Indy 500: Josef Newgarden let all the naysayers know

A month removed from the IndyCar season opener revelation, Josef Newgarden left no doubt that he is still Josef Newgarden, winning his second straight Indy 500.
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, Indy 500, IndyCar
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, Indy 500, IndyCar / James Gilbert/GettyImages

If you're going to come at Josef Newgarden, you better not miss.

Less than five weeks removed from a discovery of a rules infraction in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida more than six weeks prior, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet completed a last-lap pass to win the Indy 500 for the second year in a row.

Prior to last year, there had been just two last-lap passes for the win in the first 106 editions of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Within 12 months, Newgarden has taken ownership of half that now-doubled total.

Sure, anybody who claims to be an IndyCar fan was gutted for Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward, given how this year's last-lap pass went down heading into turn three of the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval. His post-race interview was viscerally difficult to listen to.

A couple more feet -- possibly even inches -- and Newgarden's momentum would have been all for naught, putting O'Ward in the catbird seat heading into the short chute with one turn and about a half a straightaway to go.

Instead, following a four-hour rain delay, the 25-year-old Mexican was once again left asking "what-if", and the Indy 500 has its first repeat champion since the now four-time winner Helio Castroneves won it in his first two attempts back in 2001 and 2002.

As for Newgarden, he did exactly what everyone was led to believe he couldn't do after the St. Petersburg push-to-pass scandal emerged and he fell from the championship lead to well outside the top 10, just days after a fourth place finish in Long Beach, California.

After he was disqualified from the season opener, he plummeted further down the standings at Barber Motorsports Park, a track where he had won three times.

He lost double-digit spots in the following race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and fell further. From March 11 to May 11, he had gained a net total of seven points, the equivalent of a single 23rd place finish.

And while he started on the front row of the Indy 500, he was the slowest driver within Team Penske.

Supposedly it was still "in his head".

Exactly one month before the Indy 500, he admitted he was in the wrong and did everything he possibly could to move forward. He made a mistake. He performed an action that fell afoul of the rulebook.

He owned it; he didn't put out a PR-produced statement with some half-baked apology. He took questions about the matter and addressed them head-on, fighting back real tears in doing so.

Yet he was criticized for it all.

Though his account of the situation did slightly differ from those of his teammates, everything that came out afterward backed up everything he said -- the hard, tangible, verified, cross-checked evidence. He still paid the price.

For some, that didn't matter. Go ahead and take his advice: call him "stupid". call him an "idiot". Call him an "asshole". He gave you explicit verbal permission to do so.

Now you can call him a two-time reigning Indy 500 champion, too.

If you're going to kick a man when he's down, you better be sure he can't get back up. Otherwise, he's not going to be the one walking with his tail between his legs when it counts.

Amid attacks on his character, attempts from certain individuals to discredit some of his other major victories in motorsport (not just IndyCar), and attempts at effectively creating a vile smear campaign to paint him as a villain, he rose above it all and crossed the yard of bricks first -- again.

There are now just five drivers with more IndyCar championships and more Indy 500 wins than Newgarden: A.J. Foyt, Dario Franchitti, Louis Meyer, Rick Mears, and Al Unser. Of that group, only Foyt, Franchitti, and Unser have more total IndyCar victories than Newgarden.

Talk is cheap.

And while social media (and, quite frankly, the media in general) will always lean toward the negative, the crowd embraced the 33-year-old Hendersonville, Tennessee native for the second consecutive year, doing so after he secured his 30th career IndyCar victory (for the second time in three months).

Did we really think anything else would be true?

There were questions as to how the two-time IndyCar champion would be received upon his return to the speedway after what came out about from St. Petersburg late last month. Would he receive a warm welcome? Would he possibly get booed?

I think we got the answer that we all, deep down, knew would be the answer.

And for the all the naysayers who may have questioned that answer, Josef Newgarden let them know.

Next. Indy 500: The Kyle Larson situation is anything but personal. Indy 500: The Kyle Larson situation is anything but personal. dark

Can Josef Newgarden become the first ever Indy 500 three-peat winner? The 109th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is scheduled to take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 25, 2025.