Marcus Ericsson Wins Thrilling Indy 500 with Ganassi

It was a roller coaster race for Chip Ganassi but Ericsson fended off a furious charge from Pato O'Ward after the race was red-flagged.
Marcus Ericsson Wins Thrilling Indy 500 with Ganassi

Marcus Ericsson used patience to perfection on Sunday, winning the 106th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The 30-year old capitalized the opportunities that he had late in the afternoon, and guided his No. 8 Honda to victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This is the fifth Indy 500 victory for Chip Ganassi Racing, their first in a decade. Ericsson also becomes just the second Swedish driver to win the race, joining Kenny Brack.

Ericsson led the final 11 laps of the race, but it was much more difficult than a typical race at Indy. When his teammate Jimmie Johnson crashed in Turn 2 with just six laps remaining, officials did something rarely seen - displaying the red flag. The race was stopped in what would shape up to be a two-lap shootout for the Indy 500.

In what looked like a scene from a movie, Ericsson was able to hold off several tense challenges from Pato O'Ward. Sage Karam crashed on the final lap, securing the victory for the Ganassi driver.

"I couldn’t believe it, Ericsson exclaimed. "I felt you can never take anything for granted and obviously there was still laps to go, and I was praying so hard it was not going to be another yellow. But I knew it was probably going to be one. It was hard to sort of refocus. But I knew the car was amazing.”

“The 8 crew and Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda has done such an amazing job. So I knew the car was fast enough but it was still hard. I had to do everything there to keep them behind, but I can’t believe it. I’m so happy. My family, mom and dad and my brother, my girlfriend, my manager, they’re all here today and I won. I can’t believe it."

Marcus Ericsson Wins Thrilling Indy 500 with Ganassi

The theme of the day was Ganassi, as all five team cars had an impact in this race. The biggest was the performance of six-time champion Scott Dixon, who dominated the race from the drop of the green flag. Dixon led 95 of the 200 laps and is now the all-time leader in laps led in this iconic race, passing fellow legend Al Unser.

As he came to pit road for his final pit stop of the race, Dixon’s rear tires locked up and he was penalized for speeding on pit road. It was a crushing blow for the five-time pole sitter and 2008 winner. “Are you serious?” an incredulous Dixon asked his team on the radio. “It’s just heartbeaking,” he said after the race. “It must have been very close. I came into the pit, locked the rears, locked all fours and I knew it was going to be close. I think it was a mile an hour.”

Even though O’Ward was 2nd at the time of the red flag, Tony Kanaan was the driver to watch on the restart. The veteran was unable to make the move at the end, but he held on for a 3rd place finish for the team. The 2013 winner and former series champion said after the race that he does not have a deal for next year, but is hoping to make something happen.

Johnson’s crash nearly ruined the day for Ericsson, who had a nearly four-second lead at the time of the crash. Fortunately, the seven-time Cup champion was okay following his scary head-on crash. The fact that Ericsson was able to hold on for the win also helped soften the blow for Johnson and the team.

Alex Palou was another Ganassi driver that was considered a favorite to win today. After leading the opening lap of the race and swapping the lead with Dixon early on, the reigning series champion was caught out by an ill-timed yellow when Callum Ilott crashed in Turn 2.

Nearly out of fuel, Palou had no other choice but to come down pit lane, just after they were closed. The penalty put him at the back of the field, where he spent most of the remainder of the race. He did make a hard charge at the end though, and delivered a 9th place finish after his runner-up result last year.

Turn 2 was the treacherous spot today as several drivers had massive crashes during the race. The first came when Rinus VeeKay lost control of his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet on Lap 39. It was a punch in the gut for the driver of the No. 21 car, after starting on the front row.

The next incident came when Ilott lost control of his Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet in the same spot. It was a brutal hit for the rookie driver, who suffered a broken wrist in the crash. “All okay,” said Ilott. “A little bit of an issue with the right hand but we’ll see how it is in a couple of days. Sorry for the team as well because it wasn’t running too bad until then.”

Scott McLaughlin saw his race end at the exit for Turn 3 when he crashed and nearly collected Ed Carpenter as his wrecked car slid across the track and into Turn 4. It was a microcosm of the day for Team Penske, who saw their three cars finish 13th (Josef Newgarden), 15th (Will Power), and 29th.

Andretti Autosport also had a not-so-great afternoon as Romain Grosjean crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 105 and Colton Herta was forced to retire for not meeting minimum speed. A throttle issue was just one the many issues on the No. 26 car. This was the first time Herta's car was able to get on the track after his airborne crash during final practice on Carb Day.

Grosjean was puzzled by his spin, and was eager for an explanation. "It was a corner where my car was pretty good over the race so I don’t what happened. I didn’t try anything different. I was behind Marco, saving a lot of fuel and being happy with the balance, so I don’t know. I need to understand what we can do better, and need to understand why I spun, and come back stronger next week and the week after."

Rookie Devlin DeFrancesco and veteran Marco Andretti were never factors in the race and finished 19th and 22nd respectively. Marco's car was fast early in the race, but he was never able to get the track position needed to content at the front of the field. There was one bright spot for the team today, and that was with Alexander Rossi.

The 2016 winner battled his way through the field for a top-five finish, in what will be his last race with the team. It was a phenomenal drive by Rossi, who started back in 20th position. He will likely be headed to Arrow McLaren SP next season, a team which had a sensational day as well.

With O'Ward's runner-up finish and Felix Rosenqvist finishing 4th, the team was delighted with their performance today. Two-time winner Juan Montoya drove their third Chevrolet to an 11th place finish, in what could be his final start in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. In the end, O'Ward just didn't have what he needed to get the job done. “He was gonna put me in the wall if I would have gone for it,” O’Ward said. “We were alongside each other. Man, I’m so proud of the team and proud of myself."

"We did everything to get it done, and even getting a massive run on him. We had no wicker, less downforce and still not enough speed to get by him, even with a massive run. It’s frustrating, it’s bittersweet. I’m so proud but it definitely stings because I feel like the team and I did everything perfectly to get it done, and something that was out of our control was why we struggled in the end. All these guys deserve it, and I felt like I drove a race to position us there. It’s just a bummer we didn’t have more. We have work to do, and we’ll come back next year, and we’ll come back faster, with a better racecar and go at it again.”

Conor Daly was the lone bright spot for Ed Carpenter Racing, with VeeKay crashing and Carpenter unable to stay near the front of the field. After leading 46 laps last year, Daly was out in front again today, sending the crowd into another uproar. The Noblesville native finished with a career-best 6th place result in the No. 20 car.

Helio Castroneves was going to need a miracle to win a record fifth Indy 500 today, but he still managed to record a 7th place finish. After starting the race in 27th position, he gained 20 spots and came home just ahead of his Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud.

Rounding out the top ten today was Santino Ferrucci, who led the way for the Dreyer and Reinbold Racing team. The one-off driver delivered another flawless run at the speedway, and has now finished inside the top ten in all four of his Indy 500 starts.

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