Ericsson wins late race dash for 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, recap with my takeaways

INDIANAPOLIS — Marcus Ericsson won the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in a wild scramble after a late red flag Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, earning his first career victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“Yeah, it’s still tough to sort of take in. Obviously it’s the biggest race in the world, something we all work so much towards, we all dream of winning this race,” Ericsson said after scoring his 3rd career NTT INDYCAR Series victory.

“We’ve had a really good month. We’ve been really strong as a team, the whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization has been really good. I knew we had a chance to win today. Obviously there were some stuff happening along the way, but I knew I had a shot.

“Yeah, I’m just very thankful for Chip Ganassi Racing, for Honda, Huski Chocolate. It was a true team effort and I’m very, very proud to be the champion.”

Ericsson, from Kumla, Sweden, won under caution in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after Sage Karam crashed in Turn 2 on the final lap. Before the race-ending incident, Ericsson and Pato O’Ward were locked in a fantastic duel for the lead after the restart with two laps to go after the red flag, snaking around the 2.5-mile oval in one of the most breathtaking finishes in the century-plus history of the race.

O’Ward ended up second in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet in his best career “500” finish in three starts.

“I knew the Huski Chocolate car was fast enough, but it was still hard,” Ericsson said. “I had to do everything there at the end to keep him behind. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”

Former Formula One driver Ericsson became the second Swede to triumph in the “500,” joining 1999 winner Kenny Brack. Ericsson and Brack spoke via videoconference during the winner’s press conference Sunday afternoon. Ericsson’s best finish in three previous Indy 500 starts was 11th last year.

Marcus Ericsson crosses the Yard of Bricks 1st on Sunday for the win in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

This was the first victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for team owner Chip Ganassi since 2012 and his fifth as a solo owner and sixth overall.

Ericsson took the lead in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings with his third career victory, boosted by the double points awarded in this event. In a fateful twist, all three of his victories have featured red flags, as his wins in 2021 at Detroit and Nashville also included race stoppages.

2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan finished third in the No. 1 The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, as the Ganassi team finished a dominant Month of May by putting two cars in the top three. Kanaan recorded the fifth top-three finish of his illustrious “500” career. Felix Rosenqvist placed fourth in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP, as Arrow McLaren SP placed two cars in the top four.

Alexander Rossi, winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, rounded out the top five in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda after starting 20th.

2021 winner Helio Castroneves finished seventh after starting 27th in the No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda, gaining the most positions from start to finish in the race.

Ericsson, who started fifth, took the lead for good on Lap 190 when “500” rookie Jimmie Johnson made his final pit stop out of sequence with the leaders. Ericsson led O’Ward by 3.2869 seconds and appeared to be on Easy Street toward a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy with one of the largest gaps by a leader during the 200-lap race.

O’Ward chipped away over the next four laps, pulling to within 2.7 seconds. But it still looked like Ericsson just needed to keep his car in the racing groove for the win.

Then the script was flipped on Lap 194 when Johnson spun into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2, triggering the fifth of six caution periods in the race. INDYCAR officials decided to red-flag the race in an attempt to finish under green, so all cars pulled into the pits for nearly eight minutes while the debris from Johnson’s crash was cleared.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Ericsson said of the red flag. “You can never take anything for granted, and obviously there were still laps to go, and I was praying so hard it was not going to be another yellow, but I knew there was probably going to be one. It was hard to refocus, but I knew the car was amazing.”

Green-flag racing resumed on Lap 199, with Ericsson snaking left and right on the front and back straightaway to try and break O’Ward’s aerodynamic tow. Heading toward the white flag, Ericsson dove toward the pit entrance and then back to the center of the racetrack, trying to break away from O’Ward.

The gap between the two was .0445 of a second at the flag stand with one lap to go, with O’Ward making a run toward the outside of Turn 1 on Lap 200. He pulled slightly ahead of Ericsson entering the corner, but Ericsson held the low line and forced O’Ward to lift the throttle.

“He was going to put me in the wall if I would have gone for it,” O’Ward said. “We were alongside each other. It’s frustrating. It’s bittersweet. I’m so proud, but it definitely stinks.”

Said Ericsson: “I was not going to put him in the wall, but he had to work hard to get around me there. I knew I could hold my line. I was going to go flat. He was going to have to go two-wide through (Turn) 1 to get there. I knew if I went on the inside into 1, I could keep my foot down. I was hoping I could keep my foot down. That was my plan. It worked.”

Ericsson started to pull away on the back straightaway after repulsing O’Ward, speeding toward Turn 3, when Karam crashed in Turn 2 in his No. 24 AES Indiana DRR Chevrolet. The fifth incident of the day in Turn 2, the race’s calamity corner, triggered the caution period that ended an event featuring a thrilling 38 lead changes among nine drivers.

NTT P1 Award winner and six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon appeared to be the driver to beat, as he led a race-high 95 laps and became the all-time lap leader in Indianapolis 500 history with 665, surpassing the record of 644 by legendary four-time winner Al Unser. But Dixon was assessed a speeding penalty entering pit lane as he stopped from the lead on Lap 175 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The subsequent drive-through penalty dropped 2008 Indy 500 winner Dixon through the field, and he ended up a disappointing 21st.

“It’s heartbreaking, to be honest,” Dixon said. “I came into the pit and had to lock the rears and kind of locked all four. I knew it was going to be close; I think it was a mile an hour over or something. Just frustrating. I just messed up.”

Andretti and Penske combined to win the Indy 500 for 6 straight years recently. They’re 0-for-3 since. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Andretti and Penske Who?

At one point of this race, Andretti Autosport and Team Penske had combined to win the Indianapolis 500 in 6 straight years. They’re 0-for-3 since. In fact, they combined to lead just 3 of 200 laps on Sunday. Despite having 8 of the 33 combined starters, they finished 5th (Alexander Rossi), 13th (Josef Newgarden), 15th (Will Power), 20th (Devlin DeFrancesco), 22nd (Marco Andretti), 29th (Scott McLaughlin), 30th (Colton Herta) and 31st (Romain Grosjean). That’s 3 of the bottom 5.

Andretti Autosport capped a rough month on the oval with a rough day in the Indy 500. While Alexander Rossi went from 20th to 5th for his 5th top 7 result in 7 ‘500 tries, the rest of the lineup had a race to forget about.

Rookie Romain Grosjean found the wall on Lap 105 and would finish a disappointing 31st. Colton Herta was only one spot better (30th) after battling an ill handling race car all day. That likely was a direct result of his Carb Day crash on Friday. He has no top fives and just 1 top 10 in four career Indy 500 starts.

Marco Andretti finished a quiet 22nd while Devlin DeFranceco was 20th in his Indy debut.

5-20-22-30-31 with 3 total laps led all day. They head to Belle Isle 10th (Herta), 11th (Rossi), 15th (Grosjean) and 26th (DeFrancesco) in points.

In terms of Penske, heading into the Month of May, Team Penske was off to an undefeated start to the 2022 season and the team everyone was talking about to win this year’s Indy 500. They had won each of the 1st 3 races, started on the front row in 4 of the 5 and have taken 6 of the 15 podiums spots available.

They’re winless since.

That includes another winless Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to where they’re now 0-for-3 here on the oval since Roger Penske took over the keys to the place in January 2020.

They failed to lead a single lap on Sunday and now have led a grand total of 19 over the last 3 years (600 laps). They finished 13th (Josef Newgarden), 15th (Will Power) and 29th (Scott McLaughlin).

Meyer Shank Racing Quietly Strong

Helio Castroneves may not have joined an elite club all to himself by picking up a 5th Indianapolis 500 triumph on Sunday, but he did however improve 20 positions on track to charge from his 27th starting spot to bring his No. 06 Dallara-Honda home in 7th. His teammate Simon Pagenaud was also a hard charger in going from 16th to 8th in his No. 60 Dallara-Honda for the Frenchman’s 4th top 8 result in the last 5 years.

One has to think that if they qualified better then they’d likely have been a contender in the end for the win.

It was a heartbreaking day for both Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Pit Lane Keeps Dixon/Palou From Victory

Scott Dixon has to wonder what he ever did to piss this place off. I mean legend states that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway picks its winners. For some reason, despite Scott Dixon becoming the all-time laps led leader in the 106 year history of this great event, he’ll leave 2021 with just 1 win in his 20 tries.

Dixon keeps finding ways to lose here at that. He led 73 laps but finished runner-up to his Ganassi teammate of Dario Franchitti in 2009. He led 73 more laps in a 5th place run in 2011. In 2012, he led 53 laps but was runner-up again to Franchitti. He was on the pole and led 83 laps in 2015 but finished 4th. He won the pole in 2017 but had a frightening crash in Turn 1 that year and would come home 32nd. He led 111 laps in a runner-up effort in 2020, 7 laps from the pole in 2021 to where he was caught out by an ill timed first caution which saw his No. 9 Dallara-Honda having to do an emergency pit stop under a closed pit road and then stall as a result. He fell a lap down and would finish 17th.

This year, he was 2nd in literally all but 1 practice session, qualified on the pole with a record setting pole lap and led 95 circuits before speeding on pit road for his final pit stop. That relegated him to 21st in the end.

For Alex Palou, he had a similar fate to what occurred to Dixon in 2021. When Callum Ilott crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 68, Palou was coming down to pit lane. Unfortunately, Ilott’s crash sparked a quick caution light which in turn closed pit road. Palou wasn’t fully on pit lane yet which caused him to have to pass on by. Unfortunately, his No. 10 Dallara-Honda was out of gas and he’d have to pit again a lap later while the pits were closed. That was a penalty. That’s why they took an emergency service and would pit again when the pits opened. 3 pit stops in a 4 lap span took him down to 30th. He would rebound to finish 9th but it was a day of what might have been for him too.

Palou led 47 laps and if you combine that with Dixon’s 95 you get the Ganassi duo leading 142 of 200 laps but neither having a win to show for it.

Santino Ferrucci has a top 10 in 4 races for 3 different teams here. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

O’Ward, Ferrucci Top 10 Guarantees Now

Pato O’Ward keeps inching closer and closer to an Indy win. From 6th in 2020, to 4th in 2021 to now 2nd in 2022. Trends state he will win next year in his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Santino Ferrucci is another one that’s worth putting the Sharpie to his name for a top 10 finisher too. Ferrucci started 2rd and finished 7th as a rookie in 2019, went from 19th to 4th in 2020 and 23rd to 6th in 2021. On Sunday, he went from 15th to 10th for his 3rd different team in 4 years.

Ferrucci quickly got into the top 10 during the first stint and had a top five car for most of the way at that.

Kyle Kirkwood may be a rookie but he has a 4 time Indy 500 winner in his corner. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Rough Day For The Rookies

This highly anticipated rookie class left a lot to be desired on Sunday. The top finisher was 16th by David Malukas as 3 of the 7 drivers found the Turn 2 wall. It started on Lap 68 by Callum Ilott who may have broken his wrist in the process. Then, 37 laps later, Romain Grosjean lost it in the same spot. Despite starting the best among the 7, he finished the 2nd worst in 31st. Jimmie Johnson crashed on Lap 193 and would finish 28th.

Between Malukas in 16th and Ilott in 32nd you also got Kyle Kirkwood (17th), Christian Lundgaard (18th) and Devlin DeFrancesco (20th).


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