INDIANAPOLIS — One could be a bit salty about not winning Sunday’s 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 when you have 2 cars finish in the top 4 at the end. See, both Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist were in the drivers seats to winning the race though. Coming to the final pit stop, they were in the top 4. Leaving pit road, Rosenqvist slid in front of his teammate O’Ward to give AMSP a 1-2 spot in the running order inside of 30 to go.
However, the hardcharging Chip Ganassi Racing teammates of Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan were coming and were coming fast. Ericsson made quick work of O’Ward. Then he got Rosenqvist. Meanwhile, O’Ward also got by Rosenqvist while the Swede fell to 4th behind Kanaan.
They got a lifeline when Jimmie Johnson crashed with 7 laps remaining. A red flag ensued and shaped up a Ganassi vs. AMSP fight for supremacy.
O’Ward got a big jump on the restart but Ericsson countered. They crossed the Yard of Bricks side-by-side before Ericsson slammed the door shut in Turn 1. Sage Karam crashed behind and ended the race in the same order as we restarted.
First of all, I’m really proud of the team,” O’Ward said. “They gave me a really good car. I was so happy with the handling and we executed everything perfectly. We hit the fuel perfectly, we made no mistakes, and positioned ourselves perfectly to have a shot at it.
“We got done with that last pit stop, Felix undercut us, I then stopped and started to catch up with him, but Marcus [Ericsson], out of nowhere, came out with some insane speed. He got past me like I was standing still then caught Felix within two laps. I knew when the restart happened I would have one shot, I’d have to go flat and it still wasn’t enough. So sadly, they had the faster car. We need to do a better job to beat them, but I’m really proud of the job we did today, it’s my best result in the Indianapolis 500. It’s a tough pill to swallow after a good race.”
O’Ward says that the deficit to Ericsson was on the straights.
“Maybe if I would have timed it a little bit better,” he continued. “I really don’t think I could have done it much better. I did enough to what we had been doing all race.
“But, yeah, at the end I was surprised with how much more pace they had in a straight line with quite a bit more downforce. I was just trying to time it as good as possible.
“Obviously the weaving helped him. Staying on the inside helped him. I got alongside him, but we all know how that ends up in the last lap. No way he would have backed off.”
O’Ward said that the only way that he could have beaten Ericsson in the end was to go even freer.
“Yeah, especially this last stint, the car was hairy out of a few moments. That was the only way for me to have a shot. That was the only way for me to have a shot because I knew they were going to pull out something from their back pocket. I knew it.
“I think we were one of three cars that was really trim. Yeah, like whenever we practiced and we put the wicker on with everybody else, I said, no, this is turtle slow. We need to trim out and we risk it. I will make sure I don’t put the car in the wall.
“But it was hairy. At the end it was tough. The red flag really helped me cool down the rear tire.
“You go flat and you hope to God the car doesn’t snap.”
Rosenqvist had mixed feelings about the result. He said that if you don’t win the race, but it was a good day. I think this was a huge statement for us as a team to be able to be up there all race, all month with the GP as well. It’s a totally different energy in the team to previous years, I think we’re gaining confidence, and we saw that in the middle of the race, when we came in to pit in P8 and came out in P4. That got me so pumped. I feel like that was a turning point for us, when we prove that we can make up four places in the pits, in the biggest race in the world, that’s super cool. “The team, along with our partners Chevy, did a great job all month to give me a great car. I’m really happy for everyone in the team. Obviously I wanted more, but we’ll build on this and try and get some wins over the rest of the season.”
Taylor Kiel notes that while the day didn’t end in a win, he’s happy with the points scored.
“It’s a good day for our team, but of course it’s always tough when you don’t win,” he says. “There’s only one person that leaves here happy at the end of the event. But it was a really good day, flawless execution across all three cars. The pit stops were fantastic, the drivers did what they needed to do, and the engineering team and mechanics have put in thousands of hours trying to get us in a position to do what we did today. That’s something that I’m certainly very proud of.
“Our partners at Chevrolet did a great job all week. We’ve had a gap to the Hondas here in years past, and we’ve certainly closed that up. Chip Ganassi Racing did a great job this whole month and we were just a little bit of a step behind each day. So, we’ve got some work to do, but nonetheless, we put ourselves in a good position and executed well. We’re leaving here proud, if maybe a little bummed out, but ultimately, we scored fantastic points for both the No. 5 and No. 7 cars, Juan did exactly what we needed him to do. We’ll now turn our attention to Detroit.”
They’ll do just that. O’Ward rebounds following a rough finish in the GMR Grand Prix to score his 2nd top 2 result in the last 3 races. He’s not second in points and going to the place he won a race at last year.
“Yeah, I love Detroit. I think we’ve had a great month,” O’Ward said. “Very, very, very good result for us to get our championship in good position again.
“Yeah, Detroit, I love going there. I’m excited to go. Yeah, for the rest of the championship…”