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Josef Newgarden wins the 2023 Indy 500

Josef Newgarden has won the 2023 Indianapolis 500, narrowly beating last year's winner Marcus Ericsson for a dramatic ending.

In a fight until the finish, Newgarden caught up with the reigning champion Ericsson in the final lap, taking the lead and finishing in first. 

It was a fitting end to "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," which had a massive crash involving Felix Rosenqvist and Kyle Kirkwood in its 184th lap that sent a tire over the fencing, narrowly missing a grandstand, according to the Indianapolis Star

Race favorite Alex Palou started from the pole and led 36 of the first 100 laps. The Spaniard easily had one of the best cars in the race, but he was crashed into by Rinus VeeKay when the cars were trying to exit pit road.

Palou's Chip Ganassi Racing team had to run to push his car back to the stall and he needed a new front wing. Palou dropped to 26th at the halfway point and VeeKay received a penalty for avoidable contact.

The crash on Lap 95 occurred during full-field pit stops under the first caution, caused three laps earlier by rookie Sting Ray Robb, who had a rough month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He crashed along with his Dale Coyne Racing teammate on the opening lap of the road course race at Indy and then struggled to even make the field of 33 for the 500.

Robb was livid with Graham Rahal after the crash for what Robb said was "way too aggressive" driving.

"Just got caught up racing someone I thought didn't stand up to the stereotype, but I guess it's there," said Robb, who refused to mention Rahal by name. "I've had too many learning experiences this year. I'm tired of them. Not much else to say. Really upset and just want to move on."

The caution for Robb created a frenzy on pit road, from VeeKay crashing into Palou, Christian Lundgaard nearly hitting a crew member and a speeding penalty on Argentine rookie Agustin Canapino.

During green-flag stops later in the race, there was more pit-road drama when Colta Herta was released from his stall and hit Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean, who was entering his stall directly ahead of him. Herta was penalized for an unsafe release, but neither car was damaged.

Legge was the first driver eliminated because of an electrical problem in what's been a terrible month for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. The team failed to qualify Graham Rahal for the race and had the three slowest cars in the field.

Rahal got into the race anyway as the injury replacement for Stefan Wilson, who broke his back when Legge crashed into the back of him during a practice session. Wilson, meanwhile, made it out of the hospital and was at the track Sunday for the start of the 107th running of the race.

It began with the usual pageantry before a crowd of more than 300,000 inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and immediately Rahal had a problem. He was stranded on the starting grid when his car wouldn't start after Roger Penske's command to start the engines. By the time the car started, the green flag had flown and Rahal already was a lap down.

"Anyone can win this race," Josef Newgarden, who started 17th, told CBS Sports.  "The strategy can flip on its head with 50 laps to go, and all of the sudden the frontrunners are at the back. You just don't know how it's going to shape up. … You have a plan, but you have to be able to move from that plan."  

Things rarely go according to script in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," though. The chaos of 33 cars flying down the front stretch and into that infamous first turn at more than 230 mph, and the ensuing 200 laps, often produces some unexpected results.

Ahead of the race, asked for a surprise contender, Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport replied: "Canapino."

That would be Agustín Canapino, one of the most popular athletes in Argentina, who is making his Indy 500 debut. He has been fast in practice and, despite qualifying in the ninth row, showed plenty of speed in Friday's final shakedown.

The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500
The #28 DHL Honda of Roman Grosjean is pulled to the grid prior to the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. James Gilbert / Getty Images

"I think he's still got a little bit to learn from following him and whatnot on his gaps and his timing," Herta said, "but he seems like he has a fast car. I think if he can make some adjustments driving-wise, it could be really good for him."

Josef Newgarden, the Team Penske driver still searching for his first Indy 500 win, also said Canapino stood out to him.

"You put Canapino in position at the end and, oh, he would go for it," Newgarden said. "He's very, very impressive this year, and people wrote him off before he even started. He's done tremendously well for no experience. I can't speak highly enough."

Santino Ferrucci is another driver who has come out of nowhere in May. He joined A.J. Foyt Racing, which has struggled for years but underwent an operational overhaul in the offseason, and along with rookie Benjamin Pedersen has turned heads all month.

Ferrucci, who will start fourth, has never finished worse than 10th in four previous starts.

"Yeah, I think Santino can be fast if they all get it right in the pits and stuff," Kanaan said. "He finished up front here in the past, he ran up front, and he has a really good car, so I think he's going to be tough."

Two of the more high-profile teams have had quiet Indianapolis 500 preps before making a statement in final practice.

Andretti Autosport has flown under the radar but sent a warning shot on Friday when Kyle Kirkwood was fifth-fastest on the speed chart, with Herta two spots behind him and Romain Grosjean giving the team a third car in the top eight.

Meanwhile, the Penske team seemed to find some speed — and confidence — during final practice after putting just one driver in the first four rows in qualifying. Will Power turned the third-fastest lap in practice while Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin also were in the top 10.

Practice is one thing, though. One of the most iconic races in motorsports is something else entirely.

"It's really hard to single anyone out these days," Newgarden said. "Anyone can win this race, genuinely. The strategy can flip on its head with 50 to go and all of a sudden the front-runners are in the back and vice versa. You just don't know how it's going to shape up. It could be a normal day; it could be a crazy day. It's always a guess when you come into these things."

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