Pato O'Ward Josef Newgarden

An instant classic, to be sure.

Think about this: There have only been four last-lap passes to win the Indianapolis 500 in the 108-year history, and now Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden has executed them in consecutive races.

Newgarden’s outside pass of Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in Turn 3 on the final lap was reminiscent of his overtake of Marcus Ericsson just a year ago. This time, however, Newgarden didn’t have to weave down the front straightaway to hold off the second-place finisher.

The drama wasn’t just at the front of the field, either. This version of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” featured 649 on-track passes, the most since 2017. A record 16 of the 33 drivers led the race.

It was expected there would be an inordinate number of interesting storylines in this race, and the 200 laps provided them. A look back:

The Rocky Start

The day began with a four-hour weather delay, which in reality was longer than that given the announcement that the grandstands would be cleared at 11:15 a.m. in anticipation of severe weather, including lightning. The pre-race activities were staged on either side of the long break, which made for an unusual start to the day.

When the race began, it was quickly slowed for a first-lap caution when Meyer Shank Racing rookie Tom Blomqvist spun in Turn 1. Ericsson, who had finished first and second in the past two races, and his Andretti Global machine were collected, and the ensuing scramble saw contact between Callum Ilott of Arrow McLaren and Pietro Fittipaldi of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing that ended Fittipaldi’s race.

The car of Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong began smoking during that early yellow, and his race officially ended after six laps. By Lap 27, the cars of Katherine Legge (Dale Coyne Racing) and rookie Linus Lundqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing) also were out.

Larson’s Difficult Day

Most impacted by the weather delay was Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion trying to become the first driver in a decade to compete in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day. It didn’t happen because Larson never turned a lap in the stock car race due to the late start in Indianapolis and the inclement weather that hit Charlottle just as he arrived.

That wasn’t Larson’s only trouble. On the second restart that began Lap 9, being in the wrong gear cost him momentum that led to six cars passing him in Turn 4. The Arrow McLaren driver lost two more positions on the next lap, a drop from sixth to 14th overall. That created more work than the rookie needed with so many cars running similar pace.

Pitting on Lap 131, Larson exceeded the speed limit and was forced to serve a drive-through penalty. He had spent most of that segment in sixth place and was in fifth place on the lap before that stop. The penalty dropped him to 22nd in the order and a lap down. He later got the lap back, but he finished 18th. He was named Rookie of the Year after qualifying in the fifth position and leading four laps.

Different Strategies in Play

With just over 50 laps to go, drivers were working three fuel strategies in a bid to win the race. Chip Ganassi Raicng’s Scott Dixon was among was among those most impacted by Will Power’s Turn 1 crash on Lap 147.

2008 “500” winner Dixon had made his next-to-last stop on Lap 141, giving him a four-lap advantage on O’Ward and an 11-lap cushion on Newgarden. At a minimum, Dixon could have gone full rich in the late going while the top two finishers likely would have needed to conserve fuel.

Despite the untimely caution, Dixon still finished third, giving him nine top-five finishes in 22 starts. He improved 18 positions from his starting spot, and the 12 laps he led pushed his career record to 677. The six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion broke a tie with Tony Kanaan and now has led this event 16 times in his career.

Others hurt by the caution for Power were Conor Daly of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Sting Ray Robb of AJ Foyt Racing. Had the race stayed green for the duration, both might have contended for top-five finishes. As it was, Daly led 22 laps, Robb 23, and they finished 10th and 16th, respectively. Only pole sitter Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske (66 laps) and Newgarden (26) led more laps.

Those With Big Days

Of course, there can only be one winner, and the heartbreak of not being that driver was most evident by O’Ward’s reaction after the race. But there were several in addition to Newgarden who surely were pleased with their performance.

Team Penske scored its record-extending 20th victory, and McLaughlin led the first 66 laps of his Indy career. Newgarden gave team owner Roger Penske his unprecedented second back-to-back winner following Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

Arrow McLaren wished for more for Larson, but O’Ward and Alexander Rossi finished second and fourth, respectively. Ilott finished 11th, the best of his “500” career. O’Ward has finished in the top six in four of his five races and was poised to do so last year, as well, before crashing on Lap 193 fighting for second place. Rossi has finished fifth, fifth and fourth in the past three races, giving him top-five finishes in six of his nine races, including the win in 2016. He finished second in 2019. Rossi’s issue late in the race was being short on fuel in the final segment. His last stop came on Lap 169 while other top-six finishers stopped between Laps 171 and 173.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou again had a strong day, driving from 14th to finish fifth. The two-time series champion has delivered four consecutive top-10 finishes and will take a 20-point lead over Dixon to this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear (noon ET, USA Network, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci wasn’t a threat to win the race in the late going, but his eighth-place finish extended his string of top-10 finishes to six.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Christian Rasmussen was the highest-finishing rookie driver in 12th. Last year’s INDY NXT by Firestone champion was in the thick of things, showing the talent that led Ed Carpenter to sign him. Teammate Rinus VeeKay finished ninth, giving him consecutive top-10 finishes and three such finishes in the past four years.

Rookie drivers always hope to gain as much experience as possible, and Larson and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyffin Simpson joined Rasmussen in completing all 200 laps.

NBC Sports also had a big day as viewership across all platforms increased by 8 percent to 5.344 million. The broadcaster realized 6.46 million in the final 15 minutes of the race.