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Newgarden fulfills dreams after unprecedented third Red Flag in Indy 500

Josef Newgarden won the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, taking his first checkered flag in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing in his 11th attempt. The 32-year-old American driver for Team Penske crossed the yard of bricks to complete his 200th lap, just 0.0974-seconds ahead of reigning champion Marcus Ericsson.

Newgarden, a two-time series champion and 26-time IndyCar Series race victor entering the day, constantly felt the pressure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway looming over him as his car owner is the most illustrious entrant in the history of the Brickyard. And now, Roger Penske also sits as owner of IMS. But this afternoon, Newgarden emerged from his Shell Chevrolet’s cockpit to a roar of the fans and celebrated with them in the main grandstands.

An extactic Newgarden climbed from his car to celebrate with some of the over estimated 320,000 fans immediately after winning The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. (Picture Credit: Karl Zemlin, IndyCar Media / IMS Productions)

Breaking through the invisible bubble and finally inserting himself into Team Penske’s mold of an Indianapolis 500 champion, Newgarden’s first kiss with the bricks comes in a slightly-controversial result from his competitors, notably, runner-up Marcus Ericsson, after a series of big incidents resulted in race control unprecedently red flagging the event three times for competitor accidents — an Indy record — with all three being deployed in the final 15 laps.

After the track was cleaned from the first red flag, INDYCAR restarted the engines before two more resulting crashes led to two more red flags. Ultimately, the race was red flagged one final time as the whimpered field of 33 cars crossed the start/finish line with just two laps remaining, and race control announced there would be just one pace lap before the field took the start of lap 200 with the green flag in unison.

Newgarden’s No. 2 Shell Penske Chevrolet led five laps and averaged a speed of 168.193MPH on Sunday. (Picture Credit: James Black, IndyCar Media / IMS Productions)

Race leader, 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner, Ericsson was frustrated with the outcome, stating the one pace lap wasn’t safe. “I thought it was unfair and a dangerous end to the race,” the Swedish runner-up finisher told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. Ironically, the four-time winner in NTT IndyCar Series competition has earned victories after the deployment of a red flag each time, including a two-lap shootout in last May’s 500-miler.

“They should have called red earlier when they kept it going [with four laps to go],” Ericsson told the press in the DEX Imaging Media Center about a half-hour post-race. “I’m sure Josef doesn’t agree with that and thinks that way but that’s what I thought.”

The 52nd lead change in the 500-mile marathon came on the last lap entering the third turn, with Newgarden sweeping around Ericsson’s outside with just two corners remaining. In thanks to the confusing red flag with only two laps left, it allowed Newgarden a final shot at racing for the win again after narrowly losing the advantage on the restart prior.

The green and white flags were displayed in unison at the end of the 107th Indianapolis 500. (Video: NBC Sports / IMS)

Newgarden utilized a move perfected by the Swede last season, the straightaway swerving (or “snaking” as described in some broadcasts), dipping to the approach of pit entry to eliminate any shot the No. 8 had at passing the No. 2 back in the final feet.

Josef Newgarden salutes the 325,000 fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before driving to victory lane in the Indy 500 on Sunday. (Picture Credit: Joe Skibinski / Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR Media)

Santino Ferrucci had a heroic drive in A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 Turns for Troops Chevrolet, finishing a very impressive third-place finish in memory of Foyt’s late wife Lucy, who passed earlier this year. The drive, like always from the super aggresive Connecticut pilot, either impressed or frightened those watching.

Living to his moto all month of refusing of backing down in the closing laps while in threat for contention, the 24-year-old driver continues his outlandish streak of Top-10 finishes in all five of his Indianapolis 500 appearances, this time setting his best career result in the IndyCar Series.

Polesitter Alex Palou finished fourth in another weird roundabout on pit road for the 2021 series champion. This time, however, the No. 10 Honda was pierced by another car exiting the pit stall. On a round of caution flag pit stops early Sunday, Rinus VeeKay lit the tires leaving his box, spinning rear traction completely and pinballing his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy into Palou’s dominant Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Up to that point, both Palou and VeeKay swapped the lead multiple times, controlling the race for 36 and 24 circuits, respectively.

The climb through the field for Palou was enough to be in the mix for the victory late, but not enough to ever pass the top three contenders in the race again. VeeKay’s day was stuck in traffic and he managed a 10th-place result through the late carnage.

Alexander Rossi was once again super strong at the front of the field and brings home his first Indy 500 with Arrow McLaren in fifth-position. Scott Dixon, the man whose led the most laps all-time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had a quiet but smooth day, not leading a single lap Sunday but finishing in sixth. His CGR teammate in Takuma Sato finished in seventh, and Noblesville, Indiana’s Conor Daly finished eighth.

Incidents in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing started early; after 41 laps Katherine Legge’s return to Indy after a decade ended short. After being released from her pit box on the first stop in the race, she lost traction — similarly to VeeKay’s mishap on the following pit sequence — and smacked the inside concrete pit wall. After trying to make brief repairs to her No. 44 Honda, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team retired.

R.C. Enerson shortly after had an unknown mechanical gremlin eliminate the startup IndyNXT team from their first appearance on the other side of the paddock. Able Motorsports’ No. 50 Chevy completed 75 laps before the rookie driver was declared done for the afternoon.

Sting Ray Robb was the first major accident of the race, crashing into the first turn’s SAFER barrier on Lap 90. Robb was displeased with veteran and substitute driver Graham Rahal, who was laps down to Robb’s No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware entry at the time of an attempted pass into the speedway’s south corner. Robb, on old tires laps away from a pit stop, was forced into the higher groove by Rahal in the No. 24 with the pass up the inside.

The scariest incident of the race saw Kyle Kirkwood flipping onto the SAFER barrier in turn two and skidding of his roolhoop for a large portion of the backstraight. This happened after the right rear tire off his Andretti Autosport No. 27 was peeled off by a spinning and backward Felix Rosenqvist. Rosenqvist’s No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet struck the wall between turns one and two, resulting in a 180-degree spin at the entrance of the second turn when Kirkwood pierced his Dallara-built racecar. The tire was ripped immediately off the tethers and soared inbetween the suites and grandstands erected in the southern chute of the race track.

On-board footage from the AutoNation No. 27 of Kyle Kirkwood on lap 183. (Video: NBC Sports / IMS Productions)

Fortunately for nearly all 325,000 spectators in attendance and those watching worldwide, the stray Firestone Firehawk cleared the seating area and struck a Chevrolet Cruze in the parking lot. Property damage aside, a very close call in Speedway, Indiana this afternoon.

The damage sustained by stationary Cruze outside of the Turn 2 parking lot captured by Andrew Kossack moments after the crash. (Video: @AndrewKossack)

Pato O’Ward led 39 laps today, the most of any of the 33 competitors on-circuit, but his day ended with a trip to the third turn’s SAFER barrier. In third position with eight laps remaining, O’Ward made an attempt to breeze by Ericsson on the inside of the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda, but Ericsson didn’t move up the track to give the Mexican-driver peaking inside space approaching the turn. Ensuing was the No. 5 Arrow McLaren spinning multiple times before smacking the softer wall. Behind him, Scott McLaughlin ran into the back of Simon Pagenaud, causing a chain reaction behind him with Agustin Canapino breaking his car’s steering and inputs before striking the stranded car occupied by O’Ward.

Patricio O’Ward and Agustin Canapino retired from the race on lap 192. (Video: IMS Productions, INDYCAR & NBC Sports)

All drivers were seen and released from the IMS Medical Center.

The race win is Roger Penske’s record-extending 19th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but first since buying the 2.5-mile oval in December 2019.

Race Results – 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race

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