Marcus Ericsson had to leave Formula One to make his name – a goal achieved on Sunday when the Swedish driver won the Indianapolis 500.
Ericsson took control of the famous race late and had it under control for Chip Ganassi Racing until a crash by teammate Jimmie Johnson with four laps remaining brought out a rare red-flag stoppage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IndyCar is among the purest forms of motorsports and rarely throws artificial cautions or issues stoppages that might change the outcome. But a crowd of more than 300,000 – only a few thousand shy of a sellout and the largest sporting crowd in the US since the pandemic began – roared when IndyCar called the cars to pit road.
The stoppage gave Pato O’Ward and the rest of the challengers almost 12 minutes to strategize how to catch Ericsson for the win. The race resumed with two laps remaining and Ericsson easily got the jump on O’Ward, but the Mexican got one final look for the lead that Ericsson defended.
A crash back in traffic brought out the caution and Ericsson coasted to the victory podium under yellow.
It is the fifth Indy 500 victory for team owner Chip Ganassi, who caught a ride to the victory podium on the side of Ericsson’s car. Ericsson is the second Swede to win the Indy 500 in 106 runnings, joining 1999 winner Kenny Brack. Ganassi had not won the 500 in 10 years and sent five legitimate contenders to Indy to end the drought.
O’Ward, who signed an extension with Arrow McLaren SP on Friday, finished second. The Mexican was trying to give his country a banner celebration on a big day in motorsports: his compatriot Sergio Perez had won the Monaco Grand Prix a few hours earlier.
Tony Kanaan was third in a Ganassi car and followed by Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede, who was fourth for McLaren. 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 spot ahead of Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud. Reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished 10th in another Ganassi entry. Honda drivers took six of the top nine spots, along with the win.