Josef Newgarden

It was worth the wait, and then some.

Josef Newgarden joined the immortals Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by becoming just the sixth driver to win the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in two consecutive years, edging Pato O’Ward in a scintillating race that included the start delayed four hours by a midday rainstorm.

SEE: Race Results

Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden drove his No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet to the victory by .3417 of a second over the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet of O’Ward, as they swapped the lead four times over the last eight laps.

“I knew we could win this race again,” Newgarden said. “There’s just no better way to win this race than that. I’ve got to give it up to Pato, as well. He’s an incredibly clean driver. It takes two people to make that work.”

Newgarden, who started third, became the first repeat winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since Helio Castroneves won in 2001 and 2002 for Team Penske. Newgarden also earned the record-extending 20th victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for Team Penske.

The repeat victory delivered a $440,000 bonus to Newgarden from BorgWarner, the sponsor of the winner’s Borg-Warner Trophy.

Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, followed by Alexander Rossi in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

Reigning series champion Alex Palou rounded out the top five in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Just 1.5079 seconds separated the top five cars despite the last 46 laps running caution-free in a frantic finish.

Christian Rasmussen was the top-finishing rookie, 12th in the No. 33 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson finished 18th in the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet in his first “500” start, hampered by a pit road speeding penalty.

Newgarden celebrated in familiar style for the second straight year, climbing into the crowd in the grandstands adjacent to the Yard of Bricks start-finish line, where he was mobbed by fans.

It was hard to blame his exuberance, as the victory capped a Month of May in which he was without Team Penske President and strategist Tim Cindric and engineer Luke Mason. They were suspended by Team Penske for the two races this month at IMS after the team’s cars were found to have violated INDYCAR Push-to-Pass rules in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Jonathan Diuguid and Raul Prados substituted for Cindric and Mason, respectively, this month.

“They can say whatever they want after this point; I don’t care anymore,” Newgarden said of critics after the violations were discovered. “I’m just so proud of this team. They crushed it. Crushed it. Luke, Tim – they’re not here today, but they’re a huge part of this. I’m just so proud for everybody at Team Penske. That’s the way I wanted to win the thing, right there.”

There were seven caution periods in the first 117 laps, as the race struggled to find a rhythm. But as the intensity ratcheted in the second half of the 200-lap race, the racing was breathtaking – and clean. There were 32 lead changes alone in the last 70 laps.

Rookie Kyffin Simpson was the last of the drivers on a different pit sequence to surrender the lead with their final stop, on Lap 184. That set the stage for a phenomenal four-driver scramble for the win between Newgarden, O’Ward, Rossi and Dixon over the closing 15 laps.

Newgarden took the lead on Lap 193, with O’Ward climbing to second. That set the stage for a series of slingshot passes between the two drivers over the last seven laps.

O’Ward passed Newgarden on the outside just before the start-finish line as the white flag flew I the air for the final lap. O’Ward stayed out front in Turns 1 and 2 ahead and down the back straightaway, but Newgarden tucked in behind O’Ward’s car and made a daring pass outside of O’Ward in Turn 3 to take the lead for good with the crowd of 330,000 on their feet in rapture.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” said O’Ward, who also finished second in 2022. “So close again. I put that car through things I never thought it was going to be able to do. Sometimes I said, ‘Aw, that’s it,’ and somehow I came out of the other side of the corner.

“Oh, man: It’s just so painful when you put so much into it, and then two corners short.”

It was only the fourth time in Indianapolis 500 history that the race was decided by a last-lap pass. Newgarden also achieved that feat last year by passing Marcus Ericsson on Lap 200.

This year’s race was a classic, with an event-record 16 of the 33 starters leading at least one lap. NTT P1 Award winner Scott McLaughlin led the most laps, 64, before finishing sixth in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet.

There also were 649 on-track passes today, the most in the “500” since 2017.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on Sunday, June 2 on the streets of Detroit.