Marcus Ericsson took the effective lead with 18 laps to go, survived a restart with two laps to go and held the lead the rest of the way en route to his first Indianapolis 500 victory on Sunday afternoon.
The Swedish Chip Ganassi Racing driver beat Mexico’s Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren to the finish line by 1.7 seconds.
The victory at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was his third in the IndyCar Series. It ended a 10-year Indy drought by the Ganassi team.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Ericsson said several times in Victory Circle.
Finishing third was Tony Kanaan in his Ganassi Honda.
A second Swede, Felix Rosenqvist of the McLaren team was fourth.
Fifth was Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.
Ericsson had a seemingly comfortable lead as the laps wound down but with six laps to go Indy rookie Jimmie Johnson crashed hard in Turn 2. Officials opted to wave the red flag in order to complete the race under green. Ericsson’s head dipped inside his Honda-powered car.
“You can never take anything for granted and obviously there was still laps to go,” Ericsson said of life just before Johnson spun. “And I was praying so hard there was not going to be another yellow. But I knew there was probably going to be one.”
On the restart with two laps to go, Ericsson was first and O’Ward was second. The two were just a couple of feet apart when they headed into Turn 1 after the final green waved.
“It was hard to sort of refocus,” Ericsson said. “But I knew the car was amazing.”
O’Ward took his one shot for the lead shortly afterward but could not get past Ericsson. From there, O’Ward faded, his chance for a win gone but the second-place finish was his best at Indy.
Asked if he should have made a more aggressive mood, O’Ward said, “He was going to put me in the wall if I would have gone for it. We were alongside each other. We did everything to get it done. It’s frustrating. It’s bittersweet. Definitely stings.”
Ericsson is the second Swede to win the Indy 500. Kenny Brack won in 1999.
Scott Dixon’s hopes to win his second 500 came flying apart when he was tagged for speeding on pit road on his final stop of the day. To that point, he spent the bulk of the race at the front of the field. He was leading when he headed to the pits with 25 laps to go.
After serving his drive-through penalty, he dropped out of the top 20. He finished 21st.
Dixon led for 95 laps to raise his career total to 665, passing legendary Al Unser (644) as the all-time lap leader in Indy 500 history. Dixon was the polesitter for the race.
Helio Castroneves’ bid to become the first five-time winner of the 500 came up short as the Meyer-Shank Racing veteran finished seventh.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson was considered a pre-race favorite as he qualified 12th. But once the race went green, he slid backward in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and was done in by his late crash. He finished 28th.
Ganassi drivers Dixon and Alex Palou spent the first 70 laps exchanging the lead as per team orders in an effort to save fuel. That strategy unraveled on Lap 70 when, as Palou headed into the pits, a crash brought out a yellow flag.
Palou, who led 42 laps, could not abandon his pit stop before the flag waved. He continued on through pits but then was forced to head to his stall a lap later as he was out of fuel. When the race restarted, Palou, last year’s IndyCar Series champ, was 30th. He worked his way forward, however, and finished ninth.
Rinus VeeKay of the Netherlands became the first major contender to drop out of the race on Lap 39. VeeKay, who had ran second for several laps, lost control near Turn 2 and slammed the wall, where it burst into flames. It slid into the infield grass and VeeKay emerged unhurt. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver had started the race on the outside of the front row.
A second, almost identical Turn 2 wreck involving rookie Callum Ilott occurred on Lap 70. He, too, was uninjured. Ilott had started 28th.
On Lap 106, Turn 2 struck again as Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport crashed out.
On Lap 145, Turn 3 took out a contender when Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin slammed the wall. He had started 26th but worked his way forward. His only injury, he said, was “a bruised ego”.
Turn 2 would take Johnson out with six laps to go.
Colton Herta, who was using a practice car after crashing his main car in practice Friday, departed in Lap 129 due to mechanical issues. He finished 30th.
–Field Level Media