The race was red flagged for the first time with 14 laps remaining when Felix Rosenqvist (Arrow McLaren) crashed out of fourth place at Turn 1, clipping Kyle Kirkwood’s Andretti Autosport car which slammed into the wall and flipped over at Turn 2.
That setup an eight-lap sprint to the finish, but another red flag was required as Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren) clashed with Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) and slammed the wall. A third attempt brought out a yellow almost immediately with a multi-car tailender crash.
Newgarden then triumphed in a final-lap shootout, passing Ericsson at Turn 3 to score his first Indy 500 win.
Poleman Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing led the 32-car field to the green flag (as Graham Rahal was stranded in the pits with a battery failure) leading Rinus VeeKey (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Rosenqvist. Ganassi’s Scott Dixon jumped up to fourth, swooping ahead of Santino Ferrucci (AJ Foyt Racing) and the McLarens of Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward. Rahal rejoined the race two laps down.
VeeKay passed Palou for the lead at the start of lap 3, with Team Penske’s Will Power an early mover, up to eighth from 12th. Palou repaid the favor on VeeKay a lap later at Turn 1, and they would trade the top spot across the first stint.
Dixon plummeted down the order due to a left-side tyre vibration 20 laps into the opening run. By lap 25, Dixon had fallen from fourth to 14th and he pitted on lap 27, rejoining 32nd. Romain Grosjean was another early stopper for Andretti Autosport due to handling issues.
Palou was the first of the leaders to pit at lap 30, along with Ferrucci, while VeeKay stayed out until lap 32, a lap before Rosenqvist, while Rossi, O’Ward and Power ran longer than all their rivals.
Palou cycled back to the lead, ahead of VeeKay and Ferrucci, with Rosenqvist – who suffered a blistered tire – dropping back to fourth, ahead of Rossi, O’Ward and Power, the latter struggling with no weightjacker tool. Defending race winner Marcus Ericsson rose to eighth by one-quarter distance, ahead of Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.
Palou made his second stop on lap 62, with VeeKay going two laps longer as before, braving out a tire vibration on that stint. The McLarens ran longer again, with Power going furthest of all on fuel.
Rosenqvist overcut the top two at this point, with O’Ward moving up to make it a McLaren 1-2, and then the Mexican hit the front for himself on lap 70. Ferrucci stormed up to third, sweeping past Palou, who appeared to be struggling with his balance on this stint, and then VeeKay.
The first yellow flew on lap 92 when Sting Ray Robb hit the wall at Turn 1, having gone side by side with Rahal and getting up high into the marbles.
Rosenqvist led the field to the pits, ahead of O’Ward, Ferrucci, VeeKay, Rossi and Palou. But drama soon followed, as VeeKay lit up his rears and half spun as he left the pits and pushed Palou into the pit exit wall. Palou needed to pit again for a new front wing.
Rossi nearly spun in similar fashion further back, almost hitting Power, who was just missed by VeeKay moments later.
Rosenqvist immediately retook the lead, with O’Ward quickly following suit past Ilott. Ericsson leapt up to fourth with an incredibly forceful restart around the outside of Turn 4, before Ferrucci repassed him for third a lap later. Power almost wrecked at Turn 1 and tumbled to 16th.
VeeKay was given a drive-through penalty for his pitstop faux pas, while Dixon was back up to 14th at this point, and Palou was 18th.
With 90 laps to go, O’Ward led Rosenqvist – the McLarens swapping the lead every three laps to help their fuel mileage – ahead of Ferrucci, Newgarden, Ericsson and Colton Herta, the latter up 15 places from the start in his Andretti Autosport machine.
The race pace dropped to a shockingly low 207mph with 75 laps remaining, as strategists began to back-time their final two pitstops. Worryingly for him, O’Ward was the first leader to stop on lap 130, due to his crew being unable to fill-up his fuel tank properly, a couple of laps before Rosenqvist.
Ericsson and Rossi went longest of the frontrunners on fuel, while Herta’s chances were blown right here when he was released straight into the side of team-mate Grosjean.
In shaken-up order, Rosenqvist now led Ericsson, Newgarden, Ferrucci, Rossi and O’Ward. Ed Carpenter and team-mate Conor Daly were next up, ahead of Andretti’s best bet Kirkwood and Takuma Sato (CGR). Palou was 11th, and on a massive charge, with Dixon 13th.
Ericsson hit the front on lap 139, leading Newgarden, Rosenqvist and Rossi with 50 laps to go, when the caution flew for a second time as Grosjean crashed hard exiting Turn 2.
O’Ward led the pitters – needing to get as much gas as possible due to his refill issue – which included Sato, Carpenter, Power and Ilott. That elevated Palou into seventh, putting him back into the frame.
The green flag flew with 43 laps to go, with Ericsson leading Newgarden, Rosenqvist, Rossi, Ferrucci and Kirkwood. Ferrucci swept around the outside of Turn 1 to grab third, as Ericsson and Newgarden swapped the lead ahead of him. Ferrucci stormed down the inside of Newgarden at Turn 1 and chased down Ericsson, who he passed in similar fashion with 40 to go. Power clipped the wall at Turn 2, breaking his rear suspension, but the race stayed green.
Ferrucci pitted from the lead with 31 laps to go but suffered a slow stop and his tire changer allowed his right-front wheel to cross the white line – but he got away without a drive-through penalty. Ericsson, Kirkwood, Newgarden and Rosenqvist all hit pit lane for the final time a lap later.
As Ericsson and Rosenqvist duelled out front, O’Ward slotted into behind them after making his extra pitstop, with Newgarden and Rossi battling hard for fifth.
O’Ward passed Rosenqvist for second with 18 to go and then outdragged Ericsson for the lead in Turn 3 a lap later, just before the third caution of the race for Rosenqvist hitting the wall in Turn 1.
As he lost control, due to bent suspension and steering, the Swede spun back across the track he clipped Kirkwood, whose left-rear wheel flew over the catchfence, before he slammed into the wall and flipped over. Fortunately, Kirkwood’s wheel missed the crowded grandstand and hit a parked car, with no injuries reported.
The race was red flagged to clean up the mess, with O’Ward leading Ericsson, Newgarden, Rossi, Ferrucci and Palou to the green.
The first restart was waved off, but at the second attempt O’Ward had Ericsson right on his tail and as he popped out to the outside, but Newgarden swept around both of them to lead.
O’Ward attacked Ericsson with a very late move into Turn 3, where they touched and O’Ward went spinning into the fence, where he rode around the top of the wall. Further back Simon Pagenaud (Meyer Shank Racing) and McLaughlin clashed, with Pagenaud hitting the wall. To add insult to injury, Agustin Canapino (JHR) also spun out trying to avoid the incident and his brake-less car then slammed into the back of O’Ward’s stationary machine.
That set up the field for a four-lap restart with Newgarden leading Ericsson, Ferrucci, Rossi, Palou and Dixon, but a wreck off Turn 4 – involving Carpenter, Rahal, Christian Lundgaard, Marco Andretti and Benjamin Pedersen – brought out the caution again. Ericsson was scored as the leader as he crossed the line, ahead of Newgarden, Ferrucci, Rossi and Palou.
It meant a one-lap shootout for Indy 500 glory, and Ericsson took an early restart, leading by a big margin into Turn 1, as Palou grabbed fourth from Rossi.
But Newgarden got a huge run off Turn 2 and passed Ericsson into Turn 3, and held him off to the finish line by 0.0974s – the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.
Ferrucci finished third, ahead of Palou, Rossi, Dixon, Sato, Daly, Herta and VeeKay.