Joseph Newgarden, Indy 500 lore, braves last-lap pass for second straight victory

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – A year ago, he jumped, he climbed and he screamed.

It’s the burst of emotion you get after winning your first Indianapolis 500 in 12 tries. Joseph Newgarden in his no. 2 Penske parked the Chevrolet in the brick yard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, climbed out of his cockpit, scaled the net, and turned the front straight bleachers into a mosh pit.

That scene spoke volumes about how much this race means to those who win it.

“You never know if you’re ever going to win here,” he admitted. “Sure, you can dream about it. How could you not?”

He had. years. For decades, in fact. After that Newgarden slogged through the top 10s in five of his first 11 starts — and that oh-so-close-yet-still-so-far feeling that comes with it — was as surprised and worried as many, if he ever got it. Kiss the bricks.

“Whether you’re close or far, you leave with (a) broken heart,” he said.

That’s why when he finally did it, the last time he churned the milk, he let it all out.

Climbing. scream Dizzy.

On Sunday, Newgarden jumped up and shouted again, and the continuity was just as sweet as it was 12 months ago. Making a daring pass in the second-to-last turn on the final lap of the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, Newgarden pulled wide and passed Pado O’Ward, who had bolted ahead at the start of lap 200. And he wanted to end the heartache he had experienced here so many times.

Newgarden knows that heartache intimately.

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“I want to win this race so bad,” a devastated O’Ward said afterward.

But that’s Indy, where the margin between agony and ecstasy is three-tenths of a second. Newgarden became the first driver in 22 years to win back-to-back 500s with a flawless finish, hammering everything he had into the final quarter of the race and then holding off O’Ward by a hair in the closing stages.

“It’s flat-out,” Newgarden said of the home stretch. “No one lifted (the gas) or left anything. I felt ruined half the time.

“We were on offense for the last 60 laps,” said Jonathan Duguid, Newgarden’s fill-in race strategist.

O’Ward agreed as much. He swung for the brakes, not intending to take second place.

The battle throughout the final 10 laps proved terrific theatre, a worthy showcase for the 300,000 fans who faced a four-hour weather delay and saw the race finish in the evening twilight. O’Ward had five to go past Newgarden; Newgarden responded two laps later as the duo separated themselves from rivals Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi. O’Ward then went ahead waving the white flag. He looked as fast as any car on the track.

Is this his moment?

Newgarden was waiting. He had four turns.

He waited. He had two twists.

Dixon, a former champ, sat in third place, hoping the two would bump into each other.

When will Newgarden make his move?

Will it work?

Then, as the two entered the third turn, he pounced. It’s the bold acceleration that leads into a gamble short shoot that could either capture the Borg-Warner Trophy or lead to an embarrassing last-lap trophy. It could have cost him everything.

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“We’re going to put it all on the line,” Newgarden said. “You have to if you want to win Indy.”

He was right.

This move paid off. He passed O’Ward and then entered history.

Newgarden got out of his car moments later and was sprinting into the bleachers, the same scene from last May replayed down the homestretch of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“We got home and had nothing to regret,” he beamed a few hours later.

The win capped a tumultuous month for Newgarden and Team Penske: his season-opening victory in St. Petersburg was stripped after he was deemed to have used an illegal push-to-pass maneuver during the race. Newgarden boss Roger Penske, who doubles as the speedway’s owner and NTT IndyCar Series president, also received harsher punishment: Four crew members were suspended, including Newgarden’s chief race strategist, Tim Cintric.

Newgarden denied knowingly breaking any rules, but it was a stumbling start to May. There was even a little boos aimed in his direction at IMS this week.

Newgarden brushed it off, no guts.

He also drove like that.

Titled “Indy 500 Domination”, the no. 2 The team had a text chain throughout the week.

On Sunday, Newgarden became the first driver since Helio Castroneves in 2002 to successfully defend his title, dropping two engineers and filling in for Cintric.

Newgarden, very quickly, cements itself in indie lore.

Duguid, who had never been part of an Indianapolis 500 victory before Sunday, told a colleague: “I don’t think we made a single mistake today.”

It sure doesn’t seem like it. A chaotic race at the start, littered with faults and caution flags, settled down in the latter half. Eventually, Newgarden and O’Ward pulled away, leading four times in the final 10 laps.

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“I have to tip my hat to Pato,” Newgarden said. “He could have easily won this race too, but it fell our way.”

The last-lap pass gave Penske his 20th Indianapolis 500 victory as a franchise, and Newgarden was awarded a $440,000 bonus from Borg Warner.

Make no mistake, he earned every bit of it.

“It was a blur,” Newgarden said of the cardiac arrest decision. “It was very intense in the last 30 laps.”

A year ago, when he stopped Marcus Ericsson’s bid for back-to-back titles, as well.

Same winner. Same scenario. Same celebration.

But 2025 will be different, because next year, the stakes will be higher.

12 months from now, Newgarden will have the opportunity to do something no driver has done in the 113-year history of the world’s most prestigious motor race.

Three wins in a row.

Go deeper

In the Indy 500, Pado O’Ward was heartbroken after coming up short again

(Photo of Joseph Newgarden celebrating Sunday’s win: Brian Spurlock/ICON Sportswire via Getty Images)

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