Ericsson Proves to Be One Swift Swede with Indy 500 Win

Ericsson drinks the milk in victory at the end of the Indy 500

The 2022 Indy 500 victory was achieved after 200 laps of hard fought racing by the second Swede to take the title, Marcus Ericsson.

Every racer wants to win in a straight-up race, not under caution, but at the 106th Indianapolis 500, that just wasn’t possible. The victory went to the second Swede to earn a Baby BorgWarner trophy, Marcus Ericsson, 31, who joined countryman Kenny Brack as winners at Indy. Brack won in 1999 driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, while Ericsson earned the winner’s wreath after 200 laps of tantalizing racing in his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Indy car. Chevy-powered Pato O’Ward, who just signed a contract extension with Arrow McLaren SP was second, while Ganassi’s only single-race entry for Tony Kanaan finished third, with O’Ward’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist fourth and 2016 winner Alexander Rossi, driving for Honda racers Andretti Autosport took fifth.

The balance of the top 10 in this 106th edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing were Conor Daly, earning his career-best result in his hometown race with Chevy’s Ed Carpenter Racing in sixth position, followed by 2021 winner and four-time champ Helio Castroneves’ Meyer Shank Racing Honda machine, his teammate Simon Pagenaud, the 2019 winner now racing with Honda eighth, while second-starter, 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champ and Ganassi full-time Ganassi racer Alex Palou was ninth. Santino Ferrucci continued his mastery of the IMS oval in 10th, racing the No. 23 Chevy for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

There were only six retirements, all but one of them due to wall contact, and 22 drivers finished on the 200th and final lap, under caution after Dreyer & Reinbold’s Sage Karam banked his No. 24 Chevy-powered Dallara into the second turn wall, throwing caution as the field came to the checkers and stopping O’Ward from any attempt to catch Ericsson.

Ericsson had a good, three-second lead until teammate Jimmie Johnson, making his first start in the 500, steered the No. 48 Honda into the second turn wall, a popular place that claimed the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy of Rinus VeeKay , who qualified third – and finished 33rd – on the 38th lap, the No. 77 Chevy of rookie Callum Ilott on the 68th lap, and the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda of rookie Romain Grosjean (who started ninth) on the 105th lap. The only other caution flag flew for Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who smacked the fourth turn wall in his Chevy-powered Dallara on the 151st lap.

This year’s 500-mile race, the first held since 2019 with nearly every seat taken around the 2.5-mile historic oval, was held under clear skies on an 80-degree day. It was perfect racing weather, but for wind gusts that entangled some drivers and carried them into the track’s unforgiving walls. McLaughlin said it was the wind that caused his crash and the fourth yellow-flag. Johnson’s Turn 2 crash forced INDYCAR to red-flag the contest for about 10 minutes and allowed O’Ward to catch Ericsson in the hopes of challenging him for the win.

Polesitter Scott Dixon led 95 laps but not the one that counted; a speeding ticket on lap 177 stopped the six-time champ from posting his 52nd victory for Chip Ganassi Racing and relegated him to 21st place, just one ahead of 2021 pole man Marco Andretti, who was the final, 22nd driver on the lead lap. Karam, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Jack Harvey and two-time winner Takuma Sato of Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing would finish one lap down, 33rd starter Stefan Wilson would see his Cusick Racing Chevy complete 198 laps, as did A.J. Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett.

From the start at 12:45PM EDT, Ganassi’s quintet were the class of the field, trading the lead back and forth. between Dixon and Palou, while Ericsson would lead 13 laps in his fourth start at The Brickyard, his third with Ganassi, Kanaan led six and Johnson was at the front for two laps. Only O’ward (26 laps), Daly (7), Andretti (3) and VeeKay (who led a single lap) had clean air during the race. The question was – which of Chip’s cars would be the winner? Ericsson said he used the advice of three-time winner Dario Franchitti, whose lessons on keeping O’Ward behind the Swede came in handy after teammate Johnson’s wall smack.

Ganassi, who famously says “I like winners” secured his fifth Indianapolis 500 team victory with Ericsson, who was the 14th racer to record the fastest lap of the race since those records were kept in 1951. On lap 179 he turned 224.852 mph to be quickest. There were 38 lead changes, the third-highest in 500 history, behind 2013’s 68 lead changes and 54 swaps in 2016. Ganassi’s dominance in Sunday’s race helped Honda to its 15th Indianapolis 500 victory, second all-time behind Offenhauser, which powered 27 race winners.

Ericsson won his first Indianapolis 500 with a female Honda engineer on his timing stand. Nicole Rotondo, 29, who is also in her fourth year of INDYCAR competition. She is one of three women who take on the responsibility of engine engineering in the series. She came to INDYCAR at age 25 as assistant engineer to Joe Capelli on Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry. Capelli is now the lead engineer for all Honda entries.

With seven rookies in the 33-car field – and two with extensive experience in racing, seven-time NASCAR champ Johnson and Formula One ex-pat Grosjean – the highest finisher in that group was the third-highest starter, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD’s Honda-powered David Malukas, who famously hit the first turn wall during belated Carb Day practice, which had to be postponed until well after its intended start due to persistent showers. Malukas started the race in 13th position and was running 16th at the close. “I wanted to finish and be the highest finishing rookie and we achieved both of those things today,” he said.

One driver whose high expectations were doused was Colton Herta, driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda. The second-generation driver, who won the GMR Grand Prix road-course race at IMS two weeks earlier, had a nasty snap-spin on Friday and landed upside down after hitting the wall in the first and second turns. He was cleared and eventually released for competition, but the team was forced to submit his backup machine for the race, with no practice time available. Herta’s newly-built Dallara never did work well enough and INDYCAR pulled him from competition on the 129th lap rather than have Herta continue to run poorly.

Ericsson’s mastery of O’Ward’s late-race challenge was due to his defense of the lead, never an easy task at this contest, one he admitted came from watching Simon Pagenaud’s similar defense maneuvers in 2019. They didn’t amount to blocking as the eventual winner broke the Mexican’s tow as they battled. As Franchitti advised, he forced O’Ward to the outside, dirtier line so that the opportunities to pass were minimized. “Dario said, ‘Don’t lift; stay flat” and my car was good enough to stay flat. That’s what I did,” he explained afterwards.

“It’s the biggest race in the world and to win is just an incredible feeling,” Ericsson continued. “The way we had to do it – with the pressure at the end (of the late-race restart) – it was a very tough finish. It’s just an incredible feeling; we’ve been strong all month, and we’ve been the ones to beat, to be honest. To end up in Victory Lane, it’s just a dream come true.”

Ericsson took home the biggest winner’s purse in the race’s 106-year history, earning $3,100,000 for his victory. O’Ward’s take-home was an even million dollars while Kanaan, due to his single-event entry, earned $400,000 for his third-place result. By virtue of his pole win, Dixon’s tally was $707,000 despite his 21st place result. Earning Rookie of the Year, Johnson added $50,000 to his earnings, for a total of $207,900 despite his 28th-place finish

There is no way for Ericsson – or his Huski Chocolate Ganassi Racing team – to fully savor their victory as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES makes its final trip to Belle Isle on the Detroit River for next week’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, June 3-5. For the first time in years, this is a single race weekend, rather than a doubleheader, with practices Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, followed by qualifications on Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning warmup and the Sunday afternoon race from 3:30-5:30PM EDT. In addition both IMSA WeatherTech DPi and GTD classes and Indy Lights (two races) are on the docket. The event is being broadcast live on USA Network, with streaming available on Peacock. Ericsson won the first of two races on Belle Isle last year. Can he repeat? Next year the Detroit race is moving back to its downtown roots.

About Anne Proffit 1174 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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