Motor racing-Newgarden edges out Ericsson to win Indianapolis 500
Adds Kanaan quotes in paragraphs 11-12, Kirkwood quote in paragraph 14
May 28 (Reuters) -American Josef Newgarden of Team Penske edged out Marcus Ericsson to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday in a nail-biting finish to the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" as he denied the Swede back-to-back wins at the Brickyard.
Three red flags late in the race set up a two-lap shootout with Ericsson leading the restart before Newgarden, who moved from fourth to second by virtue of race control, blasted past him to give owner Roger Penske his 19th Indy 500 win but first since his purchase of the IndyCar Series in 2019.
"I'm so thankful, started as a fan in the crowd, it is amazing. I love this city," said Newgarden.
"I was emotional in the last 10 laps, I knew I was in a position to fight. I'm just thankful that the team, everyone, that we finally got this done.
"I was trying to put it off, it's not going to define your career winning the race here but everyone seems to want to make it a defining moment so for me it's impossible not to look at it that way."
Considered the best driver never to win the Indy 500, it was the one victory missing from the 32-year-old American's resume. Twice IndyCar Series champion in 2017 and 2019, Newgarden was patient in a race full of drama.
After Graham Rahal was left stalled on the starting grid, the race was run at a blistering pace with the first caution of the day coming near the halfway mark of the 200 laps when Sting Ray Robb slammed into the wall on lap 91.
Soon afterwards Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou, who had posted a record speed to claim pole, saw his chances of an Indy 500 win hit when Rinus Veekay spun coming out of pit lane, ramming into the Spaniard and pushing his car into the wall.
Palou got back out on the track and battled to finish fourth while Veekay, who started alongside the Spaniard on Row One, placed 10th.
In his last race before retiring, fan favourite and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan finished 16th, one place behind fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves, who will remain in the hunt to set a record of five 500 wins.
"Even though if you don't win, it's fine, as long as you are making a difference. So hopefully I made a difference in this sport," said Kanaan.
"I will always be an IndyCar driver. I will always be an Indy 500 winner."
The most shocking accident came with 15 laps to go when Felix Rosenqvist made contact with Kyle Kirkwood, sending a tyre flying over the safety fencing and narrowly missing landing in the grandstand before crashing into a car in the parking lot.
"You see the sparks flying around. That was the scary part, when I was upside down and no one was getting to me. You’re kind of stuck at that point. I’m just glad it’s so safe," said Kirkwood.
After the red flag and with eight laps to run, a crash by last year's runner-up Pato O'Ward that tangled up Argentine Agustin Canapino, and a simultaneous backfield incident involving 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud, led to a red flag that sent the cars to the pit lane once again.
The race then restarted with four laps to go but another crash involving by Christian Lundgaard, Benjamin Pedersen and Ed Carpenter resulted in the third red flag of the race.
Although the green flag was short-lived, it was enough for Ericsson to take the lead for the final restart in what appeared would be his second straight victory at the Indianapolis oval.
"I think I did everything right behind the wheel. But I just couldn't hold it on the back," said Ericsson, who showed his frustration at failing to become the first back-to-back winner since Castroneves in 2001-02.
"I just thought it was an unfair and dangerous end to the race, I don't think there were enough laps to do what we did. I'm proud of us, congrats to Josef, he did everything right as well."
Reporting by Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City, additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ken Ferris and Sonali Paul
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