash | Credit - IndyStar

The lap 156 restart saw the McLaren pair of O’Ward and Rossi lead the field. Rossi initially took the lead from his Mexican teammate, but they started swapping the lead to save as much fuel as possible. This resulted in a form of racing that resembled Formula E’s peloton-style racing.

The final pit stops of the day began on lap 170 with Alexander Rossi from the lead. After they cycled through, the race turned into a four-way battle for the win between Dixon, Newgarden, Rossi and O’Ward with 25 to go. 

With the race coming down to the wire and the temperature cooling, Newgarden – now leading the race with 14 laps to go – suffered from vibrations and a malfunctioning dashboard. All of this was with Rossi and Dixon putting heaps of pressure on him. At seven laps to go, O’Ward made the daring move on his American teammate into Turn 1 with a loose car to try to chase down Josef Newgarden, in which he did at five to go.

With two laps to go, Pato O’Ward made the move to the outside to take the lead from Newgarden as they took the white. Going down the backstretch, Newgarden had an amazing run and sent it into Turn 3 and somehow made it work. It would be that move to seal the deal, as Josef Newgarden became the first driver in over 20 years to win back-to-back Indianapolis 500s. 

Heartbreakingly, Pato O'Ward came home second despite his efforts at the end. Scott Dixon remained in contention to take third followed by O'Ward's teammate Alexander Rossi in fourth. Rounding out the top five was Alex Palou.


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