Newgarden hails win in “most difficult race” and defends controversial finish


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Josef Newgarden admitted he couldn’t find the words to express his feelings at finally scoring his first victory in the Indianapolis 500 at his 12th attempt.

“To win this race is indescribable.” Newgarden said after winning Sunday’s race, which he celebrated by hopping through the catchfence along the front straight and running into the crowd.

“I think being at this event is indescribable. Someone has to come and see it and be a part of it to understand what it is really all about.

“I’ve always wanted the honour to win this race. I wanted to go in the crowd if it was ever possible, because I know what the energy is like here in Indianapolis. So to me, it was an unbelievable finish to be able to be here with the team and do that.”

The Indy 500 was the one piece missing from Newgarden’s career until today. “Everyone kept asking me why I haven’t won this race,” he said. “They look at you like you’re a failure if you don’t win it. And 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.

“I was trying to stay locked in,” Newgarden said as he summarised his feelings after taking the chequered flag. “I was emotional the whole last 10 laps, ’cause I knew we were in a position to fight for this win at the end. And I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I knew that it was going to come down to some last-lap shoot-out like it always is these days. Which is exciting, but stressful for us.

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“It takes so long to get to this point – we’re here for weeks, working and grinding on this thing, just for one moment. And that’s what makes it so demoralising when it doesn’t work out. But I can tell you, we’re going to enjoy it tonight.”

Newgarden disappeared into the crowd after his win
The final 20 laps dragged on due to a trio of crashes and subsequent red flags thrown by race control. Newgarden took the final restart in second place behind Marcus Ericsson, last year’s Indy 500 winner – but then passed him on the last lap to take the victory for himself.

“With one lap to go, you want to be second!” he said about his race-winning overtake. “And it actually worked out great that I got a run on the back straight. I knew if I could just get him and clear him into three, then maybe we could just hold on to the line. But he was so quick on the straights that it wasn’t guaranteed.”

“I was just doing everything I could to keep him back. Man, it was a fight. It was just a big fight. This is not easy to win this race, this is the most difficult race in the world to win!”

The driving standards displayed in the final laps, and race control’s use of a last-lap restart to ensure a competitive finish, drew scrutiny. Newgarden backed their decision.

“I’m happy they did it to give a good finish. Obviously if I was in Marcus’ situation, I would have said, ‘yeah, just end it.’

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“I’ve also been in a lot of races where you get ahead of somebody like that, and the yellow just comes out, and you’re going back to the timing line of turn four – and I’m like, ‘what are you talking about? We’ve been sitting here for about five seconds where I’m in front of this person!’

“There’s so many different ways that this could have played out and you could have said – this is fair, or that’s fair. I’ve seen it all. At this point I’m just really thankful they did it the way they did.

“Today went our way, and I’ll take it. I’ll take it all day.”

Newgarden said his aggressive defence down the front stretch, running down below the pit entrance line out of turn four to maintain his lead just as Ericsson did last year to hold off Pato O’Ward, “was legal.”

“They were very clear that they are not enforcing that line and they didn’t enforce it last year,” he explained. “They said they’re not enforcing it again.

“I’m coming to the chequered flag and I’m going to do everything I can to win this race, and I had to be as aggressive as possible. Because the tow effect to just the first car was even more difficult than last year. You were just a sitting duck if you were in the lead.”

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The race winner said the aggressive, serpentine weaving that has become a feature of the sprint to the finishing line in recent Indy 500s is a symptom of the current aerodynamic package.

“I think the cars should be more difficult to drive here,” Newgarden expounded. “It’s a terribly difficult balance for the series to walk, because you want to have a good show. You want everybody to be as close together as possible, and you want it to be difficult for someone to win this race, and I agree with that. But I think it’s not difficult in the right way.”

“We’ve got to find a different formula where we can trim the cars out and they’re easier to follow in the pack. Basically, all this downforce that we’ve added has only made it easier and easier for the first two cars, so when you’re the third car – you’re still just stuck in that tow line where no one is really going anywhere. We’re all closer, but it’s only the first two that can really do something.

“So we’ve got to change that formula where it’s easier to follow in the pack, but you can also be rewarded if you’re better at driving the car with less downforce. I want to see the drivers that really excel get a better advantage.

“I just think the dynamic of the race, the complexion could look a little differently.”

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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6 comments on “Newgarden hails win in “most difficult race” and defends controversial finish”

  1. They were very clear that they are not enforcing that line and they didn’t enforce it last year

    I think they seriously need to enforce this before someone clips the pit attenuator. An oval should be the last place where you can imagine debating track limits!

    1. I totally see your point, but as a racing fan every piece of my body says “Hell no!”. Just let them race man!
      It’s not done that much and only by drivers with full control over their cars at that given moment. Let it go, man.

  2. I like just listening to Newgarden. His post race interviews, his opinions, are really good and mature.

    1. He’s a great ambassador for the series, that’s for sure.

  3. Steven Inselberg
    30th May 2023, 4:48

    Couldn’t find a better place, so I’ll ask here, since it’s related to the order of finish of the 500.
    I can’t figure out the point structure. I understand how Josef get 51 points: 50 for the win and 1 for leading at least one lap.
    I can’t understand the 44 points Ericsson has for second, the 45 Ferrucci has for third, and the 45 Palou has for fourth.
    Is the point structure with respect to points for things other than finishing position different (from that for the other races) for the 500?

    1. Steven Inselberg
      30th May 2023, 5:03

      Never mind my question–I did a little digging. Instead of just a point for the poll, there are point for the Fast 12. 12 for pole winner down to 1 for starting 12th.

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