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

Josef Newgarden used a sparkling stride on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500 for the second consecutive year on Sunday 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 did our utmost,” Newgarden told racing channel NBC.

The Indy 500, one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated events on the motorsports calendar, started four hours late Sunday afternoon after lightning and extreme weather prompted organizers to suspend pre-race festivities, evacuate fans from the stands and wait until it rained. pass and the track dries up.

The race was initially scheduled to start at 12:45 PM ET, but was postponed to 4:45 PM.

When it started it was a delight for the fans, with passes at the front of the pitch and into the pack. There were a race record of 16 different leaders and 87 lead changes.

Newgarden and Pato O’Ward battled for victory in the closing laps, with Newgarden passing the Arrow McLaren driver in Turn 3 of the final run around the 4.1 kilometer circuit to win the race by just 0.3417 seconds.

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

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

Josef Newgarden crosses the finish line to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.  - AJ mast/APJosef Newgarden crosses the finish line to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.  - AJ mast/AP

Josef Newgarden crosses the finish line to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. – AJ mast/AP

Indycar Series driver Tom Blomqvist (66) crashes on the first lap of the race.  - Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports/ReutersIndycar Series driver Tom Blomqvist (66) crashes on the first lap of the race.  - Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports/Reuters

Indycar Series driver Tom Blomqvist (66) crashes on the first lap of the race. – Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports/Reuters

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 took his season-opening victory in St. Petersburg, Florida, but was disqualified after IndyCar discovered that three Team Penske cars contained illegal push-to-pass software.

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

O’Ward was almost in tears with his second-place finish, a result that came two years after he similarly lost the Indy 500 lead on the final lap.

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

He called Newgarden a major competitor.

“I knew it was going to be a battle until the end. Just two turns short,” he said. “I really thought I was doing everything I could to make it happen.”

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

“We had so many near race finishers,” he previously told NBC.

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

“It was quite action-packed. When you end up taking third place you hope the first two will take each other out, but obviously that didn’t happen,” he said.

“A bit of drama, but I thought everyone raced pretty decently,” added Dixon.

The Indy 500 regularly shares a date with the famous Monaco Grand Prix, known as the ‘crown jewel’ of the Formula 1 calendar. Earlier Sunday, hometown hero Charles Leclerc won the race through the streets of Monte Carlo for the first time.

No ‘double’ for Larson

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

Larson raced at Indy, leading four laps and finishing 18th as a rookie in the Indianapolis 500.

“I would definitely love to come 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 Infinity Series driver Justin Allgaier started the race in Larson’s seat.

Larson is an experienced NASCAR driver, but new to IndyCar.  -Christopher Leduc/Icon Sportswire/APLarson is an experienced NASCAR driver, but new to IndyCar.  -Christopher Leduc/Icon Sportswire/AP

Larson is an experienced NASCAR driver, but new to IndyCar. -Christopher Leduc/Icon Sportswire/AP

Just as Larson’s plane reached the airport not far from the NASCAR circuit, lightning and rain prompted officials to halt the Coca-Cola 600 after 249 of 400 laps. It was never resumed and Allgaier was credited with a 13th-place finish. Larson now needs a waiver to qualify for the playoffs, as drivers must start all first 26 races “unless authorized by NASCAR.”

Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, was trying to become only the fifth driver to start both races. John Andretti was the first to do this in 1994, after which Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart went on to take on the Double five and twice respectively. It was last attempted by Kurt Busch in 2014.

‘The Double’ is considered one of the toughest challenges in motorsports due to the mental and physical toll of driving 1,100 miles in one day, navigating the differences between open-wheel and stock cars and the exhausting travel schedule.

“I don’t just want to be called the best NASCAR driver of all time or the best sprint car driver of all time, I want to be known as someone who can climb into all different types of cars and be great at what he does. do,” Larson said in 2021, per NASCAR.

Defying Father Time

One of only four drivers to win the Indy 500 four times, Castroneves sought history on Sunday as he took to the Brickyard for the 24th time.

A win on Sunday for the Brazilian would see him stand alone as the only person to have won the race five times. At 49, Castroneves wanted to become the oldest-ever ‘500 winner and has no plans to put on the brakes anytime soon.

Despite high expectations, he finished in 20th place on Sunday.

Castroneves is already a legendary figure in Indianapolis.  -Michael Conroy/APCastroneves is already a legendary figure in Indianapolis.  -Michael Conroy/AP

Castroneves is already a legendary figure in Indianapolis. -Michael Conroy/AP

“(Racing at age 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 just to win, but to drive people crazy here, and that’s what I want to do.

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

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

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