Marcus Ericsson outlasted a late restart and held off Pato O’Ward to claim victory in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 31-year-old Swedish driver pushed his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing to the lead on Lap 189 of 200, and had a significant gap to O’Ward and appeared poised to take a comfortable run to the finish. However, it all changed on Lap 194 after Jimmie Johnson, Ericsson’s teammate, suffered a hard crash in Turn 2 and brought out the yellow – and then red – flag.
The incident set up winner-take-all green-white-checkered restart which saw Ericsson snaking the field to the restart and constantly moving to gain on O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
The two approached Turn 1 on the final lap where O’Ward attempted an outside pass, but Ericsson held on. O’Ward ran out of time as the caution fell moments later after Sage Karam crashed on the backstretch, leaving Ericsson to collect the checkered flag under yellow. It marks Ericssson’s third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“I felt you can never take anything for granted,” Ericsson said. “Obviously there was eight laps to go and I was praying so hard it wasn’t going to be another yellow, but I knew it was probably going to be one. It was hard to refocus, but I knew the car was amazing, the crew, Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda, has done such an amazing job. I knew the Huski Chocolate car was fast enough, but it was still hard. You know, I had to do everything there and then to keep them behind. But I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”
Additionally, Ericsson becomes the second driver from Sweden to capture Indy 500 glory, joining countryman and 1999 winner Kenny Brack.
For O’Ward, collecting a runner-up finish was the maximum effort given the circumstances.
“He was gonna put me in the wall if I would’ve gone for it,” O’Ward said, of the attempted Turn 1 pass on the final lap. “We were alongside each other. Man, I’m so proud of the team and proud of myself. We did everything to get it done. 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. Yeah. I’m so proud, but it definitely stings because you know, I feel like the team and I did everything perfectly to get it done and something that’s out of our control was why we struggled in the end.”
Tony Kanaan finished third in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, ahead of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist. Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi rounded out the rest of the top five.
Conor Daly climbed to the lead early, but ended up placing sixth in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. The Meyer Shank Racing duo of Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou claimed ninth, with Santino Ferrucci pushing the No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet to the final spot of the top 10.
There were a total of six cautions, with all but one happening in Turn 2, which claimed the likes of Indy 500 debutants Johnson and Romain Grosjean, among others. The only other incident not in the troubled corner came after Scott McLaughlin’s No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet pounded the Turn 3 wall and then skated for a second hard impact in Turn 4 on Lap 152.
Pole-sitter Scott Dixon was dominant, leading a race-high 95 laps in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Although the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion was in a spirited battle with O’Ward for the lead late in the running, the final pit stop is decided his fate as Dixon was hit with a pit road speed violation. Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, ended up 21st.
Palou led 47 laps and was also a fixture at the front of the field with teammate Dixon. However, an untimely caution on Lap 69 in the midst of a series of pit stops left the 25-year-old Spaniard in an unfortunate spot, where his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda needed to be serviced while the pits were closed. As a result, he was penalized and forced to restart at the rear of the field.
Other notables include two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, who was the highest finishing Team Penske driver in 13th. Will Power, winner of the 2018 Indy 500, finished two spots behind his Team Penske teammate in 15th.
After crashing his primary car on Friday, Colton Herta struggled with the backup car and ultimately was forced to retire from the race early due to mechanical woes, finishing 30th in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
No rookies finished in the top 10 of this year’s Indy 500, but David Malukas, driving the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda, was the highest finishing among the seven entered in 16th. He finished directly ahead of fellow classmates Kyle Kirkwood and Christian Lundgaard, who finished 17th and 18th, respectively.