Marcus Ericsson reigned victorious over Pato O’Ward in the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 in a thrilling green-white-checkered finish.
The driver of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda motored past Pato O’Ward with 11 laps remaining in the 200 lap contest was comfortably running away the Swede’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmie Johnson crashed with 6 laps remaining.
That set up a two-lap battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren SP with Ericsson and O’Ward flanked by Tony Kanaan and Felix Rosenqvist.
Ericsson aggressively defended the lead before Sage Karam’s crash on the last lap sealed the deal.
“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.”
The win is Ericsson’s third NTT IndyCar Series win and is first on an oval.
Ericsson’s run to the bricks began from the fifth place while teammates Scott Dixon and Alex Palou established themselves as the early contenders. The Ganassi pair raced strategically by swapping the lead throughout the opening stint.
The first round of stops saw Palou emerge in the lead ahead of fellow front-row starter Rinus VeeKay with Dixon in third. VeeKay shortly fell out after crashing in Turn 2.
Palou and Dixon’s game of tit-for-tat continued thru the second stint before the yellow flew on Lap 77 for Callum Ilott’s crash. The yellow flew just as Palou ducked into the pits and forced him to abort the pitstop.
Everything unraveled under the yellow when he pitted for emergency service and netted a penalty for entering a closed pit.
The third stint saw Dixon and Conor Daly engage in a cat and mouse fight for the lead ahead of O’Ward, Ericsson and Kanaan. The battle waged on through the race’s halfway march which also saw Dixon emerge as the all-time lap leader at the Speedway ahead of Al Unser Sr.
Daly pitted on Lap 105 as Romain Grojean’s crash in Turn 2 brought out the yellow flag on the heels of the next pitstop round. Dixon pitted under the yellow and won the race off pit road ahead of O’Ward, Santino Ferrucci and Rosenqvist while Daly rose back to the lead.
Daly and Dixon were overhauled by O’Ward on the restart while Ferrucci slithered into fourth. Dixon moved back up front while Daly dropped behind O’Ward. The 2008 Indy 500 champion steadily held the lead ahead of the Arrow McLaren SP pair in second and fourth with Daly sandwiched between them in third.
Dixon kicked off the penultimate pitstop round on Lap 141 as Daly and Rosenqvist followed suit the next two laps. O’Ward stretched it to Lap 144 which promoted him to a one second lead ahead of Dixon with 50 laps to the finish. A subsequent caution for Scott McLaughlin’s crash in Turn 3 once again bunched up the field.
Dixon and O’Ward traded the lead after restarting on Lap 158 before Dixon settled into the lead as the final round of stops raced ahead.
Rosenqvist drew first blood on Lap 173 by pitting from third as Dixon and O’Ward held onto the top positions.
Everything came apart on Dixon’s final pitstop when he locked up the wheels coming into pit road on Lap 175. IndyCar assessed him a drive-through penalty for speeding which left him a lap down in 26th with a handful of laps remaining.
O’Ward and Ericsson stopped together on Lap 177 and emerged behind Rosenqvist but soon made their way past.
Ericsson amassed a three-second advantage entering the final 10 laps while the AMSP pair fought over second with 2013 race winner Tony Kanaan. Ericcson’s run for glory got truncated when teammate Jimmie Johnson crashed with six laps remaining – forcing a red flag and a two-lap shootout to the finish.
Ericcson slithered across the 2.5-mile oval to defend the race lead from an aggressive O’Ward until Sage Karam crashed in Turn 2 of the final lap – ending the race under yellow.