Marcus Ericsson had to leave Formula One to become a global superstar, a goal achieved when the Swedish driver won the Indianapolis 500.
Ericsson took control of the race late on Sunday — largely because of teammate Scott Dixon’s speeding penalty — and had the win in reach 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 rarely throws artificial cautions or issues stoppages that might change the outcome. But the crowd of more than 300,000 — only a few thousand shy of a sellout and the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic — roared when IndyCar called the cars to pit road.
The race resumed with two laps remaining and, after a crash back in traffic brought out the caution on the final lap, Ericsson coasted to the victory podium under yellow.
For Ericsson, it was his third career IndyCar victory in 52 career starts. All three have been strange wins in that Ericsson sealed the victories after red-flag stoppages, but he never assumed he had the Indy 500 won as he sat inside his cockpit waiting to get back to racing.
“I felt you can never take anything for granted, and obviously there was two laps to go. I was praying so hard there was not going to be another yellow, but I knew there was probably going to be one,” Ericsson said.
“It was hard to re-focus but I knew the car was amazing. But it was still hard, you know? I had to do everything there and then to keep them behind — I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”
Mexico’s Pato O’Ward crossed second, Brazil’s Tony Kanan third, and Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede, was fourth.
Australia’s Will Power came home in 15th while three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin failed to finish after the Kiwi crashed on Lap 151 when running 11th.
Helio Castroneves, last year’s winner, finished seventh.
It’s the biggest victory of Ericsson’s career. The 31-year-old was winless in five seasons in F1 before he packed up for the United States and a move to North American open-wheel racing. He joined the Ganassi organisation in his second IndyCar season and has been steadily adapting to the formula and understanding ovals. Ericsson finished a career-best third on the Texas Motor Speedway oval that was the warmup for the Indy 500.
It is the fifth Indy 500 win 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 Kenny Brack in 1999.
Ericsson poured his jug of milk all over his face, then handed the bottle to Ganassi so the boss could take his own swig.