Josef Newgarden was on top of the world after winning the Indy 500. This year feels much different (2024)

INDIANAPOLIS — A social media post designed to introduce drivers in the Indianapolis 500 to the general public put Josef Newgarden in an awkward light when the reigning race winner was asked a simple question.

“Which IndyCar driver would you take on a road trip?” asked the questionnaire.

“Solo” Newgarden responded.

An odd answer for a driver who a year ago was practically inseparable from Scott McLaughlin, his Team Penske teammate. The “Bus Bros.” had a media company, a YouTube show and merchandise. They appeared to be the best of friends, and McLaughlin celebrated Newgarden when the Tennessean finally broke through to win his first Indianapolis 500.

Twelve months later, the Bus Bros. are no more. The friendship apparently unraveled after Newgarden went solo and unfollowed everyone on social media — including his wife — in a bid to rebuild his love of racing. Winning the Indy 500 wasn’t as fulfilling as he had expected; for the two-time IndyCar Series champion, racing had become a grind of too many failures and not enough successes.

Insulated but re-energized when he returned for this season, Newgarden scored an emphatic victory in the opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Six weeks later, IndyCar discovered illegal push-to-pass software on the three Team Penske cars and threw out Newgarden’s win and McLaughlin’s third-place finish.

Newgarden returns to the speedway for Sunday’s race as the defending Indy 500 winner but caught in a cheating scandal that has damaged his pristine reputation and that of Team Penske. A deeply embarrassed Roger Penske suspended four team members, including team President Tim Cindric, Newgarden’s strategist.

If the drama is distracting Newgarden, he’s not let on.

He qualified third to complete Team Penske’s first front-row lockout in Indy 500 qualifying since 1988. McLaughlin won the pole, and Will Power qualified second.

Asked how different this year has felt from last season, when Newgarden won in his 12th try, he felt nothing much has changed.

“Feels really similar to me in a lot of ways. I feel a lot of respect for this facility and this race, this track,” Newgarden said before turning the topic to how good his Chevrolet was a year ago. “We were fortunate enough as a team, as a group, where it just fell into place for us. We had a great car. … It was our day.

“I feel the same in that regard. I think I’ve got another great race car,” he said. “I had sort of let go of the fact that I was ever going to win this race. It’s such a tough race to win. I think you had to be comfortable with that. I think that rings true for a second. I’m happy to be here, happy to have a shot.”

Paddock unrest

There remains dissatisfaction about the scandal, particularly from teams who simply don’t believe the Team Penske explanations as to how Newgarden, his engineers and McLaughlin found nothing to be amiss when their horsepower boosts worked when they should not have. IndyCar said Penske drivers had manipulated the push-to-pass software system on their cars; Penske and Cindric called it a miscommunication and breakdown in process.

Zak Brown, head of Arrow McLaren Racing, said the Penske punishments were too light; he called Cindric’s presence at Penske’s sports car win at Laguna Seca two weeks ago while under suspension “a bad look.”

There is skepticism that Cindric won’t be involved in some form in the race. IndyCar set no parameters on what the suspended team members can or can’t do, leaving the discipline to Penske to dole out. Penske owns not only the race team, but IndyCar itself, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500.

“Do I think Tim Cindric is engaged during the Month of May? Yes. In what way, I don’t know the rules they set out. I don’t know that,” Brown said. “But do I believe that Tim Cindric is sitting on his couch, turning on the race and watching it as 5 or 6 million other people are? No.”

Newgarden can win a $440,000 bonus from trophy-maker BorgWarner if he becomes the first driver to win back-to-back Indy 500s since the award was established in 1995. It’s been claimed only once — by Helio Castroneves after 2001 and 2002 victories — and only five drivers in 107 runnings have won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in consecutive years.

Newgarden is the race favorite, followed by McLaughlin and Kyle Larson, according to BetMGM Sportsbook. The odds made McLaughlin a little nervous and same for Larson, who couldn’t understand why anyone would “waste their money betting on me.”

Said McLaughlin: “My first Indy 500, I was headed out to driver intros and some guy screamed at me he’d bet $20,000 on me to win. And all I could think was, ‘Why?’”

Larson effect

This year’s race has NASCAR star Kyle Larson in the field as he attempts to become the fifth driver in history to complete “The Double” and race in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

The 2021 Cup Series champion is the first driver to attempt the 1,100 miles of racing since Kurt Busch in 2014. Weather is not in his favor with the Indy forecast calling for rain on Sunday.

Larson qualified fifth for his debut Indy 500, and a year’s worth of prep has gone into his joint effort between Arrow McLaren Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. Rick Hendrick, his boss, now seems to be having second thoughts about pulling Larson from Indy to get him to Charlotte Motor Speedway in time for the evening’s NASCAR race.

“At this point, just hoping the weather cooperates to get all 1,100-miles in. It’s been something I’ve looked forward to for close to two years,” Larson said. “It doesn’t look too promising for Indy on Sunday, but I think, for me, where I sit, if it’s going to rain, I hope it rains all day. That way it can just get pushed to Monday or something. We can get (NASCAR) in on Sunday night and then come here Monday.”

McLaren boss Zak Brown said the decision would be solely for Hendrick to make.

Chevrolet vs. Honda

Chevrolet clearly had the speed benefit in qualifying when the engine maker claimed the first eight spots in qualifying. But Honda showed it can hold its own in race trim, which means there is no obvious favorite for Sunday.

“I think Chevrolet has a little bit of a power advantage right now, but you never know once the race starts,” said Chip Ganassi, who failed to qualify any of his five Honda-powered cars inside the top 12. “I’ll take a handling car any day over horsepower.”

Brown’s own double

Brown has his own eye on the weather and a plane ticket on hold for Saturday to take him to the Monaco Grand Prix if it appears the Indianapolis 500 will be rained out.

He would then attempt his own version of “The Double” and watch his F1 drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri on Sunday in Monaco, then return to Indianapolis for the 500 on Monday. If he decides to stay in Indianapolis but the 500 is rained out, Brown said he’d travel to North Carolina to cheer on Larson in the Coca-Cola 600.

“I just hope it’s not a rain delay,” Brown said. “I hope it’s either a washout, chucking down rain and we’re not racing Sunday and leave, go to Charlotte, and come back. That’s the delay I want.”

Josef Newgarden was on top of the world after winning the Indy 500. This year feels much different (2024)


How many times has Josef Newgarden won the Indy 500? ›

Newgarden scored his first IndyCar win in 2015 when he was racing for a team owned by Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman. Nine years later, the 33-year-old racer from Hendersonville, Tennessee, has 30 career wins, including two Indianapolis 500 victories and two IndyCar Series Championships.

Who was the winner of the first Indianapolis 500 and what year did he win it? ›

The Marmon Wasp Driven by Ray Harroun, Winner of the 1911 Indianapolis 500. Ray Harroun called his yellow #32 Marmon race car the Wasp. Harroun and relief driver Cyrus Patschke finished the 500 miles in just over 6 hours, 42 minutes, with an average race speed of 74.6 miles per hour.

Who is the most successful driver in IndyCar history? ›

In 1975, Foyt had another dream season. Even through he finished third at Indianapolis, it was one of his best seasons. He had seven wins and 10 top-five finishes in 12 starts for Gilmore Racing. Foyt leads all IndyCar drivers with seven championships and 67 wins.

What were the results of the Indy 500? ›

7:44 p.m. — O'Ward had the lead at the start of the final lap, but Newgarden races past him to win his second straight Indy 500. He's the first back-to-back champion in 22 years. 7:43 p.m. — One lap to go and O'Ward has the narrow lead over Newgarden.

Has anyone won the Indy 500 twice in a row? ›

(1970, 1971, 1978, 1987), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991) and Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021). Six other drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 three times, while 10 more have taken the checkered flag twice.

Who has won the most Indy 500 races? ›

The most successful drivers are A. J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears and Hélio Castroneves, each of whom has won the race four times. The active driver with the most victories is Hélio Castroneves.

Who was killed in the 1964 Indy 500? ›

The race was won by A. J. Foyt, but is primarily remembered for a fiery seven-car accident which resulted in the deaths of racers Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. It is also the last race won by a front-engined "roadster", as all subsequent races have been won by rear-engined, formula-style cars.

Who won the Indy 500 in 2024 today? ›

Josef Newgarden edged Pato O'Ward by 0.3417 seconds to become the first back-to-back winner at the Indy 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02 with the record-extending 20th victory in the event for Team Penske.

Is the Indy 500 the oldest race? ›

The Indianapolis 500, often just called the Indy 500, has been going strong since May 30, 1911 and is the oldest and most traditional automotive circuit race in the world. It is the highlight of the racing calendar of the Indy Racing League (IndyCar), formerly Champ Car up till 1995.

Who was the oldest Indy race car driver? ›

Racing legend Parnelli Jones, the oldest living Indy 500 winner, dies at 90. (WXIN/WTTV) — Racing legend Parnelli Jones has died at the age of 90, a representative of Borg-Warner confirmed to Nexstar's FOX59/CBS4 on Tuesday night.

What is the top IndyCar driver salary? ›

The reported average salary for Indy Car drivers is approximately $750,000, with Marcus Ericsson, the series' top earner, pocketing $3.1 million in 2022.

Did Jeff Gordon drive Indy cars? ›

He's never raced in an Indy car, and neither has Gordon, so they are sharing this first-time pursuit -- at 232 miles per hour. "He is living his dream through Kyle Larson," said Gordon's stepfather, John Bickford. Gordon still lives in Charlotte and works as Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman.

Has a rookie ever won the Indy 500? ›

Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Hélio Castroneves (2001) and Alexander Rossi (2016) are the three drivers who have won both the rookie prize and the race in the same calendar year.

How much money do you get for winning the Indy 500? ›

The year's average payout for NTT IndyCar Series drivers was $543,000, which also exceeds last year's average of $500,600. In 2023, the Indy 500 purse was $17,021,500, and the winner's payout was $3.666 million. The 2022 Indy 500 purse was $16,000,200, and the winner earned $3.1 million.

How much did Josef Newgarden win for the Indy 500? ›

The Indianapolis 500 purse record was shattered for the third year in a row after a weather-delayed 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, with two-time race winner Josef Newgarden of Team Penske earning $4.288 million from a total purse of $18,456,000.

How many drivers have won the Indy 500 multiple times? ›

Four drivers have won the Indy 500 four times: Helio Castroneves, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser. Castroneves was the most recent driver to achieve the feat, earning his fourth victory at the 2021 Indy 500.

Who has the most career Indy 500 starts? ›

Helio Castroneves made his 24th Indy 500 start, moving into a three-way tie with Gordon Johnco*ck and Johnny Rutherford for fourth place for career Indianapolis 500 starts. The record is 35 by A.J. Foyt, followed by Mario Andretti with 29 and Al Unser with 27.

Who was the first American to win the Indy 500? ›

It has been won by drivers from 11 different countries. A total of 55 American drivers have won 77 editions of the race, more than any other nationality. The winner of the first race was American racer Ray Harroun in 1911, and the most recent winner is American racer Josef Newgarden in 2024.

Has anyone won F1 and Indy 500? ›

Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney are two that come to mind that were successful in many types of racing. Mario Andretti was F1 World Champion on 1978 and won the Indy 500 in 1969 and the Daytona 500 in 1967. Clearly a versatile driver! Dan Gurney won races in F1, Indy Car, NASCAR, Can-Am, and Trans-Am.

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