Marcus Ericsson wins the Indy 500 after a late red flag


Marcus Ericsson wins the Indy 500 after a late red flag

What seemed like an easy, sure win turned into one of the most dramatic results in recent memory as Marcus Ericsson persevered after a late restart to win round 106 of the Indianapolis 500.

With five laps to go, Ericsson, a 31-year-old Swede, held a nearly three-second advantage over Pato O’Ward, the 23-year-old Mexican driver of Arrow McLaren SP. But a late crash by Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion racing in his first Indianapolis 500, brought out a red flag that halted the race with four laps to go.

In a two-round shootout after the restart, Ericsson wagged left and right to break the slipstream and hold off an intense charge from O’Ward to take the checkered flag.

“I knew the car was fast enough, but it was still tough,” Ericsson told NBC after the race. “I had to do everything there to keep them behind me. I can’t believe it – I’m so happy.”

The thrilling finish came to a packed house – the 500s being the first in two years due to the pandemic – as IndyCar continues to battle with Formula 1 for the attention of open-wheel racing fans.

Ericsson, who spent five winless years in Formula One before moving to the IndyCar Series in 2019, started the day on the second row and quietly floated in the top 10 for most of the race. His win was the first Indianapolis 500 win for the Chip Ganassi Racing Team for 10 years.

Two of Ericsson’s Ganassi teammates dominated much of the race. New Zealand’s Scott Dixon, a six-time IndyCar Series champion who started the day on pole position, traded first place with teammate Álex Palou of Spain on the early laps. A poorly timed pit stop by Palou – just after a warning flag closed the pit lane – sent him to the back of the field and essentially ended his chance of winning.

Dixon, who won the 2008 Indianapolis 500, continued to lead for most of the race until a speeding penalty at his final pit stop ruined his bid for a second win.

Hélio Castroneves, the popular Brazilian driver, was hoping for a record-breaking fifth win at the Indianapolis 500 after winning his fourth last year. Starting 27th, he patiently fought his way through the field and finished seventh.

One of the most accomplished drivers in NASCAR history, Johnson had qualified for an impressive 12th place finish, but a timid start saw him lose ground early and end up at the back of the field for most of the race before his late crash ended the last drama of the race.

The crowd, which IndyCar officials said was nearing 325,000 people, marked a return to normal after two years of Covid disruptions. In 2020, the race without spectators was moved to August, and last year’s entry was capped at 135,000, about 40 percent of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s capacity.

Sunday’s race ended a busy month of open wheel racing in the United States. In early May, Formula 1 held its inaugural Miami Grand Prix, a star-studded spectacle that garnered the highest American television ratings of any live Formula 1 race ever.

As global motorsport rises in popularity, fueled in part by the Netflix series Drive to Survive, there is uncertainty as to whether Formula 1 will threaten or encourage the North American-based IndyCar series. Formula 1 held its famous Monaco Grand Prix earlier in the day.

But after American racing magnate Roger Penske bought IndyCar in 2020, some — like Colombian IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished 11th in Sunday’s race — are optimistic about the future of the series.

“IndyCar is really taking off right now,” Montoya said earlier this month. “And with Roger Penske taking the helm and Formula 1 growing big in the States, it’s exciting to think about what the next few years will bring.”

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