Josef Newgarden Makes History By Winning First-Ever Indy 500

Photo: Courtesy of IndyCar

After many attempts, Nashville native Josef Newgarden has finally won the legendary Indianapolis 500, etching his name into motorsports history.

Newgarden is already considered a NTT IndyCar great, winning two race championships, but had never won “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing” until now.

His win came in the final lap, when he dramatically passed 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson on the back straightaway with an outside move just before Turn Three and snaked down the front straightaway to victory in the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet.

Ericsson fell just .0974 of a second short of becoming the first repeat winner since Helio Castroneves in 2002. It was the fourth-closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history.

“Everyone just kept asking me why I haven’t won this race,” Newgarden said. “They [look] at you like you’re a failure if you don’t win it. I wanted to win it so bad. I knew we could. I knew we were capable. It’s a huge team effort, as everybody knows. I’m so glad to be here.”

Like always, it was an exciting and intense race, especially in the final 20 laps or so, which saw tons of red flags and huge accidents. There were also 52 lead changes, the third-highest total in Indianapolis 500 history.

Indy 500 rookie Benjamin Pedersen was the top finisher among the four rookies in the field, after being eliminated from the race in a late multi-car accident. That incident triggered the last of the event-record three competition-related red flags, all in the final 15 laps of the race.

The scintillating finish came in a one-lap showdown for victory after the third red flag. Pedersen, the No. 33 Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter and the No. 24 DRR Cusick CareKeepers Chevrolet of Graham Rahal were collected in a chain-reaction collision on a Lap 196 restart after the second red flag.

After the incident was cleaned up, the remaining cars returned to the track from pit lane on Lap 199 behind the hardtop convertible Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Pace Car, which peeled off the track at the end of that lap to create the last-lap dash for glory.

Ericsson got a big jump on the restart with the green and white flags in the air and led in Turns One and Two on the 2.5-mile oval. But Newgarden gained ground in Turn Two and darted to the outside on the back straightaway with the crowd of more than 300,000 on their feet in rapture.

Newgarden powered past Ericsson, clearing his rival just before entering Turn Three. It appeared Ericsson looked to return the favor on the front straight, but Newgarden used the same snaking driving maneuver to hold him back. It was only the third time in Indy 500 history a driver used a last-lap pass to win.

“I was just trying to stay locked in,” Newgarden said. “I was emotional the last 10 laps because I knew we were in a position to fight for this win at the end. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it was going to come to some last-lap shootout like it always is these days, which is exciting but stressful for us.”

With the win, Newgarden also took home a huge cash prize earning $3.666 million from a total purse of $17,021,500.

After record-breaking payouts in 2022, this is the largest purse and largest winner’s payout in the century-plus history of “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The year’s average payout for NTT IndyCar Series drivers was $500,600, which also exceeds last year’s average of $485,000.

Newgarden will split $20,000 with Team Penske and his chosen charities, SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks Nashville, for his victory as part of the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge.

Fans can see the Music City native and Indy 500 winner on Aug. 4-6, when the NTT IndyCar Series races through the streets of Nashville for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

Steven Boero