Swiss Kiss: Ericsson Gives Ganassi Another Indy 500 Win

The 31-year-old appeared in IndyCar as a mystery in 2019 after five unremarkable seasons in Formula One. He worked his whole life to reach the highest level of motorsport and then walked away without a win, not even a single podium, in 97 starts.

Nor did it exactly dazzle in its first season in North America. Ericsson parted ways with his first IndyCar team after just a year, then bought a seat at Chip Ganassi Racing (he made sure to write it down when he said “winning the Indy 500, not bad for a paid driver”) and has made steady strides in his 36 races with Ganassi since 2020.

“It has been tough. I was in Formula One for five years, almost a hundred grands prix, racing for small teams, most of the time. You don’t get much credit running in the back. People think you’re not very good,” Ericsson said. “I came here, and people probably didn’t think much of it. I also had to work my way up here, learning American racing.

“I moved here, I dedicated my whole life to trying to become an IndyCar champion and mainly the Indianapolis 500. It has not been easy. It feels good to show that hard work pays off.”

Ericsson took control of the race late, largely due to teammate Scott Dixon’s speeding penalty, and had victory within his grasp until he crashed. by fellow Ganassi member Jimmie Johnson with four laps remaining caused a rare red flag stoppage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IndyCar is one of the purest forms of motorsport, rarely issuing artificial warnings or issuing stoppages that could change the outcome. But the crowd of more than 300,000, just a few thousand short of tickets and the biggest sporting event since the start of the pandemic, roared as IndyCar called the cars to pit road.

The stoppage gave Pato O’Ward and the rest of the challengers almost 12 minutes on pit road to plan how to pass Ericsson. Ericsson agonized over his own plans.

“Those 10 minutes sitting in pit lane during that red flag were some of the hardest 10 minutes of my life,” he said, “thinking what to do, thinking that I’m leading the biggest race in the world, and I’m so close to earn it”.

There were two laps to go when racing resumed and Ericsson moved ahead of O’Ward. The Mexican looked one last time at the lead that Ericsson was defending and O’Ward knew that he should not force the issue.

“No, he was going to put me on the wall if I did,” O’Ward said.

Sage Karam crashed and caused another caution on the final lap, allowing Ericsson to climb onto the victory podium under caution. Karam was transported to a hospital for evaluation of muscle pain.

“When that yellow flag came out, I thought it was going to be another restart. I was like, ‘I can’t believe this, another one,’” Ericsson said. “First I was angry, then I realized that he beat me in the race. It’s an explosion of emotions from that point.”

It was Ericsson’s third IndyCar win in 52 starts. But he came to Indianapolis convinced he could win the 500 based in part on the work he’d put in learning the ovals and a third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in preparation for “The Greatest Show in Racing.” .

It’s the fifth Indy 500 victory for team owner Chip Ganassi, who took the podium alongside Ericsson’s car. Ericsson is the first Swede to win the Indy 500 since Kenny Brack in 1999 and the second in 106 editions of the race.

Ericsson splashed the pitcher of milk all over his face, then handed the bottle to Ganassi so the boss could get his own drink. Ganassi hadn’t won the 500 in 10 years and sent five legitimate contenders to Indy to end the drought.

The victory seemed to belong to Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion who went over 234 mph in qualifying to win the pole. The New Zealander led 95 of the 200 laps, and his Honda was easily the fastest in the field, so fast that Dixon didn’t slow down enough on his last pit stop.

the The penalty put Dixon out of contention for the win.

That left Ericsson and Tony Kanaan still in Ganassi’s mix. Kanaan, at 47, the oldest driver in the field, thought he was in the perfect position sitting fourth at the restart.

However, O’Ward would not budge. He signed a contract extension with Arrow McLaren SP on Friday and desperately wanted victory to celebrate his status as a McLaren star. But O’Ward finished second, falling short when he tried to give Mexico a grand celebration on the biggest day in motorsports; Sergio Pérez opened Sunday with a win at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Kanaan was third, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede, who drives for McLaren. Rosenqvist has a one-year contract with McLaren and is fighting for his job, but the The McLaren group carried the Chevrolet banner at Indy when Juan Pablo Montoya finished 11th.

American pilots 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 his Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud. Reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished 10th in another Ganassi entry.

Dixon dropped to 21st after the speeding penalty, and although he visited Ericsson on the victory podium, his wife comforted him on pit road after the race. Johnson finished 28th in his Indy 500 debut.

“It’s a team, everyone supports 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 fall your way. So, you know, we were lucky to have five good cars and five good drivers.”


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Jenna Fryer, Associated Press

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