Josef Newgarden compares Indy 500 to Kentucky Derby

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INDIANAPOLIS – Two of the most traditional, time-honored and revered sporting events in America are hosted by adjoining states in the same month of the year. And both feature horsepower.

The Month of May kicks off with the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This year was the 145thrunning of the famed horse race with a crowd of more than 150,000 watching the fabled event.

May ends with the Memorial Day Speed Classic, the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The May 26 race will be the 103rd edition.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

Churchill Downs and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are just 123 miles apart, down Interstate 65.

Both are national treasures that represent the pride of two great Midwestern states – Indiana and Kentucky.

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden got the “Kentucky Derby Treatment” as a guest of NBC Sports when he attended “Derby Day” with his fiancé, Ashley Welch. The Indy 500 veteran was thrilled at the spectacle of 19 horses in the race for the roses.

On Sunday, May 26, more than 300,000 fans will watch Newgarden and 32 other drivers compete in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” featuring a combined 26,000 horsepower.

By attending the Kentucky Derby, Newgarden said it sparked his interest in horse racing. He won’t be able to watch NBC’s coverage of “The Preakness” on Saturday because he will be participating in qualifications for the Indy 500.

But he will be paying attention to what happens at Pimlico after his qualifications have concluded.

“I am interested but will be much more focused on Indy 500 qualifying, but I’ll definitely check out what happens after the fact,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com. “My pick to win on Saturday is War of Will.

“It’s like coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time, when you go to the Derby, you start studying it more.”

By attending the Kentucky Derby as the guests of NBC Sports, Newgarden got to experience a great event for the first time. This will be his eighth Indianapolis 500 as a driver.

He is in a unique position to compare the two sporting events have each feature a slice of Americana.

“You feel the festivity of it, it has the same sort of vibe to it,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com. “The way the stadiums are built, and the way people fill the infield and the stadium sections and seats. It looks like Indy, but just to a one-quarter or a half scale. To me, the whole vibe and atmosphere was very similar.

“I can see why the Kentucky Derby is such a special and historic event. Indy has that same charm. I hope people watching on NBC have that same sort of feeling.”

The fans who come to each event are big fans of the event, maybe more than for the sport. On Derby Day, 150,000 at Churchill Downs are big horse racing fans for that one day. The same can be said for the Indy 500.

“There are a lot of similarities,” Newgarden said. “There isn’t any live betting going on like you get at a horse track, but they have their books out, they see their stats and look at the drivers. At the Derby, they take look at the stats of the horses, try to understand the pedigree of the horses and their speed results.

“At Indy, they see the information on the drivers. People pull out their stopwatches.

“Horses and cars are quite different but very similar throughout the day.”

Fashion is also very important at both events in vastly different ways.

At the Kentucky Derby, it’s pastel-colored sport coats and fancy bow-ties for the men; springtime dresses with hats for the ladies. At the Indy 500, it’s checkerboard shirts, shorts and hats or American flag-themed apparel for both genders.

“It’s a little different fashion,” Newgarden said. “Here, you express yourself in creativity. At the Derby, you express yourself in color, style and tradition. People like to be creative about their racing gear and who they are supporting.

“You have styling on each front, but both are different at the same time.”

Newgarden and his fiancé were in the Stakes Room as guests of NBC on the top level of Churchill Downs.

“It was a very cool privilege to watch the race there,” Newgarden recalled. “I could see the infield and it’s like the ‘Snake Pit’ at the Indy 500. You don’t have the EDM artists or the fire going on during the race, but you could see people had been there and were having a great day. You could tell they were there for 24 or 48 hours prior.

“It was very similar to the 500.”

Both have a very similar, distinctive feeling of being a truly, “Big Event.”

“I wanted to take the event in and take a closer look to it, but people are there because it’s a big deal, too,” Newgarden explained. “Both events are all about horsepower at the end of the day.”

Newgarden placed a $100 wager on Maximum Security and was ready to collect on the 9-to-2 odds. But for the first time in Derby history, an “objection” was requested about the finish. Race stewards determined Maximum Security had changed lanes and impeded other horses in the race.

The horse that crossed the line first and was believed to be the winner was disqualified.

Newgarden still holds the betting ticket.

“It’s in my wallet if they ever change it,” Newgarden admitted. “I’m not expecting it, though. But if they do, it’s in my wallet to collect.

“I thought it was going to take heaven and earth to strip the winner. Don’t expect the unexpected, just like the Indianapolis 500.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.