Newgarden makes last-lap pass to win emotional first Indy 500

There were three big crashes late in the race to completely change the complexion of the contest

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Josef Newgarden executed a perfect pass on the final lap of the 2023 race to win his first ever Indianapolis 500 ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

The Nashville native had fought his way to the front from a lowly starting spot and then got the chance to pounce in a one-lap shootout for glory. He waited until Turn 3 to pass the Swede and held off his charge to the yard of bricks to win.

It was Team Penske’s 19th Indy 500 win and almost certainly one of the most eventful after three red flags in the last 20 laps saw some big contenders crash out of the race.

Felix Rosenqvist was right in the mix until 16 laps to go when he got wide in his McLaren and collected Kyle Kirkwood in a horrifying crash. Luckily, nobody was hurt as Kirkwood’s tyre flew over the catch fence and into the car park, hitting a white Chevrolet.

Pato O’Ward was the next to fall by the wayside, almost colliding with Ericsson but having to spin to avoid the Swede before an incident in the back of the pack brought out the third red flag.

Alex Palou had been right at the front for the first two stings but after a mid-race caution, he was collected by a spinning Rinus VeeKay on pit road and his chances of victory were ended. The Spaniard fought his way back into the leading group, but couldn’t get to the position he really wanted, finishing fourth behind Santino Ferrucci.

Alexander Rossi brought home fifth for McLaren despite it looking like a win was on the cards while Scott Dixon recovered from early drama to finish sixth.

McLaren mighty but crashes dent hopes

McLaren looked extremely strong in qualifying even though they didn’t claim pole position in the end but they were even stronger in race trim.

O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Rossi were all in the thick of the action up front and were even able to stretch their fuel longer than their rivals all day.

Rossi ended up sliding back slightly as the race passed halfway but O’Ward and Rosenqvist worked together brilliantly to save each other fuel at the front.

Unfortunately for both, they caused the two red flags late in the day and failed to reach the chequered flag.

Victory eluded them on this occasion but with every year that passes, the British manufacturer gets better and better at Indianapolis and if that trend continues, they could be unstoppable in 2024.

Quick and clean, until it wasn’t

The 107th Indy 500 qualifying was the fastest and closest in history and the impressive skill remained in the race.

It took 92 laps for the first incident on track as Sting Ray Robb drifted wide at Turn 1 and clattered the safer barrier. The next incident didn’t occur until Lap 149 as Romain Grosjean’s Indy 500 attempt ended in the Turn 2 fence, just as it did one year ago.

This race is usually scattered with a few more cautions as the stakes are taken to the maximum but the whole field were very clean for the vast majority of the race… Until it wasn’t.

With 16 laps to go, Rosenqvist got high in Turn 1 and his crash went all the way into Turn 2. There, his spinning McLaren collected Kyle Kirkwood in the Andretti Autosport car and the American was flipped upside down.

He managed to get out without injury, as did Rosenqvist but their hopes of Indy 500 glory were shattered along with their cars.

O’Ward then attempted to pass Ericsson on the restart but the Swede cut down on him and spun him into the wall, taking out Agustin Canapino and Simon Pagenaud.

Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis
Motorsport journalist, indyCar correspondent and F1 writer for Total-Motorsport.com
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