By Jeff Thornton
This year’s Indianapolis 500 was a lot different from the 2021 Indianapolis 500. Last year attendance was limited due to the pandemic. This year close to 300,000 fans attended the race. More fans also means logistical problems. Getting to seats in the fourth turn were a nightmare. Thousands of fans were trying to get to their seats each trying to go different directions. Eventually, everyone made it but a few of us only had a couple of minutes to spare before the start of the race. The other problems was getting away from the track. It was a record three hours for my group to get out of the parking lot. But in the end it was all worth it. Good weather and excellent racing.
The race started with Pole winner Scott Dixon. Dixon turned one of the fastest for lap times 234.046 miles per hour since 1996. Dixon would lead a race high 95 laps and had one of the best cars in the field. Dixon also set the record for most career laps led at Indy with 665 passing Al Unser Jr’s record of 644. But Dixon’s day would not end way he wanted it.
The race started and Dixon was quickly passed on the opening lap by teammate Alex Palou. Palou led the first 7 laps until Dixon passed him on lap 8. The two would trade leads several times in the first 30 laps. The first caution of the day came when Rinus Veekay made contact with the wall in turn 2 on lap 38. Turn 2 also ended the day for Callum Ilott on lap 68 and Romain Gossjean on lap 105.
The only caution in turn 3 and 4 came on lap 150 when Scott Mclaughlin hit the wall. All of the drivers were able to be cleared and no one was injured.
The real story of the race began on lap 175 when Scott Dixon came in for his final pit stop. He received a penalty for speeding. This was costly in time and also track position. Dixon never recovered and finished 21st. A disappointing day for the former Champion.
Indianapolis 500 rookie, Jimmie Johnson led laps 188-189 before he had to pit. After his pit Marcus Ericsson took the lead. Ericsson battled Pato O’Ward for the lead during the next several laps. But Jimmie Johnson brushed the wall in turn 2 bringing out the caution on lap 194. Indycar decided to throw a red flag to stop the race. This allowed the cleanup crew to get Johnson’s car off the track. It also allowed the race to finish under a green flag condition and not have the race finish under caution.
Tony Kanaan the third place finisher had no problem with this decision. “I believe we are here for the fans. They came to see a race. If I was in the stands I want to see a race finish under the green,” said Kanaan.
This set up a great ending scenario. Ericsson had to find a way to hold off the charging O’Ward. Ericsson took the white flag and was in the lead into the fourth turn when the caution flag went out as driver Sage Karam hit the wall in turn 2. Ericsson went on to take the checker flag for his first career Indianapolis 500 victory. “I know the Huski Chocolate car was fast but it was still hard. I had to do everything at the end to keep him behind me. I can’t believe it. I am so happy,” said Ericsson after the race.
It was Ericsson’s third career Indycar win after coming over from Formula 1. He was also the first Swede to win the race since Kenny Brack in 1999. The other interesting statistics all three of his wins have come after a red flag stoppage.
Pato O’Ward was second followed by Tony Kanaan who was third. This was Kanaan’s fifth top three finish. Team Owner Chip Ganassi won for the first time since 2012. It was his fifth win as a solo owner and his 6th win over all. His five drivers Ericsson(1st), Kanaan (3rd), Palou(9th), Dixon(21st) and Jimmie Johnson (28th).
This year’s “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” did not disappoint!