The 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 is now in the history books and holy mackerel, what a finish! Lots of drivers were fast and in good positions to win, but in the end, Josef Newgarden drank the milk as an Indianapolis 500 champion! 

What started off as a mostly clean, polite and fuel saving strategic contest, ended up with multiple crashes, red flags and hot tempers. Alex Palou and Rinus Veekay were both super strong in the first half of the race. That all ended when Veekay spun his tires too much leaving the pits, got sideways and contacted Palou as he was leaving his pit box putting him into the pit wall. Fortunately for Palou, this was under a yellow flag condition and his Ganassi crew was able to repair his car and send him back out to try and catch up. Marcus Ericsson was driving just like last year when he won by staying in the top ten almost all day and conserving fuel. The Arrow McLaren team was bloody quick throughout especially with Pato O’Ward taking his place up front for multiple laps. He and his teammate Felix Rosenqvist seemed to be just a wee bit quicker than the other two in their stable – Alexander Rossi and Tony Kanaan. Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood also showed good speed throughout, however Dixon rapidly moved from near up front to mid-field in a short amount of time on his opening stint due to a bad tire vibration which visibly shook his rear wing. Once fixed he gradually moved forward again.

The “big one” involved Rosenqvist losing air on his nose and he understeered and slid up the track before contacting the wall. That spin and crash coming off the wall just missed Santino Ferucci but caught out Kirkwood. He lost a rear tire that flew over the catch fence. Thankfully, it flew in between two grandstands and hit a parked car but no one was injured. Kirkwood hit the wall, flipped upside down and scraped on his roll hoop and aeroscreen with sparks aplenty. It was a spectacular yet scary view from his in-car camera. Although he left on a stretcher complaining of knee pain, he was later released from the infield medical center.

Meanwhile, as the last quarter of the race raged on, the polite and courteous driving took a back seat to the “I’ve gotta’ go and win this race now” mentality. With seven laps remaining, O’Ward stuck his nose down the inside of Ericsson but couldn’t stick the pass. He ended up spinning and smacking the wall. 

A very late re-start after a red flag saw Newgarden leading; however he was jumped by Ericsson when the green flag flew. With two laps remaining the race was red-flagged again. At this point, it looked like a celebration of two wins in-a-row for Ericsson. But wait, there’s more! IndyCar decided to do a one-lap shootout re-start. The cars exited the pits behind the pace car. It came in and the field got a green and a white flag for the last lap. Newgarden timed it perfectly setting up Ericsson out of Turn 2 and had momentum down the back straight. He made the pass stick into Turn 3 and snaked his way out of Turn 4 to take his first win in the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500! Needless to say Ericsson wasn’t happy, Newgarden was ecstatic and although he was disappointed too, Ferucci was able to make AJ Foyt smile giving him his best finish at Indy in 23 years. Feruccis’s “Stars and Stripes” liveried Dallara Chevy was a real fan favorite.

Newgarden’s win gave Roger Penske his 19th Indy 500 triumph. Conspiracy theorists will wonder about that late re-start that gave Newgarden the chance to win. Penske owns the track, the series, and Newgarden’s car. However, the conspiracy theorists will have to settle that with what the rulebook states. In my reading of it, it is a legitimate re-start, if unprecedented. Furthermore, all of IndyCar’s decisions are final and not subject to appeal.

So there you have it, another rollercoaster race of emotions with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. There isn’t much time for Newgarden to celebrate or for those that didn’t win to get their on-track revenge. The Detroit Grand Prix is on Sunday, June 4th

NOTE: Stay tuned for next week’s podcast as we will have a dual interview with O’Ward and Newgarden. . .

Two-time NTT IndyCar Series Champion Josef Newgarden is now an Indianapolis 500 Champion! A win at “The 500” makes any driver’s career complete!

Almost everyone thought that this would be how the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 would finish – with Marcus Ericsson taking his second win-in-a-row, Newgarden second and Ferucci a close third. Alas, one more red flag and one more re-start was all Newgarden needed to make his Indy dream come true! Ericsson finished an unhappy second and Ferucci had to settle for third.

Copyright © by Larry Mason

All photos credit to: INDYCAR Photo