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Josef Newgarden becomes first back-to-back Indy 500 winner in 22 years

Josef Newgarden drives during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo) Josef Newgarden drives during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)
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INDIANAPOLIS -

Josef Newgarden put his cheating scandal behind him to become the first back-to-back winner of the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves did it 22 years ago, giving Roger Penske a record-extending 20th win in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

The Tennessean passed Pato O'Ward on the final lap of Sunday's rain-delayed race to become the first driver to win consecutive 500s since Castroneves did it for Penske in 2001 and 2002. And just like last year, Newgarden stopped his Chevrolet-powered car on the track and climbed through a hole in the fence to celebrate with fans in the grandstands.

“I love this crowd. I’ve got to always go in the crowd if we win here, I am always doing that,” Newgarden said.

O'Ward slumped his head over his steering wheel in bitter disappointment. He was trying to become the first Mexican in 108 runnings to win the Indy 500.

It was an incredible bounceback for Newgarden, who last month had his March season-opening victory disqualified because Team Penske had illegal push-to-pass software on its cars. Newgarden used the additional horsepower three times in the win and it took IndyCar nearly six weeks to discover the Penske manipulation.

Josef Newgarden makes a pit stop during the 2024 Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (AJ Mast/AP Photo)

Roger Penske, who owns the race team, IndyCar, the Indy 500 and the speedway, suspended four crew members, including Team President Tim Cindric. The Cindric suspension was a massive blow for Newgarden as Cindric is considered the best strategist in the series.

Newgarden was thrilled to have the win and put the push-to-pass scandal behind him.

“Absolutely, they can say what they want, I don't even care anymore," he said.

The start of the race was delayed four hours by rain and it ruined NASCAR star Kyle Larson's chance to run “The Double.” The delay in Indy made him miss the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Although Larson was decent most of the day, two rookie mistakes led to an 18th-place finish.

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third as the highest-finishing Honda driver and was followed by Alexander Rossi, O'Ward's teammate at Arrow McLaren Racing. Chevrolet took three of the top four spots. 

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