Josef Newgarden, front, celebrates with his pit crew after winning the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday for the second year in a row. AJ Mast/Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Josef Newgarden put his cheating scandal behind him to become the first back-to-back winner of the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves 22 years ago and give Roger Penske a record-extending 20th win in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

The Tennessean passed Pato O’Ward on the final lap of Sunday’s rain-delayed race to take the checkered flag for the second year in a row. And just like last year, Newgarden stopped his Chevrolet-powered car on the track and climbed through a hole in the fence to celebrate with fans in the grandstands.

“I love this crowd. I’ve got to always go in the crowd if we win here, I am always doing that,” Newgarden said, who earned a $440,000 bonus from trophy-maker BorgWarner for winning consecutive 500s. The award was established in 1995 and only claimed once, by Castroneves.

Penske had been watching the race high above the speedway and pumped his arm in celebration as Newgarden crossed the finish line. He then hugged his wife. It took less than an hour for the placard that designates Penske’s parking spot inside the speedway to be changed from “19” to “20.”

O’Ward slumped his head over his steering wheel in bitter disappointment. He was trying to become the first Mexican to win the Indy 500.

It looked as if O’Ward had been crying when he finally removed his helmet. He finished sixth in his Indy 500 debut, then fourth, and then second in 2022 when he was criticized for not being aggressive enough to race Marcus Ericsson for the win.


He refused to back down last year and wound up crashing as he raced for the win. As O’Ward bided his time in the closing laps – he and Newgarden traded the lead several times – he waited to make the winning pass on the final lap.

Newgarden got it right back two turns later.

“It is hard to put it into words – we went back, we went forward, we went back, some people were driving like maniacs,” O’Ward said. “We had so many near-race enders. Just so close again. … I put that car through things I never thought it was going to be able to do. It is always a heartbreak when you’re so close, especially when it’s not the first time and you don’t know how many opportunities you have.”

O’Ward has finished second to Newgarden in six different races and was still struggling with his emotions an hour after the race. He said he battled the flu the last week and barely slept the last five days.

“I’m fine. It’s been a tough month, so much goes into this race,” O’Ward said. “I think I’m somebody who wears my heart on my sleeve. I don’t really hide anything. And it’s just, when you come so close, and it just doesn’t seem to happen, it’s just a lot of emotion.”

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third as the highest-finishing Honda driver and had empathy for O’Ward. Dixon is a six-time IndyCar champion who is considered the greatest driver of his era, and he has one win in the Indy 500.


“It’s a privilege to race here, right? I’m in a situation where I’m lucky to have won, but Pato has come close a few times,” Dixon said. “It can go in cycles. As I’ve said many a times, finishing second sucks. It’s horrible. You’d rather finish last, I think, almost at this place and be out of the race early. He’ll be fine. He’s got plenty of time on his hands.”

The win was an incredible rebound for Newgarden, who last month had his March season-opening victory disqualified because Team Penske had illegal push-to-pass software on its cars. Newgarden used the additional horsepower three times in the win, and it took IndyCar nearly six weeks to discover the Penske manipulation.

Roger Penske, who owns the race team as well as IndyCar, the Indy 500 and the speedway, suspended four crew members, including the team president, Tim Cindric. The Cindric suspension was a massive blow for Newgarden, as Cindric is considered the best strategist in the series.

Newgarden was thrilled to have the win and put the push-to-pass scandal behind him.

“Absolutely, they can say what they want, I don’t even care anymore,” he said. “It’s always a team win. This win epitomizes a team victory. I’m thankful for Roger Penske, he stood by me. He’s the man. He’s a legend.”

The start of the race was delayed four hours by rain, and it ruined NASCAR star Kyle Larson’s chance to run “The Double.” The delay in Indy made him miss the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.


Although Larson in the top 10 most of the day, two rookie mistakes led to an 18th-place finish. First, he lost about 10 spots after making a mistake shifting gears on an early restart. Later, after he worked his way back up to sixth place, Larson locked up his tires entering pit road and was caught speeding. He had to drive through pit road again to serve the penalty, shuffling him outside the top 20.

“It killed our opportunity,” Larson said of the pit-road mistake. “Could have executed better.”

He was on a helicopter headed to a plane for North Carolina within minutes of the race ending. Larson arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 9:18 p.m. and was able to take over for fill-in driver Justin Allgaier while the race was under a red flag after 249 of 400 laps, with the No. 5 Chevrolet in 13th place.

“I’m proud to have finished but disappointed in myself,” said Larson, who has a two-year deal with Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports for Indy and could return in 2025.

Newgarden, O’Ward and Dixon were followed by Alexander Rossi, O’Ward’s teammate at Arrow McLaren Racing. Chevrolet took three of the top four spots.

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