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Josef Newgarden

Source: Matt Fraver/Penske Entertainment / other

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In what will be remembered as one of the most incredible duals in the closing laps, Josef Newgarden did what 21 other drivers have ever done: win multiple Indianapolis 500s.

Newgarden, making a breathtaking pass on Pato O’Ward on the final lap of the race, took his second checkered flag in a row in the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The win means Newgarden will get a $400,000 bonus from BorgWarner as the first driver since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002 to win the Indy 500 in back-to-back years.

“I’m so throttled, you have no idea,” Newgarden said. “I don’t know that I’m going to be very articulate right now in this moment. But I’m appreciative of this team. This team earned this win the entire month. They’ve earned it the entire year.”

Team Penske entered the race month with a handicap, due to the penalties from IndyCar and from Roger Penske himself over the dreaded “Push-To-Pass Scandal.” But, but was able to overcome that handicap with a classic “next man up mentality.”

The race began, four hours after its initial start time due to monstrous severe storms mind you, in mere disaster for Honda drivers in particular. Marcus Ericsson, who had a miserable month having crashed in practice and barely qualified in a back-up car, crashed on in the opening as Tom Blomqvist took the turn too deep, spun, and collected Ericsson and Pietro Fittipaldi.

Three more cautions would happen in the race’s first 56 laps, two of which were caused by engine failures by Felix Rosenqvist and Katherine Legge. Marcus Armstrong also suffered an engine failure in the opening stanza, marking three engine failures for Honda teams.

Though nervous, no other Honda cars suffered engine failures, but by race’s end eight of the ten cars retired from the race held the Honda monacre.

One of those was Colton Herta who brought out the fifth caution of the day on Lap 86.

By this juncture, two different race strategies began to play out. Conor Daly, Sting Ray Robb, Pato O’Ward, and Scott Dixon in particular decided to push their opening stint to the brink of their fuel milage on an alternate strategy.

I think the team did a fantastic job, gave me an opportunity and called a really good strategy to then get ourselves back to the front and made a very strong overcut which ultimately put us into contention there in the end,” O’Ward said.

Dixon, who started 21st, appeared to be executing the alternate strategy to perfection having gotten to the lead by Lap 133. However, the drivers on the primary strategy, which included Newgarden and Rossi, began to make up ground hitting their fuel mileage on target.

After the final green flag pit stops with less than 35 laps left, a late caution sank the day for Robb and Christian Lundgaard, who were on the alternate strategy. But it did even the score between the likes of Newgarden, O’Ward, Dixon, and Rossi; two strategies going out the window in what turned into an epic 20-lap shoot-out to the finish.

When the white flag waved, it was a duel between Newgarden and O’Ward. Just like last year, Newgarden was second on the final lap and made a gusty pass on the knife’s edge of disaster to the outside of O’Ward going into the treacherous third turn.

“I don’t think it works unless you’re racing someone like Pato,” Newgarden said. “It’s not that Pato didn’t race me hard, he just raced me clean. That move doesn’t work unless you’re racing someone like that. It just doesn’t. It’s very easy that that doesn’t work out.”

It also helped that the track’s surface temperature was 20-degrees cooler than what it would usually be at that stage of the race, allowing for better grip for the drivers to take advantage of.

Newgarden swung high, stuck the maneuver, and ran away from O’Ward through the final corner and into a new page of history.

“This team just has no shortage of excellence across the board,” Newgarden said. “I would step into any one of these cars thankfully. You don’t have to be on one program. They’re all great. I think they all contributed to this win, so it was a big team day.”

With Jonathan Diuguid on Newgarden’s stand, and not Tim Cindric, the victory is also Roger Penske’s 20th as a team owner.

Dixon was able to pull off a splendid fuel strategy to come home in third. Alexander Rossi was also in the battle late with Newgarden but finished fourth. Alex Palou pulled off a fifth-place result.

Also of note, Santino Ferrucci finished eighth, which is his sixth top-ten finish in a row. He has never finished outside the top ten. Kyle Larson, who was said to be prioritizing the Coca-Cola 600 over the Indy 500 if the weather did not cooperate, changed his mind and stayed for the duration risking a serious drawback to his championship aspirations in NASCAR.

However, with a championship waiver likely secured from NASCAR, Larson overcame some usual rookie short-coming and finished in a respectable 18th. Christian Rasmussen was the highest-finishing rookie in 12th.

Four of the Top 15 finishing drivers started Row 8 or worse with Rasmussen, Daly in 10th, Lundgaard in 13th, and Graham Rahal in 15th after starting 33rd.

The series will have no time to waste as they head out and head north in the coming weekend as the tackle the streets of downtown Detroit in the next race on the series calender.

With the victory, Newgarden jumps ten places in the points to 7th and right back in the championship hunt. With two top five results, Ganassi driver Alex Palou and Scott Dixon whole a 1-2 lead in the points.