Dramas avoided after two spectacular accidents, serial clashes in pit exits and a winner at the finish, the American Josef Newgarden (Penske): the 107th edition of the Indianapolis 500 Miles reserved a crazy and undecided scenario on Sunday, with certain fears bonus.
It is the first time in twelve participations that the 32-year-old driver, IndyCar champion in 2017 and 2019, has won the legendary event. He now has two victories this season, after the Texas Grand Prix, and 26 since the start of his career in this discipline.
« Everyone asked me why I hadn’t won this race yet. You are considered a failure if you don’t win it. I wanted to win it so badly », reacted, very moved, the winner, who beat d t a bit the Swede Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi), second, and the American Santino Ferrucci (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) third.
At the end of the suspense, it therefore ended with an explosion of joy in the Penske camp, while its pilot ran to enjoy a walkabout in the stands with the fans, before spraying himself with milk and not champagne, as is tradition in Indy.
Enough to settle with the frustration legitimately felt by Ericsson, ex-F1 driver who almost scored a double after his triumph last year. Because the Swede had left in the lead, after a third red flag raised during the last 16 laps, with only two more to go, before finally being sucked up by Newgarden.
The Kirkwood Miracle
« Congratulations to Josef, he’s a worthy champion, but I’m very disappointed with how the race ended, » he said.
An epilogue indeed improbable, to the advantage of the American who took advantage of numerous racing incidents.
Among these, 16 laps from the end, the single-seater of Kyle Kirkwood (AJ Foyt Enterprises) turned over after hitting the wall, unable to avoid the McLaren of Felix Rosenqvist who had made a mistake.
The American pilot was finally able to get out of his car unscathed. And one of its wheels, torn off in the shock, crossed the protective mesh, without however reaching the spectators. A miracle.
With fourteen laps to go, Newgarden, in ambush, then overtook Pato O’Ward who had inherited the lead after this crash. Whereupon, the Mexican lost control of his McLaren, whose left rear road was lightly touched by Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi), and hit the wall quite hard.
In the peloton, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (Meyer Shank), then 11th, spun off after being jostled at the back by New Zealander Scott McLaughlin (Penske). He had to retire, like his compatriot Romain Grosjean (Andretti) after a slight accident three-quarters of the way through the race.
Palou, hopes gone
In the lead, with six laps to complete after yet another new start, Newgarden was then overtaken by Ericsson, but a collision involving several cars from the bottom again stopped their momentum, forcing the race marshals to raise the red flag for a third time, with the sequel we know…
The American, who had nevertheless started from 17th place, also benefited from clashes, all the more rare from the pit line as they occurred three times.
On the 95th lap, leaving after refueling, after a minor accident which had neutralized the race for the first time, Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi), then in the lead after starting from pole position, was hit by his pursuer Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing) who had just lost control of his car.
Enough to lift the hopes of victory for both, the Spaniard finishing 4th despite everything and the Dutchman 10th.
And on lap 134, Colton Herta (Andretti) did the same at the expense of his teammate Romain Grosjean, with no other damage than losing a lot of time.
Earlier, it was the Englishwoman Katherine Legge (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) who almost crushed members of a team by swerving on the wall after a spin near the pit stop.