Indy 500: Ericsson gives Ganassi another win
Marcus Ericsson, once a formula one marker, is now the leader of IndyCar.
And an Indianapolis 500 champion.
Ericsson became the second Swede to win the Indy 500 on Sunday as he beat some of the biggest names in North American auto racing in front of the biggest crowd of his life.
“It’s the biggest race in the world,” said Ericsson, who called it his biggest win “a million miles away”.
The 31-year-old appeared on IndyCar with something of a twist in 2019 after five less-than-stellar seasons in Formula One. He worked all his life to reach the pinnacle of motorsport then championed – without even winning a podium – more than 97 starts.
He also didn’t really shine in his first season in North America. Ericsson was dropped from his first IndyCar team after just a year, then bought a seat at Chip Ganassi Racing – he’ll certainly note that when he says “winning the Indy 500, that’s not bad for him” a paying racer” – and has made solid strides in his 36 races with Ganassi since 2020.
“It is so difficult. I’ve been in Formula 1 for five years, almost a hundred Grand Prix, running for small teams, most of the way behind. You don’t get a lot of credit running behind your back. People think you’re not very good,” says Ericsson. “I came here, and people probably don’t think much of it. I also have to work my way here, learning American motorsport.
“Moved here, putting my life into trying to be the IndyCar champion and mostly the Indianapolis 500. It hasn’t been easy. It’s great to show that the hard work pays off.”
Ericsson took control of the race late – largely due to teammate Scott Dixon’s speed penalty – and had the win within reach until being collided with Ganassi’s teammate Jimmie Johnson with the remaining four laps leading to a rare red flag situation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IndyCar is one of the purest forms of motorsport and rarely issues false warnings or introduces stop errors that can change the outcome. But the crowd of more than 300,000 – just a few thousand wary of ticket sales and the biggest sporting event since the start of the pandemic – roared when IndyCar called for cars to the tunnel.
The stoppage time left Pato O’Ward and the rest for almost 12 minutes on the pit lane to strategize how to get past Ericsson. Ericsson is struggling with its own plans.
“Those 10 minutes sitting there in the pit lane during that red flag time was one of the hardest 10 minutes of my life,” he said, “thinking what to do, thinking I was leading the biggest race in the world, and i’m that close to win it. “
Two more laps left when the race continued and Ericsson jumped on top of O’Ward. The Mexicans have one last look at the lead that Ericsson defends and O’Ward knows not to force matters.
“No, he would corner me if I didn’t,” O’Ward said.
Sage Karam crashed and caused another warning on the final lap, allowing Ericsson to climb to the victory podium in yellow. Karam was taken to the hospital to be evaluated for muscle pain.
“When that warning came out, I thought it would be another reboot. I was like, “I can’t believe it, another one,” says Ericsson. “First I was angry, then I realized that I had won the race. It was an explosion of emotions from that moment.”
It was Ericsson’s third IndyCar win in 52 starts. But he went to Indianapolis and convinced he could win the 500 partly on the basis of the work he put in learning the oval and finishing third at Texas Motor Speedway in the warm-up for ” The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
This is the fifth Indy 500 win for team owner Chip Ganassi, who captured a step onto the side podium of Ericsson’s car. Ericsson is the first Swede to win the Indy 500 since Kenny Brack in 1999 and second in 106 laps of the race.
Ericsson filled the bottle with milk on his face, then handed the bottle to Ganassi so that the boss could get the bottle for himself. Ganassi hasn’t won 500 in 10 years and has sent 5 legitimate candidates to Indy to end the drought.
The win seems to go to Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion, who traveled more than 234 mph in qualifying to take the pole. The New Zealander took the lead 95 out of 200 laps, and his Honda was easily the fastest on the field – so fast that Dixon wasn’t slow enough on his final pit stop.
The penalty made Dixon not dispute the victory.
That leaves Ericsson and Tony Kanaan still in the mix for Ganassi. Kanaan, 47, the oldest driver in the field, thinks he’s in the perfect position to sit in fourth in the restart.
However, O’Ward will not relent. He signed a contract extension with Arrow McLaren SP on Friday and is keen to win to celebrate McLaren’s star status. But O’Ward finished second, only falling neatly when he tried to give Mexico a banner celebrating motorsport’s biggest day; Sergio Perez opened Sunday with a win at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Kanaan is third, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede who drives for McLaren. Rosenqvist has a year left on her McLaren contract and fights for her job, but the McLaren team carried the Chevrolet banner at Indy as Juan Pablo Montoya finished 11th.
American drivers Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly finished fifth and sixth, Rossi for Andretti Autosport and Daly for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Last year’s winner, Helio Castroneves, is seventh and one place ahead of Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud’s. Defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou placed 10th in another Ganassi category.
Dixon faded into 21st place after a speeding penalty, and although he visited Ericsson on the winning podium, he was comforted by his wife on the pit lane after the race. Johnson placed 28th in the Indy 500 launch.
“It’s a team, everyone is everyone’s source, everyone works together and everyone is an open book,” said Ganassi. “You’re going to have things happen in these 500-mile races and they don’t always go your way. So, you know, we were lucky to have five good cars and five good drivers.”