INDIANAPOLIS - After 500 miles of racing and three late-race red flags, Josef Newgarden held off Marcus Ericsson and Santino Ferrucci in a one-lap dash to win the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Newgarden, who started the race in 17th place, used the same move Ericsson had used to secure victory in the Indy 500 a year prior. The No. 2 Shell Chevrolet weaved all over the track, a maneuver colloquially known as ‘the dragon’, to break the draft and prevent Ericsson from sling-shooting by for the win.
“Look, it's impossible to not use that because of the ease it is to follow one car. It got even tougher this year,” said Newgarden when asked about the move. “Today we had an opportunity to win the race, and I wasn't looking to take anyone else out of the race, but I was going to put my car on the line to win. I was either going to win the race or I'd end up in the wall. I wasn't here to finish second, third, or fourth today. I was here to win.”
The opportunity for Newgarden to win came after a controversial decision by race control to throw three red flags in the final 15 laps in order to ensure a green-flag finish.
Second place finisher Marcus Ericsson, who won earlier in the year at St. Petersburg, took issue with the decisions race control made that led to three late-race red flags.
“I don't really agree with how we did that. I don't think that was a fair way to end the race,” said Ericsson in the post-race press conference.
“I think it wasn't enough laps to go to do what we did,” continued Ericsson. “I don't think it's safe to go out of the pits on cold tires for a restart when half the field is sort of still trying to get out on track when we go green.”
Ericsson’s comments come following IndyCar’s decision during the 2020 race to end the race under yellow with 5 laps remaining. Following the race three-years ago, IndyCar stated: “IndyCar makes every effort to end races under green, but in this case following the assessment of the incident, there were too few laps remaining to gather the field behind the pace car, issue a red flag and then restart.”
It appeared as though the decision to try to finish the race under green at all costs was an example of the series backtracking on their previous rules.
During the post-race press conference, it seemed as though Marcus Ericsson was the only driver who spoke out against race control’s officiating. Tony Kanaan and Santino Ferrucci had no objections to trying to give the fans a green-flag finish.
“Could have they called it earlier? Yes. Could have, should have, would have, but we ended under green, and that's what the fans kept asking us every time,” said Kanaan in what could be his final Indy 500 press conference.
The 2023 edition of the Indianapolis 500 will be remembered for its fast pace, late chaos, and enthusiastic winner. Unlike Helio Castroneves, who climbed the catchfence following his four Indy 500 victories, Josef Newgarden ran into the crowd to celebrate with the fans.
“You just can't beat the Hoosier hospitality, the energy that people bring here. It is second to none when it comes to a sporting event,” said Newgarden while reflecting on his victory celebration with the fans.
“I've always known that, having the privilege of being here many, many years and seeing it, and I just wanted to be a part of it. It was always something that would be a dream come true to be able to do that.”
The win is Newgarden’s second win of the year and second on an oval. He is also the first repeat winner in the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series.
Once the pageantry and celebration of winning his first Indianapolis 500 wears off, Josef Newgarden will set his sights on the series championship, something Newgarden says might be even harder than winning Indy.