Marcus Ericsson sat in fourth-place for the majority of the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, but when it was crunch time, his No. 8 Honda fought to the front of the field. The Swede driver in his fourth Indy 500 appearance miraculously held off Pato O’Ward, 2013 winner Tony Kanaan and fellow countryman Felix Rosenqvist for his first oval victory.
The dominant driver in Sunday’s Memorial Weekend Classic in Speedway, Indiana was once again Scott Dixon. A teammate to eventual race winner Ericsson, Dixon’s No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda set the fastest average speed to claim pole position for the race of all-time last weekend, and showed his speed today. However, as the race has gone for the Kiwi the last handful of years, he didn’t end in victory lane as he did in 2008 — instead he was kicking himself post-race following a rare mistake from the iceman in the crucial moments Sunday afternoon.
With 26 laps remaining in the 200-lapped Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Dixon yielded off the speedway to pit his PNC Bank Honda, and while locking up the brakes briefly through a downshift, Dixon was caught exceeding pit lane speed. The costly hiccup forced Dixon to make another trip down the 45mph pit road.
Ericsson, who qualified fifth on the grid, led just 13 laps in his Huski Chocolate CGR Honda-boosted Dallara. Patricio O’Ward complained about a lack of power with his Chevrolet supplied power unit in his Arrow McLaren SP car, keeping him from winning his last-lap arm wrestle on the Swedish driver into the first turn.
O’Ward led 26 laps himself in his best Indy 500 performance to date. The 22-year-old McLaren prospect from Monterey, Mexico looked to continue a 1-2 punch for the nation on motorsports’ greatest day following Sergio Perez’s Monaco Grand Prix win earlier Sunday. O’Ward drove into the opening turn even with Ericsson, but was on the outside lane and forced to concede the spot in favor of another attempt — however, it never came.
Sage Karam’s Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Chevy was the final car to be a victim of the second turn at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. The No. 24 crashed on the final lap, and continued to smack the backstretch wall before coming to a rest in the infield grass. IndyCar deployed the caution flag as safety personnel responded to Karam’s wrecked car, denying O’Ward one last shot at the race leader through turns three and four.
Tony Kanaan, in a fifth Ganassi entry, emerged from about a tenth-place position all race, sneaking into the fight with the money on the line. Kanaan, who made yet another staple four-wide pass of his on a restart early in the 500-miler, thought he was in the perfect position to win his second Borg-Warner Trophy under a red flag with four laps remaining. However, a move from fourth-place Felix Rosenqvist denied the Brazilian and fan-favorite a quick pass on O’Ward. Despite this, TK held onto to the final podium position against Rosenqvist in a tight battle for the third-place.
After the aforementioned red flag on lap 197, the race resumed under green with just two laps remaining. On the final shootout for racing’s greatest victory, Ericsson made very aggressive defensive drives down each straightaway, breaking off the tow of air coming off his car to the traffic behind him. Ericsson’s very proactive moves even blew up dust, as he dipped his Firestones below the white lines on the stretches.
Indy favorite to win and reigning series champion Alex Palou was penalized early in the race from the lead. His NTT Data CGR No. 10 attempted to pit, however, a caution on the speedway closed down pit road, and the Spanish driver continued to drive through it, skipping his pit box — which avoided penalty. Unfortunately, his Honda was out of Speedway gasoline, and he needed to service the car under a closed pit for emergency service, yielding a tail to the line penalty on the following restart. Palou’s penalty in the first 200 miles of the event allowed him to drive back up through a series of cautions.
Palou finished ninth after leading 47 laps, and his CGR teammate in Dixon led the race-high 95. Dixon’s No. 9 hardly had no mileage to recover as nicely, settling for 21st. Both were of course upset with their personal efforts but celebrated Ericsson’s victory as a collaboration of the extremely fast five-car organization.
Four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was itching to make history with a unprecedented fifth IMS victory, however, with a 27th-place starting position faced a tall task. He only ranked up to the 7th-place, just ahead of Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud.
Indy 500 rookie drivers, Callum Ilott, Romain Grosjean, and Jimmie Johnson all wrecked out of their maiden attempts. They all suffered the same fate — single car spins through the center of turn two, which plagued the race. Ilott had a bandaged-up right hand, possibly with a fractured or broken bone after being checked and released from the infield care center. Ilott’s crash eliminated him on lap 68, while the DHL No. 28 Honda crashed on lap 105 and Johnson’s caution flag was the result of lap 197 red flag — with the Carvana No. 48 crashing on his 193rd circuit.
The rest of the rookies on-track nearly finished consecutively under the checkered flag Sunday, with Chicago-born 20-year-old David Malukas ahead of them all. The Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports No. 18 finished 16th, one position ahead his Indy Lights rival of last year in Kyle Kirkwood, who piloted A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 to a lead-lap finish. Christian Lundgaard became the first Danish driver in the Indianapolis 500, and finished 18th for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing while Toronto’s Devlin DeFrancesco in an Andretti Honda scored a 20th-place finish in his Indy debut.
Colton Herta was black flagged by IndyCar after being off the pace in an un-practiced backup Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda. Herta took flight in Friday’s final practice part of carb day festivities, after his No. 26 smacked the turn one short chute concrete wall, and the Dallara briefly lifted off the ground and the wind took him, flipping the car onto its roof. His Andretti team rolled out his GMR Grand Prix winning chassis, however, didn’t muster superspeedway lap times. The frustrating race ended on lap 129 for his team.
Outside polesitter Rinus VeeKay was running in second position, spinning in turn two, becoming the first of many drivers to lose it there. His BitNile Ed Carpenter Racing No. 21 Chevy was destroyed following the SAFER barrier impact, but the Dutchman stepped out under his own power. He finished last in his third 500 appearance.
Scott McLaughlin’s championship campaign severely took a major puncture when his No. 3 crashed viciously in the third and fourth turns with 51 laps remaining. The yellow submarine Team Penske Chevy had been the best performing of the trio, despite being mirrored back in 26th on the starting grid following a poor qualifying gamble last Saturday. The Kiwi in his second Indy 500 once led the IndyCar Series standings following his first triumphant victory in the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in February, but now sits 64 points back with a poor result in the double ranked Indy spectacle.
106th Indianapolis 500 Results
1: Marcus Ericsson (8) – Led 13 Laps / 3rd IndyCar Win
2: Pato O’Ward (5) – Led 26 Laps
3: Tony Kanaan (1) – Led 6 Laps
4: Felix Rosenqvist (7)
5: Alexander Rossi (27)
6: Conor Daly (20)
7: Helio Castroneves (06)
8: Simon Pagenaud (60)
9: Alex Palou (10)
10: Santino Ferrucci (23)
11: Juan Pablo Montoya (6)
12: J.R. Hildebrand (11)
13: Josef Newgarden (2)
14: Graha Rahal (15)
15: Will Power (12)
16: David Malukas (18) -R
17: Kyle Kirkwood (14) – R
18: Christian Lundgaard (30) – R
19: Ed Carpenter (33)
20: Devlin DeFrancesco (29) – R
21: Scott Dixon (9)
22: Marco Andretti (98)
23: Sage Karam (24) – Crashed, Lap 199
24: Jack Harvey (45) – 199 laps
25: Takuma Sato (30) – 199 laps
26: Stefan Wilson (25) – 198 laps
27: Dalton Kellett (4) – 198 laps
28: Jimmie Johnson (48) – R – Crashed, 193 laps
29: Scott McLaughlin (3) – Crashed, 150 laps
30: Colton Herta (26) – Mechanical, 129 laps
31: Romain Grosjean (28) – R – Crashed, 105 laps
32: Callum Ilott (77) – R – Crashed, 68 laps
33: Rinus VeeKay (21) – Crashed, 38 laps