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The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest event on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar, and is one of the most special racing events in the world. Teams spend all year planning for the 500-mile race, and often have their best chassis set aside specifically for this one race.

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It is most unfortunate, then, when severe weather disrupts the event as it has this weekend. At almost the exact time the green flag was set to be waved, a line of thunderstorms moved through Indianapolis and put a quick halt to proceedings. Because the storms were severe in nature, IMS was forced to stop all pre-race activities and clear fans from the stands for safety reasons. Approximately 125,000 fans had already made their way into the speedway when the announcement was made, which led to overly packed walkways underneath the grandstands and in the midway area.

The rain lasted for two hours, then quickly moved on so the jet dryer trucks could get to work. A mostly-intact set of pre-race ceremonies were completed exactly four hours behind the original schedule, and even included a spectacular flyby from the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team. And as if conceived by a Hollywood screen writer, the sun began shining again just as drivers were given the command to start their engines.

Scott McLaughlin led the field of 33 drivers to the green flag, with nearly 350,000 fans cheering from stands on both sides of the track. But the pack barely got up to speed when the first caution came out.

Tom Blomqvist was the cause of the first accident of the day, spinning his Meyer Shank Racing Honda while navigating the first turn of the race. He immediately collected Marcus Ericsson, sending the Swede hard into the outside barriers. Pietro Fittipaldi was also collected in the momentary chaos, and all three drivers were out of the race before even having a chance to complete a lap.

That initial caution was the first in what ended up being a messy afternoon at IMS. There were eight cautions periods in total, which resulted in no less than 11 drivers retiring from the race early.

Of the two thirds of the drivers that saw the chequered flags, there were a few that stood out as the best performers of the day. As expected, Team Penske looked strong from the outset, but it was Josef Newgarden that was the best of the bunch.

The defending champion found himself embroiled in a spectacular battle with Pato O’Ward in the final 10 laps, with each driver doing his best to plan out what moves were next as the laps counted down.

Newgarden and O’Ward swapped the lead four separate times, thrilling fans with back and forth passes in nearly every corner of the track. O’Ward made his final pass on the front stretch and took the white flag in the lead, but his move was done one lap too early. Newgarden was able to hold a close line, and made a bold outside pass around the popular Mexican driver into Turn 3. There was no time left to respond, and Newgarden crossed the yard of bricks for the 200th time ahead of everyone else.

In what is now his signature move, the 33-year-old stopped his car on the finish line and climbed through the fencing into the cheering crowds. He emerged from the throngs a couple minutes later, and was whisked away to the unique IMS podium where he and his car were lifted up onto the stage and he was allowed to drink the traditional milk.

Newgarden’s win gave Roger Penske his 20th Indy 500 victory, a milestone that is untouched by any other in the sport. Such is the team owner’s obsession with image and perfection, his personal parking spot at IMS already had the placard changed from ‘19’ to ‘20’ within an hour of the race being concluded.

Newgarden not only earned his second consecutive Indy 500 ring and all the accolades that come with it, he also earned a hefty $440,000 bonus from Borg-Warner that has been building every year since Helio Castroneves won his two consecutive wins in 2001 and 2002.

“This team just has no shortage of excellence across the board,” said Newgarden. “I would step into any one of these cars thankfully. They’re all great. I think they all contributed to this win, so it was a big team day. Really just appreciative.

“I think [O’Ward] is a tremendous champion. He could have easily won the race himself. He was very capable of that with his team. For us, it worked out. He drove me excellently. I’m very thankful for him and the way that he drove.”

O’Ward was understandably dejected after he pulled into his pit box following the race. It was the second time he has finished second in the Indy 500, and he knew full well how close he was to earning the win this year.

He sat for a full minute with his helmet on, pushing back tears and emotions before facing the media that immediately asked him all about how bad it felt to come up just short once again. O’Ward was as professional as he could be in the moment, but it was obvious how much he was pained by having to watch as someone other than him celebrated the best moment of their life.

“I risked so much today to put myself in contention to win this race, but that’s what you have to do whenever you’re stuck in line like that,” said O’Ward. “That’s why if not you’re just stuck, no one passes. I did it when it counted, and yeah, there were — probably the most crazy 500 that I’ve had for sure just in terms of like issues that I was having within my car. So many moments.

“Really prepared to open the doors to ultimately have a chance to win at the end of this, and yeah, it’s just heartbreaking. Two corners short. At the end of the day, I hope I put smiles on kids’ faces and people that were here out to support us. We had to fight for our result today harder than I’ve ever had to fight for it, and I think that’s why it’s just that much more emotional, because I put everything into today.”

Scott Dixon rounded out the podium, with Alexander Rossi crossing the line just behind in fourth. Both drivers seemed to have the pace to earn the win for themselves, but slipped back a bit in the final 20 laps and were not able to contend with those ahead. Dixon was able to take solace in the fact that he gained 18 positions on the day, and now sits second in the points.

Alex Palou crossed the line in fifth, and had one of the calmest days of any driver in the field. He once again expressed the consistent qualities of the champion he is, and extended his streak of top 5 results to eight in a row.

Finishing in sixth was Scott McLaughlin. The Kiwi led the most laps on the day, but still fell back as the track cooled dramatically late in the evening.

Kyle Kirkwood put together a solid recovery effort to finish in seventh, his best Indy 500 result to date. The Florida native was handed a drive through penalty for contact on pit lane less than halfway through the race, but was able to rise dramatically from 25th to seventh in the second portion of the event.

Unfortunately for Andretti Global, his result was the only good mark of the entire day. Colton Herta crashed on his own while running in second place, and had to go to the garage for repairs. Marco Andretti similarly crashed on his own, but was not able to return to the race. And Ericsson was involved in the first lap crash and finished in the 33rd and final position.

The poor results have the unfortunate effect of perpetuating the myth of the Andretti curse. Andretti, despite fielding between four and five cars, has not had more than one finish inside the top 10 of the Indy 500 since 2020. The team has won the race before, but the ‘curse’ has origins all the way back in the 1960’s and performances like this year do little to banish it from people’s minds.

Meyer Shank Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing also had multiple drivers not finish the race. Some of the retirements from those squads were due to engine failures, however, and not on account of an unexpected meeting with the walls.

Honda engines were involved in all three mechanical retirements during the race. The manufacturer was seen to be one step behind its Chevy rival throughout much of the Month of May, and it seems they may have slightly overworked their 2.2-litre engines with the mapping chosen for Sunday’s race.

In contrast, Will Power’s retirement from the race was due to a hard hit to the outside wall. The 2018 Indy 500 champion was attempting to run two wide into Turn 1, and simply lost control in the marbles. His #2 Penske Chevy hit the wall flat with the left side, and he was lucky to have bounced off the SAFER barriers, which absorbed the worst of the impact.

Power’s inability to run in the outside lane was mostly a unique problem, which was helped by the fact that race control brought out sweeper trucks multiple times during the event. A couple extra laps under caution to clean up the rubber debris was a worthy trade-off for the side by side racing fans were treated to throughout the event.

In total, there were 663 on track passes over the course of 200 laps. The 49 lead changes by 18 different leaders were equally impressive, and certainly entertained the fans that waited out the storms in order to watch the 108th running of the great event.

The highest finishing rookie of the event was Christian Rasmussen, who piloted his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy to 12th. His boss and team-mate Ed Carpenter saw his day unravel when he was the innocent party in a pit lane collision that blocked his pit stall.

Kyle Larson did remarkably well in his debut Indy 500, but also had his day ruined by an incident on pit road. The penalty he received was of his own doing, however, as he simply misjudged his braking zone ahead of the speed limit line while making a green flag stop.

The NASCAR star still finished in 18th before immediately taking a private jet across the country to contest what was left of the Coca Cola 600. He did not quite get the chance to run the full 1,100 miles he had planned due to the rain delay, but he still did his best to run as many as he could in both disciplines and thoroughly impressed his peers along the way.

Even though the storms did put a unique twist on Sunday’s marquee event, many were relieved to have the full race run on the original day of billing. Drivers and teams have next to no time to recover, as they have two more races in the immediately following weekends. Newgarden will be especially worn out when he arrives in Detroit on account of the whirlwind media tour he will be taking over the next four days.