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Josef Newgarden uses last-lap pass to win weather-delayed Indianapolis 500 for second consecutive year

Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Josef Newgarden celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday

By Sam Joseph and Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) — Josef Newgarden used a scintillating last-lap pass to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday for the second consecutive year in a race that started four hours late due to extreme weather.

“I’m just so proud of the team. They crushed it. I mean, crushed it. … They came here with the fastest cars. We worked our tails off,” Newgarden told race broadcaster NBC.

The Indy 500, one of the most prestigious and highly-anticipated events of the motorsport calendar, began four hours late on Sunday afternoon after lightning and extreme weather caused organizers to pause pre-race festivities, evacuate fans from the grandstands and wait for rain to pass and the track to dry up.

The race was initially scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. ET but was pushed back to 4:45 p.m.

When it got underway, it was a fan’s delight, with passes at the front of the field and in the pack. There were a race-record 16 different leaders and 87 lead changes.

Newgarden and Pato O’Ward battled for the win in the final laps, with Newgarden passing the Arrow McLaren driver on Turn 3 of the last trip around the 2.5-mile circuit to win the race by just 0.3417 of a second.

Newgarden is the sixth driver to win back-to-back races in Indianapolis and the first since Hélio Castroneves in 2002.

The win gave team owner Roger Penske 20 victories in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar Series champion, and Team Penske were involved in a cheating scandal at the start of the season in March. Newgarden had his season opening victory in St. Petersburg, Florida, disqualified after IndyCar uncovered three Team Penske cars had illegal push-to-pass software on them.

“Absolutely, they can say whatever they want after this point, I don’t care any more,” Newgarden said after the Indy 500.

O’Ward was left near tears by his runner-up finish, a result that came two years after he similarly lost the lead of the Indy 500 on the last lap.

“Just so close again. So f—— close,” he said. “It’s just so painful when you put so much into it.”

He called Newgarden a great competitor.

“I knew it was going to be a fight until the end. Just two corners short,” he said. “I really thought that I did everything in my power to get it done.”

O’Ward told reporters at a news conference that some of the other racers were driving like maniacs on restarts and he was driving defensively for 85% of the race.

“We had so many near, near race-enders,” he told NBC earlier.

Third-place finisher Scott Dixon, who won the event in 2008, said the race was “pretty full on.”

“It was pretty action-packed. At the end there when you’re kind of capturing third, you hope that the first two are going to take each other out, but obviously that didn’t happen,” he said.

“A little bit of drama, but I thought everybody raced pretty cleanly,” Dixon added.

The Indy 500 regularly shares a date with the famous Monaco Grand Prix, known as the “crown jewel” of the Formula One calendar. Earlier Sunday, hometown hero Charles Leclerc won the race around the streets of Monte Carlo for the first time.

No ‘Double’ for Larson

NASCAR Cup points leader Kyle Larson wanted to drive the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day – but weather in Indiana and North Carolina kept him from completing the rare 1,100-mile feat.

Larson raced in Indy, led four laps, and finished 18th as an Indianapolis 500 rookie.

“I would definitely love to be back next year,” Larson told NBC.

But the four-hour delay meant they were still racing in Indy when the Coca-Cola 600 started at 6 p.m. NASCAR Inifinity Series driver Justin Allgaier began the race in Larson’s seat.

Just as Larson’s airplane was getting to the airport not far from the NASCAR track, lightning and rain prompted officials to halt the Coca-Cola 600 after 249 of 400 laps. It never resumed and Allgaier was credited with a 13th place finish. Larson will now need a waiver to maintain playoff eligibility as drivers are required to start all of the first 26 races “unless authorized by NASCAR.”

Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, was attempting to become the just the fifth driver to start both races. John Andretti was the first to accomplish this in 1994, with Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart subsequently taking on the Double on five and two occasions respectively. It was most recently attempted by Kurt Busch in 2014.

“The Double” is regarded as one of the toughest challenges in motorsport due to the mental and physical toll of driving 1,100 miles in a single day, navigating the differences between open-wheel and stock cars and the exhausting travel schedule.

“I don’t want to be just referenced as the greatest NASCAR driver of all time or the greatest sprint car driver of all time, I want to be known as somebody who could climb into all different types of cars and be great at what they do,” Larson said in 2021, per NASCAR.

Defying Father Time

One of only four drivers to win the Indy 500 four times, Castroneves was seeking history on Sunday when he lined up at the Brickyard for the 24th time.

A win on Sunday for the Brazilian would have seen him stand alone as the only person to win the race on five occasions. At 49 years old, Castroneves was aiming to become the oldest ‘500 winner ever and does not plan to hit the brakes any time soon.

Despite high hopes, he finished in 20th place Sunday.

“(Racing at 50) was always my goal, but I don’t want to just ‘do it’,” he told Indy Star. “I feel like we’re still very competitive, and not only just to win, but to make people go crazy here, and that’s what I want to do.

“Right now, I want to keep it going, because that’s what I know best. I’m sure this will change, but I don’t think it’s going to be in the near future.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Homero De la Fuente contributed to this report.

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