Marcus Ericsson of Sweden drives to victory at the Indianapolis 500 and takes the crown for Chip Ganassi Racing

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Marcus Ericsson of Sweden drives to victory at the Indianapolis 500 and takes the crown for Chip Ganassi Racing

INDIANAPOLIS – Marcus Ericsson had to leave Formula One to become a global superstar – a goal achieved on Sunday when the Swedish driver won the Indianapolis 500.

Ericsson took control of the race late – mostly due to teammate Scott Dixon’s speed penalty – and had it under control for Chip Ganassi Racing until a crash by teammate Jimmie Johnson with four laps to go caused a rare stop at Indianapolis Motor’s red-flagged Expressway .

IndyCar is among the purest forms of motorsport, rarely throwing out artificial cautions or stoppages that could alter the outcome. But the crowd of more than 300,000 – just a few thousand before a sellout and the biggest sporting event since the pandemic began – went wild as IndyCar called the cars to the pit lane.

The stoppage gave Pato O’Ward and the rest of the challengers almost 12 minutes in the pit lane to strategize on how to catch Ericsson for the win.

The race resumed with two laps remaining and Ericsson easily overtook O’Ward. The Mexican took one last look at the lead Ericsson was defending and O’Ward knew not to force the issue.

“No, he wanted to stick me in the wall if I tried,” O’Ward said.

A crash by Sage Karam back into traffic brought out caution on the last lap and Ericsson rolled onto the winner’s podium under yellow. Karam was taken to a hospital for a check-up for sore muscles.

For Ericsson, it was his third career IndyCar win in 52 career starts. All three were odd victories in that Ericsson sealed victories after red flag stoppages, but he never thought he would have won the Indy 500 as he sat in his cockpit waiting to race again.

“You can never take anything for granted and there were laps to be done,” said Ericsson. “I prayed so hard that there wouldn’t be yellow, then I knew there probably would and it was hard to refocus.”

But he did and held on to the biggest win of his career. Ericsson was winless in five seasons in F1 before packing up for the United States and making the move to North American open wheel racing.

It’s the fifth Indy 500 win for team owner Chip Ganassi, who rode to the podium alongside Ericsson’s car. Ericsson is the second Swede to win the Indy 500 in 106 heats, along with 1999 winner Kenny Brack.

Ericsson poured his milk jug all over his face and then handed the bottle to Ganassi for the boss to take his own sip. Ganassi hadn’t won the 500 in 10 years and sent five legitimate contenders to Indy to end the drought.

Victory appeared to belong to Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion, who went over 234 mph in qualifying to win pole. The New Zealander led 95 of Sunday’s 200 laps and his Honda was by far the fastest of the field – so fast that Dixon didn’t slow down enough on his final pit stop. The penalty put him out of the fight for victory.

With that, Ericsson and Tony Kanaan were still in contention for Ganassi. Kanaan, the oldest rider in the field at 47, thought he was in perfect position for victory as he was fourth at the restart.

O’Ward would not back down. He signed a contract extension with Arrow McLaren SP on Friday and was desperate to win. But he finished second, falling just short as he tried to give his country a banner celebration on motorsport’s biggest day. Mexican Sergio Perez opened Sunday by winning the Monaco Grand Prix.

Kanaan was third in a Ganassi car, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede who was fourth for McLaren. Rosenqvist is in a contract year at McLaren and fighting for his job.

American drivers Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly finished fifth and sixth, Rossi for Andretti Autosport and Daly for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Helio Castroneves, last year’s winner, finished seventh and one place ahead of Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud. Reigning IndyCar Champion Alex Palou finished 10th in another Ganassi entry.

Dixon dropped to 21st after the penalty and although he visited Ericsson on the winners’ podium, he was comforted by his wife in the pit lane after the race. Johnson finished 28th in his Indy 500 debut.

“It’s a team, everyone roots for everyone, everyone works together and everyone is an open book,” Ganassi said. “Things are going to happen in these 500-mile races and they’re not always going to come your way. So, you know, we’ve been lucky to have five good cars and five good drivers.”

Honda riders took six of the top nine, including the win.

“I think we’re here for the fans. We hear the fans,” Kanaan said. “They came here to see a race. That was the right call. That’s the only reason the race officials called it that, I think, because people wanted to see that. If I was in the grandstand, I want one watch races.” Finish under the green.”

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