Indianapoli 500

Newgarden captures first Indy 500 win on final lap


INDIANAPOLIS — Josef Newgarden has been dreaming of this moment since he began racing go-karts at the age of 13. In Sunday’s 107th running of the “greatest spectacle in racing” at the Indy 500, the 32 year-old American stormed passed defending 500 champion Marcus Ericsson, in what could only be described as one the wildest finishes in recent memory, to win his first Indianapolis 500.

After nearly going half of the 200 laps without having a single yellow flag, the final half of the race seemed like it might never end. Fast forward to the final 10 laps where on back-to-back restarts a red flag was ruled and the thrilling conclusion came down to a one lap finish. Newgarden passed Ericsson on the outside just before turn three and held him off for the victory. Newgarden and Ericsson finished .0974 seconds between the two. It was the fourth closest finish in the history of the race.

“This is the hardest race in the world to win,” Newgarden said after his thrilling victory. “To win this race is indescribable. I think being at this event is indescribable. Someone has to come and see it and be a part of it to understand what it is really all about, and I’ve always wanted the honor to win this race because I wanted to go in the crowd if it was ever possible because I know what the energy is like here in Indianapolis.”

And go in the crowd he did. After his win Newgarden found a small entry into the crowd and briefly celebrated with the fans.

“I knew exactly where the gap was,” the first time champion said. “I’d been over there many, many years. I’ve seen that photo, whole spot, and really it’s just like an access point that you can crawl under. It looks like it’s closed but there’s a way to get through. I knew exactly where I was going at the end of this race. I planned to go higher in the stands, but it quickly got a little out of control, and I thought, maybe the best thing is for me to leave again. I hugged a couple people. I felt the energy, and I’m like, I need to get out of here. But it was really cool. You just can’t beat the Hoosier hospitality, the energy that people bring here. It is second to none when it comes to a sporting event.”

Rounding out the top five for the 107th running of the Indy 500 was Ericsson along with 25 year-old Santino Ferucci of AJ Foyt Racing who took third. Alex Palou took fourth while Alexander Rossi took fifth.

Newgarden began the race in the 15th position and ony led five laps of the race. However the good old saying in sports is it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. In his 12th 500 appearance, he was finally able to taste victory circle.

“I think it’s gratifying for the entire team. There should be a tremendous amount of pride across the entire Team Penske group because we’ve had a tough go here the last three, four years, and we’ve had a lot of questions to answer every day,” Newgarden said. “After every qualifying weekend we’ve got to come and put a brave face on and say that we just didn’t fully get there.I knew this year, similar to last year, but even better this year, that we had a good race car and a car that could win the race, and I wasn’t worried about where we qualified. Of course we wanted to be on the front row, and if possible qualify on the pole, but it’s very gratifying for all the work that’s been put in.”

“I know firsthand how much effort has been poured into the last two, three years to figure out how we win this race again, and for our standard, we don’t show up here to be average. There’s nothing given; Indy doesn’t owe anybody anything. It doesn’t matter how many 500s you have. It doesn’t matter what team you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It isn’t an easy place to succeed at.”

I don’t think we came with an ego, and to work through the difficulty the last three, four years, this victory is a win for all of us on our team, and it’s very gratifying for every member that’s put the time in.

Newgarden, who is a member of team Penske, gave track owner Roger Penske his first win since he purchased the track four years ago. It’s the 19th overall Indy 500 win for a Team Penkse driver.

“We’re certainly not going to stop here, I can tell you, with the team we have and the depth of our drivers,” Penske said. The competition, though, everybody here today knows it’s never been tighter. You could see all during the race, maybe within four or five seconds you had 20 cars, and that’s what we’re racing every day. We seen it when we qualify. I think 16 inches was the difference between 1 and 2 in qualifying. We’re going to be back next year. I think Newgarden, this is one he wanted to check off for years. He didn’t understand why he hadn’t won the race today. He earned it. He won the race today, which is certainly to his credit.”

Newgarden himself is already looking ahead to getting Penske his 20th 500 win next May.

“That’s what I said. I put my hand on his shoulder in Victory Lane and said, now we got to get 20. He was the first one to go, absolutely. He didn’t even take a breath. He was ahead of me in the thought process, as you know. He’s eyes forward. It will be important. We need to come back. There’s still areas we can be better, so we’ll go and analyze after this weekend and see where we can improve. But we’ll come back ready to fight and get No. 20 for him.”

The raucous 500 fans who were camped out and flooded the grandstands were treated to a phenomenal finish. Penske made sure he gave the Indy 500 faithful the love that they deserve for being the life-blood and the pulse of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

“Well, I guess when I think back, I think back about coming here in 1951 with my dad to see the first race of my own with him.” Penske said. “Of course never realized that many, many years would pass and I would be here today, our family as the steward of the track, and also to have 19 wins. But we’re competitors. We love this business. We’re committed to this track, to this series, to make it better. And when I see the people today and the demographics and the kids and 70,000 people here on Carb Day, and we had the biggest crowd we had since probably 2016. You saw it yourself. Amazing.”

Newgarden who already had two NTT IndyCar Series championships to his name can now say that he is a winner of the greatest race in the world.