Indy 500: The Breath of Fresh air IndyCar desperately needed

The 108th Indy 500 was an absolute classic and one of the most chaotic running of this race in recent memory. Let’s break down what happened and what led to Josef Newgarden winning his second Indianapolis 500 victory in epic fashion.

Indiana’s infamous weather struck again ahead of the 108th Indy 500. Rain and lighting warnings were issued, and the race was delayed four hours. There were concerns that the race would be moved to the next day.

Thankfully, the skies cleared up, the track was dried, and the green flag waved around 3:45 PM local time.

The chaos begins

Scott McLaughlin led the field to the green but a huge incident at the back of the grid immediately halted the action. Tom Blomqvist touched a curb and lost control of his Meyer Shank Honda, collecting both Marcus Ericsson and Pietro Fittipaldi.

After a long and hard-fought battle to get into the race, it was a bitter end for the 2022 Indy 500 champion.

Shortly after on lap 28, rookie Linus Lundqvist hit the wall in his American Legion Honda and brought out the caution.

These incidents were not the first and certainly not the last cautions in this crazy race.

Penske controls the early stages

As many people predicted, Penske controlled the majority of the race. In the early stages of the race, pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin was a firm control.

As the race continued and the alternate strategies started to take effect, more people would lead the race. While the leaders did their pit stops, other drivers like Indiana native Conor Daly and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sting Ray Robb led the race.

Both Robb and Daly got their elbows out and fought the leaders. Daly scrapped with the leaders several times, taking the lead on track and receiving a huge ovation from the crowd.

Honda’s woes

In qualifying, Chevrolet’s comprehensive advantage over Honda was very transparent. Honda’s race pace over the practice sessions was competitive, a good omen for those teams.

During the race, Chevy retained their advantage. This time it wasn’t just speed, it was reliability.

Katherine Legge, who narrowly escaped the first lap incident, retired from the race on lap 22. Her E.L.F. Cosmetics DCR Honda started puffing smoke, ending her 2024 Indy 500 dreams.

There was another high-profile Honda DNF in Felix Rosenqvist. The Honda V6 in his Sirius XM/Autonation MSR machine lost power and forced the Swede to retire.

On top of that reliability woes, Honda’s top-end speed was not good. This was particularly evident with the Honda’s fighting at the front. Despite their best efforts, the likes of Dixon, Palou, and Herta could not keep up with the Penske’s on the straights.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson, after looking very impressive all through May, did not have the Indy 500 he hoped for. He was in the top 10 for a good portion of the race but made two crucial errors that halted his progress.

The first was a suboptimal restart that saw him bog down with wheel spin and lose a lot of places. Secondly, he locked up while coming in for a pitstop and got a penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

This dropped him down to 22nd. During the later pitstop cycles, he led briefly but eventually gave up the lead to pit. Ultimately, he crossed the line in 18th in his No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevy.

Pit lane shenanigans

It would not be the Indy 500 without some chaos in the pit lane. There was plenty of that in the 108th running.

Kyle Kirkwood was nowhere for the majority of the race. As he came into the pit lane for a stop, he hit the back of Callum Ilott.

Rinus Veekay also got into some trouble for the second year in a row. The Dutchman got a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release that saw him making contact with the side of another car.

Another chaotic moment involved Alexander Rossi. After he left his pit box, he nearly collected Colton Herta, forcing the Andretti driver to check up. However, unlike Veekay and Kirkwood, the Arrow McLaren driver wasn’t penalized.

Herta’s charge ends in disaster

Throughout the month, Colton Herta’s race pace looked good and consistent. That pace carried into the race as the Andretti man charged through the field in his Gainbridge Honda.

By lap 86, the Californian was in 2nd place and the highest-running Andretti by a big margin. However, his hard charge came to an end when he lost the rear of his car and hit the wall.

After the No. 26 crew brought Herta’s car back to the garage, they discovered the damage was not terminal. Colton got back in the car, despite being 17 laps down, to scrape up any remaining points.

A race of two phases

The 108th running of the Indy 500 was a race of two major chapters. This was before and after Will Power’s crash.

Before Power’s accident, it was a tale of chaos and many cautions. There were further incidents like Marco Andretti hitting the wall and Ryan Hunter-Reay being sent into the grass by Scott Dixon. Hunter-Reay’s incident could have been much worse, but the veteran got his car back in control and retired safely.

When Will Power hit the wall hard on lap 147, it went from a caution-fest to an all-out street fight with green flag pit stops. By this time in the race, both Arrow McLaren’s joined the party at the front with Penske.

Josef Newgarden, who was on the back foot to teammate McLaughlin earlier in the race, found crucial speed and put himself in the picture by this stage. The same goes for the Chip Ganassi machines of Palou and Dixon. These six drivers and change brawled consistently and hard until it was time for the last round of stops.

By this time, Palou and McLaughlin were out of the picture, and it was Newgarden, Dixon, and the McLaren’s. For a while, O’Ward and Rossi traded places for the lead and worked as a team.

Once the last round of pit stops came, it was every man for themselves. Rossi was the top McLaren for the majority of the race but O’Ward got the better of him in the closing stages.

The last round of pit stops saw Newgarden and Rossi and O’Ward/Dixon execute different pit strategies. Newgarden and Rossi were on the main strategy and pit first while O’Ward and Dixon pitted later on the alternate strategy.

The overcut worked and Dixon took the lead. It wouldn’t last long as Newgarden blasted past the six-time champ.

Newgarden versus O’Ward

Once Rossi and Dixon were out of the picture, it was Josef Newgarden vs Pato O’Ward for the win of the 108th Indy 500. Everything was on the line and boy did these two drivers put everything on the line.

They traded places back and forth. O’Ward, who put in a heroic performance coming from the mid-pack, displayed why he is a special talent. In the past, O’Ward made some reckless moves and crashed out of the Indianapolis 500. This time, it was different.

The Mexican showed a great display of maturity and took his time in the last few laps, waiting as long as possible before making his move. Going into the final lap, Pato pulled the trigger and took the lead.

He did everything he could but it wasn’t enough to stop Josef Newgarden. The Penske driver retook the lead with an outstanding overtake around the outside of turn three to win back-to-back Indianapolis 500s.

A race for the ages

The 108th running of the Indy 500 had everything that makes this race and this sport special, times three. There was endless action, chaos, heartbreak, and triumph.

The Indiana weather may have delayed things, but it was worth every second of it.

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